Sooner women coast in exhibition opener

Freshman Nyeshia Stevenson (pictured) was impressive off the bench and finished with eight points and eight rebounds in OU's 88-56 win. The win also came in front of a record exhibition crowd of 7,642, which was just over 2,300 more fans than the previous record.

The third-ranked OU women's basketball team got off to a roaring start winning their first exhibition game of the season, 88-56, over Lake Truck, a group of former college players still trying to impress WNBA scouts.

However, if there were WNBA scouts in attendance they were more impressed with the Sooners, who shot 60 percent from the floor and hit 8 of their 18 3-point attempts.

All-American Courtney Paris was sluggish early, but eventually got rolling finishing with 19 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and five turnovers in just 22 minutes.

"I started off really slow and I was struggling trying to figure it out, but Nyehsia (Stevenson) energized me and got me going," said Paris. "I thought it pretty awesome that our freshmen played with so much energy, and with them buzzing around I just had to pick it up. Once I got going, things went pretty well for me.

"I am glad this year that not everything has to evolve around me. This team is strong and we have a number of players who can jumpstart us at the beginning of the game. I am not saying that I am not going to get going quickly in most games, but I am saying that if I don't others on our team will pick me up and get us going."

Sophomore Ashley Paris looked much quicker than last year leading the Sooners with 10 rebounds and three points in 20 minutes.

Senior Leah Rush was solid with nine points and five rebounds in 22 minutes, while senior Erin Higgins came off the bench and nailed four 3-points in the first half to help the Sooners build a 43-24 halftime lead. Higgins had offseason knee surgery and only played 11 minutes, but finished with 12 points.

Senior Britney Brown also had offseason knee surgery as well, but she started along with fellow point guard Kendra Moore and played 17 minutes scoring four points on 2-of-3 shooting. Senior Chelsi Welch was the fifth starter and finished with five points and one rebound in just nine minutes.

The Sooners' fabulous freshmen had an immediate impact, as Amanda Thompson was the first off the bench and immediately demonstrated a great passing game that head coach Sherri Coale had talked about so often. Thompson finished with four assists, six points and five turnovers, but most of her assists came off no-look or tough bounce passes.

Reserve point guard Jenna Plumley played 20 minutes and did a good job running the offense hitting two three's, dishing out three assists against two turnovers. Stevenson exploded off the bench showing great speed, and in 17 minutes finished with eight points and eight rebounds.

Rose Hammond also showed great quickness scoring four points, and Abi Olajuwon finally got into the game in the second half finishing with six points and three rebounds.

"This team is fun to coach. I think you guys can tell that," said Coale. "I love how much they love to compete and how good they have already begun to be together. That is a work in progress that is obviously the chief angle of this group — to figure out how to be good together. Each one of them is the others' biggest cheerleader, and it is a real positive thing to have going on.

"We got quality minutes from a lot of guys and we got to rest some old legs and learn a lot about our team tonight. That is what you ask for in an exhibition game — an opportunity to learn what you are pretty good at and all that you need to work on. We have a list."

In any exhibition game, the coaching staff comes with set goals that they want to accomplish. And for the most part, the Sooners got the job done.

"We came in wanting to do three things," said Coale. "One, we wanted to guard people, and that was more than just being there when they catch it. We want to value the basketball and share the basketball, and there were possessions that we really did that.

"Twenty turnovers are way too many, but I thought we moved the ball and shared it, and that is a sign of a healthy team. Finally, we wanted to compete and play hard, and I think for the most part I thought we did that all night. We didn't always play smart, but we played hard."

At one point in the second half, Coale put all five freshmen on the floor at one time and they managed to outscore Lake Truck 8-4. Stevenson was able to get up and down the court with ease. Her speed, without question, is going to be a major asset for the Sooners.

"When she relaxed she did well, because she had a couple of possessions where she had a deer in the headlights look," said Coale. "Then she got to the rim a couple of times and figured out that she could get by these people. That is going to be the deal with 'Ny' because she doesn't have any idea how good she can be.

"Once she figures out how good she can be, it is going to be scary for everybody else. She is working on continuing to play hard and continuing to run when she gets tired. I felt really good about the potential there."

The Sooners will play Missouri Western State next Tuesday at the Lloyd Noble Center in their final exhibition game before their season opener against 19th-ranked DePaul on Nov. 12.

Box Score: Norman Transcript | Notes: Norman Transcript | Quotes

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