While all eyes will be on Courtney Paris Saturday in the Sooners opening round NCAA game against Pepperdine in Denver, Colo., all those that follows Oklahoma know that the rest of the Sooners must step up if they are to reach their dream of the Final Four.
In the recent Big 12 Tournament, the Sooners played some of the best basketball of the year, and when they beat Baylor in the final OU had its best all-around offensive game of the season with four players in double figures.
If wings Chelsi Welch and Erin Higgins are hitting from the outside, then things open up even more for Paris and multi-purpose player Leah Rush. Higgins is the Sooners mad bomber, who often shoots from Calvin Curry distance behind the arch. But what is not often talked about is her ability on the defensive end. OU head coach Sherri Coale calls Higgins the most intelligent team defensive player she has ever coached.
Higgins and her teammates are excited about their opportunity in the NCAAs and are ready to see if they are truly good enough to be ranked among the nations elite. Recently, Higgins sat down with OUInsider.com to talk about the Sooners' chances in the Big Dance.
JH: What are your thoughts on being a No. 2 seed?
EH: "I think we are in a great position. I think the teams that got the No. 1 seeds were pretty deserving. I think we knew all along that we were going to be a two or even a three seed, but we are excited because they put us in a really good position to be successful in the tournament."
JH: How cool was it that there was so much talk about Oklahoma possibly being a No. 1 on the ESPN Selection Show? Wasn't it pretty neat that it was even debated it a little bit?
EH: "It was. And for a split second there when Tennessee got a No. 2 seed I thought that just maybe we will be a No. 1 seed. Then we saw that we got a two, and a number one, two or three gives you a pretty good shot of doing the same thing. We made Kara Lawson's Final Four and that was what I was excited about. When it came up there that we were on her list of Final Four, I was pretty excited about it."
JH: At the beginning of the year this team was picked fifth in the Big 12, but you have evolved into a very good team haven't you?
EH: "I feel like that, especially since Christmas break when we had a couple of games in there against Illinois and Michigan State where we didn't play well and we didn't play hard. We have done a complete 180. I think that is what the committee saw, is that we are on the rise right now. You don't want to be playing your best basketball in December and I think we are on the verge of playing our best basketball right now."
JH: What is the big difference from early in the season to the way that you are playing right now?
EH: "I think that we are more selfless as a team. Not that we weren't before, but now we know how to play better together. I feel like we are playing harder, and when you play hard and together you can cover for a lot of things like not being as athletic as some teams."
JH: Would you say that this team has figured everything out and that everybody has found their role?
EH: "Right, I think we are much more comfortable now. People coming in off the bench are a lot more comfortable with their roles. I feel like we are very comfortable and I think that is the word for us right now. We are not complacent or anything, we are not satisfied with how we are playing right now. We are going to try to get better every day, which is what allowed us to go undefeated in conference play and in the conference tournament."
JH: Haven't you also become a better defensive team, because against Baylor you played your best defensive game of the year?
EH: "I think that we realized that we are not the most athletic team out there and that we are not going to be able to guard athletic teams one-on-one. We are going to have to do it as a team. That means that on the perimeter you have to be able to contain somebody, but if not then you know that Courtney has your back in the paint and that she is going to throw their shot into the third row. It is not really anything individual, it is team defense."
JH: What are your thoughts on your bracket?
EH: "I am pretty excited about it. We are back in a bracket with Stanford. We have been in the same bracket with Stanford for the past two or three years, which is kind of weird. That North Carolina bracket is one of the toughest ones, so when I saw we weren't in that one I was kind of excited."
Thursday, March 16
OU's Godbold will guard UWM's scoring threat: The Oklahoman
Freshman coach, veteran team: The Oklahoman
Oklahoma men's basketball notebook: The Oklahoman
Sooners need their seniors to lead them: Norman Transcript
Oklahoma motivated by fresh start: Dallas Morning News
Bright lights don't faze Jeter: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Keep an eye on the rebounding: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
OU-UWM matchups: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
NCAA Tournament first-round preview: SoonerSports.com
Turnaround boosted Waves into tourney: The Oklahoman
Sooner softball wins in Fullerton: Norman Transcript
Softball shuts down Utah, 4-1: SoonerSports.com
Higgins excited about OU's chances
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