March 25, 2006
Box Score |
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Before she was in high school, Courtney Paris used to watch Brooke Smith with wide-eyed admiration.
Now Paris' Oklahoma teammates understand why.
Showing off a variety of hooks, fadeaway jumpers and other moves, Smith made 14 of 16 shots and finished with a career-high 35 points, leading Stanford past Oklahoma 88-74 Saturday in the semifinals of the San Antonio Regional.
What was expected to be a tight game between growing rivals turned into an early rout.
The third-seeded Cardinal (26-7) made eight of their first nine shots and led 19-4 before the game was five minutes old. While Smith was doing her thing on offense, Kristen Newlin and Candice Wiggins were doing a tremendous job double-teaming Paris, taking her out of the dominating form that had led second-seeded Oklahoma (31-5) to 19 straight wins.
Paris, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound freshman from the San Francisco Bay area, had as many first-half turnovers (four) as field goals. In addition to errant passes, she traveled and was called for a 5-second violation.
The Cardinal were up by 19 in the second half when Paris finally got into a groove. She helped the Sooners get within 68-62 with 7:56 left, but Smith and Stanford proved too tough.
Smith hit a turnaround jumper in the lane to start rebuilding the lead, getting it back to 14 with 3:28 to go. It hit 14 again in the final minute as the Cardinal wound up cruising into the regional finals for the third straight year and 11th overall. They'll play top-seeded LSU on Monday night, with the winner going to the Final Four.
Paris finished with 26 points and 16 rebounds. Her 12th board was her 535th of the season, breaking the NCAA record set by Drake's Wanda Ford in 1984-85.
After Oklahoma's final basket, Wiggins dribbled out the clock flashing her trademark wide smile. Smith was grinning too, then slapped high-five with Newlin near midcourt. Wiggins threw up the ball as the buzzer expired, joining her teammates in a group hug.
The Sooners, whose season also ended with a tournament loss to Stanford two years ago, watched from in front of their bench - except for Paris, whose back was turned, mainly to hide her tears. Once she wiped them away, she lined up for the postgame handshake with players she's known for years like Smith and Wiggins, whom she faced twice in high school championship games and was teammates with the last two summers on under-19 national teams.
Smith, whose previous best of 26 came in a loss to UCLA in January, missed only one shot in each half. She also had seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. Alas, she turned the ball over a team-high five times and was "only" 7-for-9 from the foul line.
Wiggins shot only 6-for-22, but made up for it by hitting 12 free throws, finishing with 26 points.
Krista Rappahahn scored 15 points, all on 3-pointers. She was 5-of-10 and Stanford was 9-of-24. The Cardinal hit three in their game-opening spurt, forcing the defense out and thus opening room inside for Smith.
Newlin scored only two points and had eight rebounds, but her defense on Paris was the most important contribution in her 38 minutes. She remained so intense about her assignment that she got a technical for ripping the ball away from Paris when they got tied up in the closing minutes.
Britney Brown had 18 points and six assists for Oklahoma. Leah Rush scored 12.
Stanford is without its tree mascot the rest of the postseason as punishment from the NCAA because he danced in an area he wasn't supposed to during the second round - but it wasn't forgotten. Band members paid homage by taping twigs to their hats, backs and arms, or by making trees out of tape on their backs.
After the game, long after both teams and most fans were gone, the band played on and chanted, "Just three more wins!"