9:30 PM ET, March 8, 2007
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Since Courtney Paris arrived at Oklahoma, one thing has been painfully consistent for Baylor -- losing to the Sooners.Paris, Oklahoma's 6-foot-4 sophomore standout, extended the Sooners' winning streak over Baylor (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today; No. 18 AP) to six games, finishing with 20 points and 14 rebounds as No. 11 Oklahoma held off a second-half rally by the Lady Bears to win 78-64 Thursday night in a Big 12 Conference tournament semifinal.Paris' 57th straight double-double gave her 62 for her career, breaking the Big 12 record set by Baylor's Sophia Young last season.Paris combined with freshman guard Jenna Plumley, who scored 24 points, to form an effective inside-outside combination for second-seeded Oklahoma (25-4), which advanced to the title game Saturday against fifth-seeded Iowa State, a 57-51 upset winner over top-seeded and No. 13 Texas A&M 57-51.It will be the fifth Big 12 title game for the Sooners, who won in 2002, 2004 and 2006."We did some silly things to let [Baylor] get back into the game and give them credit, they made shots," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "They made plays, but boy, we just handed them the basketball a few times, and you can't do that against quality teams. We were able to stave it off and do good things down the stretch."Third-seeded Baylor (25-7) had reached the past two conference title games. All of Baylor's losses this season have come to ranked opponents. The Lady Bears have also lost twice to Texas A&M and once to both Purdue and Nebraska.Baylor trailed 61-59 with 5:59 left, but managed only two baskets after that as Paris took over inside. When Paris returned to the game after a stint on the bench due to foul trouble, she keyed the Sooners with three baskets in a 3-minute span that pushed their lead to 65-59 with 4:01 left."They made plays when it was tight," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said of the Sooners.Up by eight points with 1:35 left, the Sooners went 9-for-11 from the free-throw line to seal the win. Two Baylor players, Jessica Morrow and Latara Darrett, were called for technical fouls in the final 1:02.Plumley had eight free throws during that stretch and finished 9-of-10 from the line, in addition to her 6-of-7 shooting and three 3-pointers.Mulkey declined comment on the technicals and bristled when it was suggested that the Sooners have a hex over Baylor."I don't know they have a hex on us," Mulkey said. "We have a national championship [in 2005] and they don't."Morrow led Baylor with a career-high 25 points, but the Lady Bears' leading scorer, Bernice Mosby, finished with nine points and 10 rebounds after being dogged defensively most of the game by Oklahoma's Leah Rush and Ashley Paris, Courtney's twin."Bernice struggled tonight, but at the same time, it's just one game," Mulkey said. "Hopefully she's got it out of her system."Thursday night's semifinal session at the Cox Convention Center drew 10,102 fans, the fourth-largest for any session in the tournament's 11-year history. It was the second straight tournament session that drew more than 10,000 fans and it put the Big 12 over the 1 million mark in home attendance for the second time in league history.With a current combined attendance of 1,003,722, the league broke its own NCAA single-season record. The tournament attendance of 36,577 already has broken the league mark of 35,619, set in 2003 in Dallas.Most of those fans Thursday were wearing Oklahoma colors."It's a huge advantage, obviously," Coale said. "It's convenient that we're here (in Oklahoma City) but I think they would have followed us anywhere."Oklahoma's three previous wins against Baylor had come by double digits, and early on, it looked like another potential blowout. Oklahoma led by as many as 15 points in the first half before settling for a 34-27 halftime lead.Baylor shot 29.6 percent from the field in the half. Mosby missed all five of her shots and had just two points, on a pair of free throws almost 17 minutes into the game."We did a great job where she didn't have any room to go," Coale said. "Leah Rush just battles. Whoever she guards is going to have a hard time catching the basketball."Down 40-29, Baylor scored 14 of the next 16 points -- taking advantage of four straight Oklahoma turnovers -- and went ahead 43-42 with 14:32 left on a 3-pointer by Morrow.Fourteen seconds later, Morrow fouled Chelsi Welch as Welch attempted a 3-pointer. Welch made all three free throws then followed with a 3-pointer and the Sooners never trailed again, even though Baylor hung close."We've had magnificent practice at that this year," Coale said. "I mean, how many times have we had to overcome shooting ourselves in the foot this season?"
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