OU's Paris To Meet Only Rebounder In Front Of Her


Monday, March 12th 2007, 8:55 pm
By: News On 6


NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma center Courtney Paris had been wondering who was keeping her from being the top rebounder in the country. Now she'll get a chance to meet that player in person.

The ninth-ranked Sooners (26-4) and their All-America center will be the No. 3 seed in the Dayton Regional and face Southeast Missouri State (24-7) and Lachelle Lyles, the nation's No. 1 rebounder, in the first round Saturday in Austin, Texas.

``I've been wondering all year ... who's this girl that's leading me in rebounds? It should be an exciting battle,'' said Paris, who is 6-foot-4 and averages 23.6 points and 16.2 rebounds.

Lyles, a 6-foot-2 center, averages 17.2 rebounds and 8.5 points.

Paris only found out Lyles' name after the announcement, when Oklahoma's sports information director told her. Until then, her competition had been an intriguing mystery.

``I've never been curious enough to do any work about it, but I think it'll be cool and nice to meet her and get to see her. I really have wondered about that,'' Paris said.

Even Sooners coach Sherri Coale didn't know about Lyles.

``I didn't know Courtney wasn't the No. 1 rebounder, so that's a piece of news to me,'' Coale said.

The Sooners' regional is perhaps the most difficult on paper, as it's the only one with four of the top 10 teams in the AP poll _ No. 3 Tennessee is the top seed, No. 6 Maryland is the second seed, and No. 8 Ohio State is the fourth seed. Maryland is the defending NCAA champion.

``I think a lot of people would say, `Oh, man. That's not fair. There's so many great teams in that one little section,' but I'm excited,'' Paris said. ``I heard those teams being called, and I thought that's going to be a fun challenge.

``If you want to win it all, you've got to be able to face teams like that and beat them. You've got to beat everybody.''

The Sooners were a No. 2 seed last season after going 19-0 against Big 12 opponents and finishing the regular season on a 17-game winning streak. Their NCAA tournament run came to an end in the round of 16 against Stanford.

``I think we had a really confident team, a team that believed in ourselves, and we felt like we were ready to win the national championship,'' Paris said. ``It didn't turn out that way, but it's definitely motivated us into this season.''

That first tournament run has provided some lessons for Paris, who'll have six seniors playing with her. It's Oklahoma's eighth straight NCAA tournament berth.

``I think the biggest thing I do take is experience, and just understanding what it takes to win,'' Paris said. ``I know your defense has to be right and you've got to be able to make big plays at the right time.''

Right out of the gate, she'll get a compelling challenge from another talented center _ although she and her twin sister, Ashley, said the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup won't overshadow the bigger picture.

``I don't think she'll put too much into it. Courtney doesn't really think too much about her stats, as hard as that might be for someone who averages as much as she does _ as many points and rebounds,'' Ashley Paris said.

``I think just the opportunity to be playing in the NCAA tournament is the reason to be excited about this game,'' Courtney Paris added.