Plumley, Paris lead Sooners to title game

Courtney Paris (pictured) and Jenna Plumley combined for 44 points as Oklahoma advanced to the Big 12 Tournament championship game with a 78-64 win over Baylor Thursday night in Oklahoma City. Saturday's championship game against Iowa State will tip-off at 6 p.m. at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoam City. (AP Photo)

Oklahoma City — The third time wasn't the charm for Baylor Thursday night in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals.

Oklahoma (25-4) fought off a second-half comeback to beat the Bears for the third time this season and advance to Saturday's title game against Iowa State with a 78-64 win in front of the fourth-largest crowd (10,102) for a women's game in the tournament's 11-year history.

"I'm proud of our kids, the way they battled," said OU head coach Sherri Coale, whose Sooners stretched their winning streak to seven games this season and six straight against the Bears. "Give Baylor credit. They played extremely well, shot the ball extremely well from the three-point line and we were able to stave that off and make the plays down the stretch, get the rebounds and stops and showed a lot of character."

"It was a very entertaining game," said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey. "We just fell short. I congratulate Oklahoma. It was a great atmosphere. I thought it was good for women's basketball and good for the Big 12. We fought hard."

The Sooners jumped out to a 31-16 lead at the 4:48 mark of the first half, but the Bears fought back and cut the lead to 34-27 at halftime. Baylor continued their comeback with a 16-8 run to begin the second half and take a 43-42 lead with 14:32 to go.

However, that would be their only lead of the game, and it would be short-lived as the Sooners quickly responded and regained the lead 19 seconds later when Chelsi Welch converted three free throws after being fouled attempting a 3-point shot. Welch then hit a 3-pointer on OU's next possession to push the lead to 50-46 with 12:55 to go.

Baylor would cut the lead to 61-59 with 5:47 to go, but that would be as close as they would get as Oklahoma closed the game on a 16-5 run, which was spurred by two technical fouls called on the Bears.

"I think that's a reflection of hunger that's born of going through postseason last year and things not finishing up the way we wanted them to finish up," said Coale on her Sooners blowing a double-digit lead, but fighting back and still pulling out a win. "There's just a toughness you develop that is born from going through those situations, and I was proud of that. We did some silly things to let them get back into the game. And give them credit, they made shots.

"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. But it shouldn't have ever been in that situation."

Freshman point guard Jenna Plumley led the way with a career-high 24 points, while sophomore center Courtney Paris extended her double-double streak to 57-straight games with 20 points and 14 rebounds. It was just the third time this season Paris was not OU's leading scorer.

However, Paris set an NCAA record as the fastest player to record 1,000 rebounds (65 games). The previous record was held by Wanda Ford of Drake (71 games). She also set a Big 12 Tournament career record for blocked shots (20). The previous record was 18.

With the win, the Sooners advance to Saturday's title game against 5th-seeded Iowa State, who upset top-seeded Texas A&M 57-51 in the first semifinal Thursday night.

"They're spunky, don't go away and are terrific shooters," said Coale on the Cyclones, who OU beat 69-49 on Jan. 24 in Norman. "And Lindsay Balweg is probably one of the most underrated gurds in American. I know her well. We recruited her hard, so that relationship goes back a ways.

"But it's been a long time since we played those guys, so we'll get the film back out and study a little bit and adjust to a completely different kind of game. They're so different than A&M, Baylor and Texas, which it feels like that's all we've played for the last three or four weeks. So it will be an adjustment, but we're looking forward to the opportunity and happy we're playing."

"We have a possibility of winning their third conference championship or tournament championship, and that's a huge deal," said Ashley Paris, who added 13 points and eight rebounds against Baylor, on OU's seniors. "It's just exciting. You expect great things from this program and we have the high expectations, and winning tournaments and conference championships is one of them."

Tip-off for Saturday's championship game is set for 6 p.m.

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