Awkward, Price combine for 56, lead Rebels to Lady Vols

DAYTON, Ohio -- Mississippi's frantic and frenetic defense sure bothered Courtney Paris and Oklahoma.

Next up, the surprising Rebels will try to run top-seeded Tennessee out of the tournament.

Armintie Price scored 31 points and Ashley Awkward added 25 for Ole Miss, which fastbreaked and trapped its way to a 90-82 win over Oklahoma on Sunday in the Dayton Regional.

The Rebels (24-10) will face the Lady Vols on Tuesday night, with a spot in the Final Four awaiting the winner. The Lady Vols, who beat Marist 65-46 in the other semi, topped Ole Miss 81-69 at home on Feb. 15 in their only meeting this season.

"We are looking forward to that," Price said of the rematch. "We know a lot about Tennessee. They're a championship team. They've been here many times. We're just going to do what we do best, which is run, and try to get them a little bit bothered."

The Rebels came out running and never stopped, denying passes, harassing shooters and trapping surprised Sooners whether they were in the corner or the middle of the floor.

Averaging 18 turnovers a game, Oklahoma had 15 by halftime and finished with 26. The Rebels piled up 16 steals.

Coach Carol Ross said with her team's unique style, she doesn't have to spend a lot of time drawing up game plans. The Rebels play everybody the same.

"We're not going to deviate from what we do best and we're not going to let another team dictate how we play," she said. "We are what we are, for good or bad. And we're going to play the way we have to play to be successful."

Paris led Oklahoma (28-5) with 31 points and 20 rebounds. Chelsi Welch and Britney Brown each added 11 points for the Sooners, who never led after the 15-minute mark of the first half.

It didn't take long for Paris to realize that the Rebels had ratcheted up the pace of the game.

"When we started off we were playing at a super-fast speed -- faster than we like to play," Paris said. "If I wanted to play that fast, I would have gone to Mississippi."

Price also had 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals -- making her only the second player in NCAA history to have 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 assists and 400 steals. She joined Cheryl Miller.

Alliesha Easley added 12 points for the Rebels, who will be making their fifth trip to a regional championship game.

Ole Miss hit just 38 percent of its shots from the field -- and that includes numerous layups that followed steals or capped fastbreaks. But the defense never took a breather.

"No, there's no one like us," Awkward said. "There are only clones. There's no other Armintie Price in this world. There's no team like us. That's what we thrive on. We thrive on what we do and who we are."

Midway through the second half, with Oklahoma's turnover total mounting, Awkward and then Price took turns stealing the ball and outracing everybody to hit a layup at the other end.

"We're all energy-based, we're all about flying around, making plays," Ross said.

Against Ole Miss' overwhelming quickness, however, the Sooners found a response by playing their two biggest players together -- Paris and her twin sister Ashley.

They led an 18-7 charge to pull the Sooners to 65-62 on Brown's 3 that bounded around the rim and fell with 7:58 left. That was the closest they had been since they trailed 10-8 when the game was just 6 minutes old.

Oklahoma cut the lead to two points on two occasions before the Rebels spurted away again. Ahead 68-66, the Rebels responded with Easley hitting two free throws. After Courtney Paris lost an inbounds pass out of bounds, Price slashed through the lane and hit a pullup jumper. A missed Sooner 3 was followed by two foul shots by Awkward and all of a sudden the Rebels were back in control, 75-66.

"They're just so quick," Oklahoma's Leah Rush said. "Taking care of the ball, we didn't do that very well. ... They're incredibly fast. And it took us a little too long to adjust."

Hustle plays kept the Rebels on top. During one span late in the game, forward Jada Mincy twice rebounded missed second free throws. During the one sequence down the court, the Rebels got six free throws, three points and took precious time off the clock.

"There were two statistical categories that didn't bode well for us," coach Sherri Coale said. "One being turnovers and the other being offensive rebounds that we allowed Ole Miss to get."

Asked what the secret was for the Rebels, how they were able to stay with a team so much bigger and stronger, Price said the answer was simple.

"We try to be the first one to the ball," she said.