Oklahoma survives early test to overwhelm Prairie View in second half

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- What was supposed to be a tuneup for Oklahoma turned out to be a wakeup call -- for about 25 minutes.

Danielle Robinson scored 15 points, Ashley Paris added 14 and the top-seeded Sooners overcame a sluggish start to beat Prairie View A&M 76-47 Sunday night in the first round of the Oklahoma City Regional.

Courtney Paris had 11 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks for Oklahoma (29-4), which led 42-34 before overwhelming the 16th-seeded Lady Panthers with a 17-1 run early in the second half.

The Sooners closed the game on a 34-13 run, held Prairie View to 6-of-33 shooting and outrebounded the scrappy Lady Panthers 30-19 in the final 20 minutes.

"I thought it was about rebounds for us," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "We won the game on the backboard, and that's the way you have to win games in the NCAA tournament."

The Sooners will play Georgia Tech in the second round Tuesday night.

Though Prairie View came to Iowa City as one of the hottest teams in the nation, it hadn't seen anything like Oklahoma during that stretch. Still, they cut a 16-point deficit to 42-34 early in the second half -- right about the time most folks thought the Sooners would start emptying the bench.

Oklahoma's Nyeshia Stevenson stopped the run with a 3, and the Sooners' defense finally slowed down Prairie View. Ashley Paris made it 54-34 with a turnaround jumper in the paint with 13:50 left, and Carlee Roethlisberger's 3 gave Oklahoma a 59-35 lead with just over 12 minutes left.

Dominique Smith and Gatti Werema each had 15 points to lead Prairie View (23-11), which entered with a 19-game winning streak. Though the Lady Panthers hopes for an upset ended after little more than a half, they fared much better than they did during their first NCAA trip in 2007, when North Carolina pounded them 95-38.

"Oklahoma just wore us down," Prairie View coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said. "They were able to rebound the ball and fast break and get some easy buckets, whereas in the first half, we were able to play a little bit better transition defense."

Courtney Paris had a bucket, a board and a block in the first minute, letting the Lady Panthers know right away what they'd be dealing with. But the Sooners, who were coming off a 74-62 loss to Texas A&M in the Big 12 semifinals, couldn't get their shots to fall early, missing nine of their first 12.

Whitney Hand and Roethlisberger broke Oklahoma out of that funk with 3s, and Robinson used her quickness to get free for a runner and a layup through traffic as the Sooners pulled ahead 36-20.

Prairie View stayed tough. The Lady Panthers pestered the Sooners into 10 first-half turnovers, and Smith's layup off a steal helped pull Prairie View within 38-28 at halftime.

Had the Lady Panthers been able to convert second chances, it would have been much closer. But Oklahoma outscored Prairie View 14-0 on second-chance points in the opening half.

Those missed opportunities came back to haunt the Lady Panthers in the second half, when the Sooners clamped down their defense to the point where Prairie View could barely get any of their first looks to drop.

The Lady Panthers hit just four field goals in the final 17 minutes.

"Defense," Coale said when asked what keyed the crucial second-half run that put the Lady Panthers away. "Getting defensive stops, defensive boards and then running the transition."

Courtney Paris picked up her 126th double-double and is 14 rebounds shy of becoming the first college player, regardless of gender or division, to score 2,500 points and grab 2,000 rebounds.

Oklahoma forward Amanda Thompson didn't play because of a sprained tendon in her left foot, an injury she suffered during the loss to Texas A&M.

Coale said Thompson, who started 31 games and is averaging 7.4 points and 5 rebounds, could have played if the Sooners needed her. Thompson should be available for Oklahoma's second-round game Tuesday.

"She is the toughest kid I know and if she is capable of going, she will go," Coale said.