Mississippi Has To See Paris, On The Court

Oklahoma star coming off 60th straight double-double

March 23, 2007

Mississippi knocked off the defending national champion its last time out, but now has to figure out a way to slow down arguably the best player in the country.

The seventh-seeded Rebels look to continue their surprising tournament run when they faces Courtney Paris and No. 3 seed Oklahoma on Sunday in a Dayton Regional semifinal.

Mississippi (23-10) used a relentless defense to beat second-seeded Maryland 89-78 in the second round on Tuesday. The Rebels forced 15 steals and scored 42 points off 29 turnovers, handing the Terps the worst tournament showing by a defending champ since Notre Dame in 2001.

"I think the game is really simple," Ole Miss coach Carol Ross said. "You guard hard, you create ball plays, you let ball players make ball plays. You put them into position to do that."

The victory earned the Rebels their first trip to the round of 16 since 1992, which is also the last time they reached a regional final.

"We want people to know that we are not done yet," said Ashley Awkward, who had 22 points against the Terrapins. "We want to keep playing. We want bigger things out of Ole Miss."

In order to keep playing, the Rebels likely will have to slow down Paris, who averages 23.3 points, 15.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks for Oklahoma (28-4) to rank among the top five nationally in each category.

Paris recorded her 60th straight double-double with 24 points and 10 boards in just 23 minutes in the Sooners' second-round win on Monday, 78-47 over No. 6 seed Marquette.

"It really puts it in perspective because it's very hard to get a double-double. It's not an easy day's work," Ross said. "For someone like Courtney who is getting a lot of these in the first half it's outstanding. It's a 20-minute double-double, not a 40-minute one a lot of the time."

Paris finished the game with 506 rebounds, giving her at least 700 points, 500 boards and 100 blocks for the second straight season. She is the only player ever to have reached those marks in a single season.



"You would think to play for the Sweet 16, that there was a lot of pressure, but I just didn't want the game to end, and that is the way basketball is played," Paris said. "Tonight was more about enjoying the game and playing together, and that is the reason we had such a large margin of victory."

Paris bounced back nicely after being held to 13 points in Oklahoma's first-round, 74-60 win over Southeast Missouri State. On Monday, she spent nearly 12 minutes of the first half on the bench, but her sister, Ashley Paris, filled in admirably with eight points and 10 rebounds.

"She's the best backup center in the country," Courtney Paris said. "We needed her to control the boards and she did."

The Sooners are in the round of 16 for the second straight season and sixth time overall, with the only win coming against Texas Tech in 2002. They lost 88-74 to Stanford in last year's regional semifinals.

Mississippi is led by Armintie Price, who is averaging 18.5 points and 8.9 rebounds. Along with 29 points against the Terrapins, she had three steals and needs just four more to become the second player in women's NCAA history, along with Cheryl Miller of USC, with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 assists and 400 steals.

Price had 21 points in Mississippi's first-round win over TCU.

"Armintie played in the first two rounds the way we have seen her play often since she has been at Ole Miss," Ross said. "Any time you are on a national stage and other people get to see her, it's almost humorous because they are in awe. Their jaw drops."