3:00 PM ET, December 10, 2006
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Playing at home for the first time in four weeks, No. 3 Oklahoma looked a little bit out of sorts early on Sunday afternoon against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.But soon enough, the Sooners worked out the kinks, thanks to Courtney Paris. The 6-foot-4 center had a season-high 24 points and 11 rebounds, her 36th straight double-double, and Oklahoma routed the Golden Lions 87-42, the Sooners' 22nd straight regular-season win.Since opening its season at home against DePaul on Nov. 12, Oklahoma (8-0) had played in five states -- from Hawaii to South Carolina -- since its last appearance at the Lloyd Noble Center. The Sooners will host Northern Colorado next Sunday before a Dec. 20 showdown against No. 5 Ohio State, the last team to beat Oklahoma in a regular-season game.Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-7) already has played games at Michigan, Cincinnati and Mississippi this season and the Golden Lions of the Southwestern Athletic Conference will travel to Baylor, Kentucky, Texas-El Paso and Missouri later this month.UAPB suited up only 10 players, didn't have a starter taller than 5-foot-11 and hadn't played any opponent closer than 20 points this season. But in a game Oklahoma was expected to win handily, the Sooners struggled to find their rhythm early.A handful of uncharacteristic Oklahoma mistakes -- an air ball, a couple of turnovers, three fouls and even a lane violation on a free-throw attempt -- meant the Sooners didn't take their first lead until almost four minutes had passed. Coach Sherri Coale tried to give her team a spark by subbing three times during that stretch."We were feeding off the energy of the crowd, but that wasn't any cause for substitution," Coale said. "We were just trying to get guys to do the right thing. We've got a lot of guys who can play and the competition for playing time is intense. I'm trying to reward guys who have been really good in practice and it was a game where we had a lot of opportunities to do just that."Whatever the reason, once the Sooners calmed down, they began finding each other open for easy baskets, and the rout was on.Paris went 9-for-9 from the field in the first half and the Sooners shot 60 percent -- a number that would have been higher had they not missed all seven of their 3-point attempts.Conversely, UAPB hit just 8-of-30 shots before halftime, and if not for 11 points, including three 3-pointers, from Delores Hughley, its 43-24 halftime deficit would have been much worse.The Golden Lions came no closer than 17 points in the second half. For the game, UAPB had 13 baskets and shot 22.4 percent from the field.About the only drama after halftime was if Paris would extend her streak of double-doubles. She grabbed her 10th rebound with 10:59 left and exited the game 40 seconds later, about the time Coale began clearing her bench."I am always conscientious of her double-double (streak) in a runaway game," Coale said, "because those are typically the times in which that is in the most jeopardy, because I'm trying to limit her minutes and get other people playing time."Paris, who hit 12 of her 13 shots, tied a long-standing school record for single-game field-goal percentage. Toni Eldridge had set the mark of 92.3 percent by going 12 of 13 in a December 1982 win over Oklahoma City University."A lot of it was, those girls are pretty small and you should be able to score on them," Paris said. "But there wasn't a lot of times when I had to power up and score. A lot of it was us working our plays and (finding) ways to get me open so I had clean shots."Leah Rush scored 12 points for Oklahoma and freshmen Nyeshia Stevenson and Jenna Plumley came off the bench to score 12 apiece as well, the 5-foot-4 Plumley doing so by making 4 of 5 3-point attempts."I think we got better today," Coale said. "Every time you take the floor you want to get better and challenge yourself. ... We got a lot of guys a lot of playing time and some experience, and I think that will pay off in January and February."Hughley led the Golden Lions with 15 points, but no other UAPB player reached double figures. The point total was UAPB's lowest of the season.
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