Oklahoma City, Okla. — Playing in front of the largest crowd (12,413) to witness a women's sporting event in the state of Oklahoma, Courtney Paris and the 11th-ranked Sooners certainly didn't disappoint.
Paris led the way with 23 points and 21 rebounds and seniors Leah Rush and Kendra Moore stepped up to help Oklahoma extend their winning streak to eight games and claim their second-straight the Big 12 Tournament title with a 67-60 win over Iowa State Saturday night.
"I'm so proud of the State of Oklahoma right now," said OU coach Sherri Coale, who has now led the Sooners to four confernece tournament titles. "It just would have almost seemed wrong to not win this for the people, for all sports association, for the mayor, for everybody who was involved with building the excitement that revolved around this entire tournament.
"I'm just so proud of our city and proud of our state, and I'm pretty proud of this basketball team I coach."
With the game tied at 42-42 with 9:53 left to go, Paris ignited a game-clinching 15-0 run with a layup and Moore threw in back-to-back 3-pointers as they Sooners built a 57-42 lead with 6:09 to go. The Cylcones would respond with a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 57-51 at the 3:23 mark, but Paris responded with tough baskets on back-to-back possessions to push the lead back to 10.
Iowa State would later cut the lead 65-60 with nine seconds left, but Paris sank a pair of free throws to end the Cyclones' title hopes.
And then there was Rush, whose every basket in her 18-point performance seemed to come at a key moment in the game.
"I thought both the seniors, Kendra and Leah, were both just terrific," Coale said. "Kendra has a knack for making big plays at big times. She's a competitor. When the opponent gives her something that she can take, she's going to take it. And she did that tonight.
"The way she started each game for us was just huge," said Coale on Rush, who scored five points in OU's 11-0 run to begin the game. "She sort of set the tone for everything. That's just sort of the way Leah Rush plays in post-season. We've become accustomed to that, so that's a good sign."
"I love tournament play," said Rush. "I think it's fun. Either play and win or go home. And I love to play so I want to keep playing."
To sum Saturday's title game — it was a game of spurts.
Oklahoma started the game with an 11-0 run, but from that point on Iowa State outscored the Sooners 26-12 to take a 26-23 halftime lead. The Cyclones extended the lead to 35-28 early in the second half, but the Sooners responded with an 11-0 run, capped by a Rush 3-pointer, to re-take a 38-35 lead with 12:29 to go.
The two teams then went back and forth until the game was tied at 42-42, and it was at that point the Sooners pulled away for good with the 15-0 run.
After shooting just 29 percent overall and 10 percent from the 3-point line in the the first half, Oklahoma erupted in the second half shooting 55 percent from the field and hitting 5 of their 10 attempts from 3-point range.
Paris and Rush were the only two Sooners in double figures. The duo, along with freshman point guard Jenna Plumley, were named to the All-Tournament team along with Iowa State's Lyndsey Medders and Baylor's Jessica Morrow.
Plumley was held scoreless in the first half, but the true freshman stepped up when it counted in the second half scoring all seven of her points in the final 6:28.
Paris, who struggled in the first half and then exploxed in the final 20 minutes with 13 points, was named the tournaments' MVP for the second-straight year.
"All she needed to do was get one or two rhythm shots, and we knew it was over," Coale said on Paris', who missed nine first-half shots but finished 5-for-7 from the field in the second half. "That's one of the reasons nobody panicked. Courtney is going to get going. They just know that at some point. And once she did, then everybody just relaxed and everything was obviously much better.
"I was frustrated because you want to make big shots in a big game," said Paris, who extended her double-double streak to 58 games. "But at the same time I teammates saying, 'Court, don't worry about it, you got the next one.' And I'd miss it. 'Don't worry you got the next shot.
"I've got great teammates that don't quit on me and stop throwing me the ball if I miss shots. So that helps a lot."
The Sooners will now shift their attention to the upcoming NCAA Tournament and Monday's selection show.
"I don't know why we wouldn't be a 3 (seed) because we shared the regular season and won the tournament outright," said Coale. "But stranger things have happened, and I'm just one of those people that thinks you've got to beat everybody who is really good if you want to win a championship anyway.
"So send us where you need to sned us and place us where you place us. We'll be ready to play."
Box Score | Quotes | Notes
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