Sooners shatter Eagles’ Sweet 16 hopes

AUSTIN, Texas – Marquette's much-ballyhooed defense was supposed to give the sixth-seeded Golden Eagles a fighting chance against the third-seeded Oklahoma Sooners. Marquette's length was supposed to cause problems for Oklahoma players like 5-foot-4 guard Jenna Plumley. The Golden Eagles' changing looks were supposed to keep All-American candidate Courtney Paris off balance in the low post.

Things went according to plan early. Senior Efueko Osagie-Landry hounded Plumley all around the court and the freshman was 0-for-3 from behind the arc at halftime. Paris was limited to eight minutes in the opening session because of foul trouble. Seventeen minutes into the first half, Marquette trailed by only one, down 19-18.

But then Oklahoma started hitting shots. With Paris on the bench, seniors Erin Higgins and Leah Rush – two of the Sooners' other offensive weapons – took over and helped Oklahoma push its lead to 29-19 at the break. The Sooners carried that momentum into the second half and routed Marquette 78-47 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Golden Eagles finished the season 26-7.

"I think when we went in with a 10-point deficit with her (Courtney Paris) on the bench, we knew that was not a good sign," Marquette head coach Terri Mitchell said.

The decisive run started when Higgins hit a three-pointer with 2:54 to play in the first half. Oklahoma's Britney Brown followed with a pair of free throws. With 45.5 seconds left Rush added another basket.

Rush put an exclamation point on the run by draining a three-pointer from the top of the key with seven seconds left in the half even though she was knocked over by a Marquette defender.

"We all thought she got an and-1," Oklahoma senior Chelsi Welch said. "We all thought she deserved a free throw on that, so that even fired us up more. We were just all on fire going into the locker room ready for the second half."

Oklahoma's run didn't stop at halftime – it was just getting started.

The Sooners outscored Marquette 11-3 in the first six minutes of the second period and led by as many as 38 points. Paris had a lot to do with that. She finished with a game-high 24 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. It was her 60th consecutive double-double.

"You have to give her a lot of credit," Marquette senior center Christina Quaye said. "We had a defensive effort, and she caught us off-guard a lot of times."

Oklahoma's defense also deserved a great deal of praise for the effort it turned in against Marquette. It kept the Sooners in the game at the start of the first half and never gave Marquette a chance to come back.

The Sooners held Marquette to a 21.3 field-goal percentage for the game (13-for-61) and a 25.0 percentage from beyond the arc. Quaye was held to five points on 2-of-12 shooting, and Krystal Ellis was 4-of-12 from the field to finish with 12 points.

The numbers reflected Marquette's propensity to rush shots and Ellis' inability to create easy scoring chances in transition for the Golden Eagles.

"We found her in the open court, our half check . did a good job of finding her and trying to slow the ball a little bit," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said of Ellis. "I really think as much as anything our interior guys did a good job of just wreaking havoc where they weren't really sure where the next pass was going to go. Not really sure where the open option would be. Just a lot of moving around and keeping them off balance."