8:00 PM ET, January 10, 2007
WACO, Texas (AP) -- With Courtney Paris dominating inside and seniors Leah Rush and Chelsi Welch playing with a sense of urgency, Oklahoma doesn't have much to worry about. Not even when trailing by 10 points after halftime.Paris, the standout sophomore center, scored 21 of her 32 points in the second half and the Sooners (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) extended their record Big 12 winning streak to 22 straight games with a 76-63 victory over No. 9 Baylor on Wednesday night."Our comeback was outstanding," coach Sherri Coale said. "Our poise and experience really paid off in the second half. We had a lot of senior leadership on the floor that made big plays. Possession by possession, we got ourselves back in the game."While the 6-foot-4 Paris took control under the basket -- at both ends of the court -- Rush and Welch provided the steady influence of last-year players desperate for a chance to win the school's first national title.The Sooners (13-1, 3-0) last year were the first team to go undefeated in the 11-year-old Big 12, but they lost to Stanford in the NCAA Tournament round of 16.They were the unanimous preseason pick to win their fifth Big 12 title this season. They are off to a great start after an impressive rally against Baylor (15-2, 2-1), the league's only other top 10 team, which had won 12 straight games."The difference between the first half and second half, there was a whole different mind-set," said Rush, who had 11 of her 13 points after the break.Oklahoma was down 39-29 after consecutive baskets by Jhasmin Player sandwiched two missed free throws by Paris in the opening minute of the second half. After that, Baylor couldn't do anything to stop her.Paris then had a layup, the first of her 17 points in a 29-17 stretch over 10½ minutes that put Oklahoma ahead to stay. The final go-ahead basket came with 7:44 left when Paris, after having the ball knocked out of her hands, recovered it under the basket and made a layup to make it 58-56.Paris also had 16 rebounds, her 42nd straight double-double. She averaged 26 points and 19 rebounds in three victories over Baylor last season."Courtney is going to get her double-double. You have to understand that," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "It's what the other ones do that you can't allow if you're going to have any chance to beat them."Welch and Rush both had 13 points, and Rush also grabbed 12 rebounds.Consecutive 3-pointers by Welch and Erin Higgins, another senior, got the Sooners within one before consecutive baskets by Paris and then Welch's inbound pass to Rush for a layup.It was a stark contrast to the first half, when the Sooners had 14 turnovers -- nine in the final five minutes to trail 35-28. Oklahoma had only six turnovers after halftime."I was glad halftime came when it did. It gave everybody a chance to go all right, we can play better than this. We can handle this," Coale said."Coach pointed to the board and asked are we having fun," Paris said. "We weren't, so in the second half we went out and changed that."Bernice Mosby, a senior transfer from Florida, led Baylor with 26 points and 11 rebounds. It was her 10th 20-point game this season. Jessica Morrow had 13 points."It's quite obvious [Mosby] is our most experienced player," Mulkey said. "We got caught watching Bernice do it. ... We've got to get a little bit from everybody."It was the 100th Big 12 victory (with 63 losses) for the Sooners and Coale.Oklahoma has also won 16 straight regular-season games away from Norman, Okla., matching its own Big 12 record for consecutive road victories. Its only loss this season was 74-67 at home to Ohio State last month.Baylor's last field goal came with 5:20 left when Mosby scored to get the Lady Bears within 63-60.There were six lead changes in the first four minutes of the game before Baylor went up 14-9 after consecutive baskets by Mosby.The Lady Bears led 18-14 until Paris made the first of two free throws, and then Ashley Paris rebounded the missed second one and made a layup. That started a 9-0 run for the Sooners.But consecutive turnovers by Ashley Paris led to Morrow's breakaway layup and a free throw, and then Mosby's basket to put Baylor back in front 26-25.