Paris leads Sooners in quarterfinal win

Courtney Paris (pictured above) led the way with a Big 12 Tournament single-game record 36 points in OU's 78-74 quarterfinal win over Iowa State Wednesday in Dallas. OU (27-4) will play Missouri (21-8) in the semifinals Thursday night at 6 p.m. (AP Photo/ Donna McWilliam)

Courtney Paris' Big 12 Tournament debut was a spectacular one.

Oklahoma's freshman center set a single-game conference tournament record with 36 points as the Sooners advanced to the semifinals with a hard-earned win over Iowa State Wednesday in Dallas.

Paris, who also tied a single-game Big 12 Tourney record with six blocks, broke the NCAA freshman record for blocked shots in a season (106). She also pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds.

"There's never really been a situation in which she's looked like a freshman," said OU head coach Sherri Coale when asked if she had concerns about her fabulous freshman handling the pressure. "So I had no reason to think that she would today. She really didn't. Except she kept apologizing to me when she came out and I'm not really sure why. I'm like, "You almost got 40," yeah, okay. You tell me I'm sorry too much."

The Sooners led 37-35 at halftime and held their largest lead at 70-58 lead with 6:48 to go, but the Cyclones fought back and took a 74-73 with 1:05 left.

But Erin Higgins hit a deep 3-pointer from NBA range to put the Sooners back on top, 76-74, with 49 seconds to go.

Iowa State failed to score on their next possession and quickly fouled senior Laura Andrews, who sank one of her two free throw attempts with 23 seconds left to push the lead to 77-74 with 23 seconds left.

The Cyclones then tried to go inside and get a quick score but standing in their way was Paris, who blocked a Brittany Wilkins shot forcing a jump ball that gave possession back to OU.

After the block gave the ball back to the Sooners, Andrews was fouled again with eight seconds left and the senior made one of her two free throws to push the lead to 78-74 and seal the win.

"We were fortunate," said OU head coach Sherri Coale. We did some things down the stretch I think that good teams do. Blocked out, got a very big rebound, executed a set to get Erin the three. Good screens, good spot, good pass. And then Erin had to make that shot. And that's not an easy shot to make. Even if you are a great three-point shooter.

"So once again I think it's our poise, composure, our confidence together that enabled us to win this one."

"Give Iowa State a ton of credit. I thought they were just fantastic, and I thought they played with a great sense of urgency. Made plays when they had to make them. We got up 10 they could have just said, oh, they won the league. They went 16-0, we're done. But they didn't. They kept fighting."

Back to Paris, in addition to her single-game tournament points record, the freshman broke a conference mark for made field goals (16) in a tournament game.

With the win, the Sooners pushed their winning streak to 15 games and improved to 27-4 overall.

They will play Missouri (21-8) matchup at 6 p.m. Thursday night at Reunion Arena in Dallas. The Tigers advanced to the semifinals with an 81-75 win over Texas Tech Wednesday afternoon.

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