SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Courtney Paris was double-covered all the
time during Oklahoma's 19-game winning streak. Triple- and
Only Stanford was good enough to make it work.
With Kristen Newlin and a rotation of teammates swarming the
bulky freshman, Brooke Smith rose to the challenge of being the
best center on the court, making 14 of 16 shots and scoring a
career-high 35 points to lead the Cardinal past the Sooners 88-74
Saturday in the semifinals of the San Antonio Regional.
"I cannot think of one post player in the country I'd rather
have on my team than Brooke," Stanford guard Candice Wiggins said.
"I'm just really happy that the whole nation could see what we see
in practice every day and what a great player she is."
Paris is, too, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound force who came in already
having set more than three dozen records this season. She left with
a handful more -- most significantly the NCAA's single-season
rebounding mark -- but most of her 26 points and 16 rebounds came
long after No. 2 seed Oklahoma (31-5) absorbed what coach Sherri
Coale called "a sucker punch that knocked us dizzy a little bit."
The third-seeded Cardinal (26-7) made eight of their first nine
shots, including three 3-pointers. They led 19-4 before the game
was five minutes old.
Newlin anchored the defense against Paris, getting help from a
different teammate practically every possession. Regardless of
whether it was the 5-11 Wiggins or the 6-3 Smith, they forced Paris
into mistake after mistake.
She had only eight points at halftime with as many turnovers
(four) as field goals. Besides errant passes, she traveled and was
called for a 5-second violation.
"I was double-teamed a lot this season," Paris said. "It was
nothing new. I won't use that as an excuse."
Smith, meanwhile, could do no wrong.
Showing off a variety of hooks, fadeaway jumpers and other
moves, she had the game of her life to send Stanford into the
regional finals for a third straight year and 11th overall The
Cardinal will play top-seeded LSU on Monday night, with the winner
going to the Final Four.
"My teammates did a great job of finding me when I was open and
my shots were dropping," said Smith, whose previous best of 26
came in a loss to UCLA in January.
Smith missed only one shot in each half. She also had seven
rebounds, four assists and three steals. Alas, she turned the ball
over a team-high five times and was "only" 7-for-9 from the foul
"She's amazing," said Paris, who is from the San Francisco Bay
area. She said Friday that she grew up hoping to become as good as
Wiggins shot only 6-for-22, but hit 12 free throws to score 26
points. She also kept her teammates going when their 19-point lead
shrunk to 68-62 with 7:56 left, telling them to avoid the mistakes
that let them blow a nine-point lead in the final three minutes of
the Pac-10 tournament final against UCLA.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer called a timeout after the
Sooners got that close and -- surprise! -- told her players to get
the ball to Smith. They did and she hit a turnaround jumper in the
lane to start rebuilding the lead.
Later, Paris was called for a charge on a play where she hit a
basket. Instead of a three-point play that could've cut the margin
to six again, Stanford got the ball and Wiggins made a 3-pointer.
The lead grew to 14 with 3:28 left, and hit 14 again in the final
Wiggins ended up dribbling out the clock flashing her trademark
wide smile. Smith was grinning too, then slapped high-five with
Newlin near midcourt. Wiggins threw up the ball as the buzzer
expired, joining her teammates in a group hug.
The Sooners, whose season also ended with a tournament loss to
Stanford two years ago, watched from in front of their bench --
except for Paris, whose back was turned, mainly to hide her tears.
Once she wiped them away, she lined up for the postgame handshake.
She cried again during a news conference while talking about having
to go on without this year's two seniors.
"I hope it's no secret that Oklahoma women's basketball will be
back," Paris said, "and next time we'll go farther."
Stanford's Krista Rappahahn scored 15 points, all on 3-pointers,
four in the first half. Newlin had two points and eight rebounds,
but covered Paris so intensely that she got a technical for ripping
the ball away from her when they got tied up late in the second
Britney Brown had 18 points and six assists for Oklahoma. Leah
Rush scored 12. Erin Higgins, the team's top 3-point shooter, was
3-of-7 and badly missed both her attempts from behind the arc.