No. 12 Oklahoma 60, Ark.-Little Rock 44
Abi Olajuwon got a bit overshadowed during her senior day celebration as her Oklahoma teammates showed off their 3-point shooting skills.
Given a second chance to shine in what will truly be her final game at the Lloyd Noble Center, she took advantage of an even bigger stage.
Olajuwon had 19 points and 11 rebounds and third-seeded Oklahoma made the most of a sloppy first half on both ends to beat Arkansas-Little Rock 60-44 Tuesday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
``I was happy for once to be the tallest one out of the group,'' said Olajuwon, a 6-foot-4 center. ``I really tried to focus on getting angles and finishing. That's something that I'm going to have to do throughout the tournament.''
The Sooners (25-10) closed a ragged first half with an 11-0 run to go up by 15 and never let the 11th-seeded Trojans get back within single digits to complete their stingiest defensive performance of the season.
The teams evenly split a combined 30 turnovers in the first half, but the Sooners were able to pull ahead by shooting 50 percent shooting and holding the Trojans (27-7) scoreless for more than 6 minutes.
Oklahoma allowed its fewest points ever in the first half of an NCAA tournament game.
``That's exactly what we knew we could do was have them turn the ball over,'' Robinson said. ``It was just us not executing on the offensive end.''
Chastity Reed, the nation's fourth-leading scorer, had 20 points to lead UALR as it went for back-to-back wins in its NCAA tournament debut.
The Trojans missed all 16 of their 3-pointers and half of their free throws. Kim Sitzmann, who scored a season-high 21 points in an upset win against No. 6 seed Georgia Tech two nights earlier, had only two points on 1-for-13 shooting, including nine missed 3-pointers.
``Of course, her shot was off. It happens sometimes. It happens to me,'' said Reed, who had been averaging 24.9 points. ``But at least she kept shooting the ball and she was getting open looks. What more can you ask from somebody? Keep shooting the ball.
``If she didn't shoot, then I'd have gotten real mad.''
Despite losing three starters from the team that went to the Final Four last year, Oklahoma has hardly missed a beat this season. Former national player of the year Courtney Paris and her twin sister, Ashley, left voids in the lane and 3-point shooting ace Whitney Hand was lost with an injury only five games into the season.
But now, the Sooners are back in the regional semifinals for the fourth time in the last five years and the eighth time in the program's history.
``I don't really know if there are any words for how gratifying it is,'' coach Sherri Coale said. ``It's been a remarkable year, one that none of us are ready to be over.
``It's a big deal to get back deep into the tournament after you've been to the Final Four. I think that speaks volume about where your program is, but to do it not only losing Courtney and Ashley last year but then losing Whitney, too, I think it speaks volumes for the kids we have on our basketball team and their character.''
Oklahoma advances to face No. 2 seed Notre Dame on Sunday in Kansas City, Mo., in a rematch of a November game won by the Irish 81-71 in the Virgin Islands. That was the Sooners' first game after losing Hand to a right knee injury.
Notre Dame also eliminated Oklahoma from the NCAA tournament two years ago in a second-round game.
Olajuwon, the daughter of former NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon, had back-to-back baskets inside to start the big run that provided the Sooners' cushion. UALR missed seven straight shots to finish the first half, and Nyeshia Stevenson pushed Oklahoma's lead to 28-13 with a layup in the closing seconds of the first half.
UALR had typically been sure-handed on its way to the first NCAA tournament appearance in school history. The Trojans had the fewest turnovers per game in the nation - with only 12.3 - but surpassed their average with more than 3 1/2 minutes left before halftime.
``We thought we could change things up on them,'' Coale said. ``If they get comfortable, they're really good.''