OU basketball 'in awe' of UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, ready to make own history in NCAAs

LOS ANGELES — The UCLA men’s basketball dynasty — 10 titles in a 12-year span — was nearly 50 years ago. UCLA last won a title in 1995, but even that is more than a quarter century in the past.

The UCLA women’s team won a national title in 1978 and has had a successful program. The banners for all of those teams hang from the rafters of Pauley Pavillion. There is a storied history, but it was a long time ago.

Yet, players from both Oklahoma and Portland were well aware of the historical context on Friday, one day before their NCAA Tournament opener at 8 p.m. Saturday night in an arena that was reconstructed in 2010 to add more seats and modernize facilities.

“Yeah, I mean it’s beautiful here,” said Madi Williams, who averages a team-high 15.5 points per game for the fifth-seeded Sooners. “Just coming in, I was in awe of all the banners.”

OU (25-6, 14-4 Big 12) has made some recent history this season. Their scoring average of 84.5 points per game is second among Division I teams, as is the average of 21 assists per game. Williams and Taylor Robertson both have surpassed 2,000 career points. The duo is among the top four scorers in OU women’s basketball history.

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Robertson has the most 3-pointers in NCAA history. Last year, the redshirt senior hit four or more 3-pointers in 17 games.

OU coach Jennie Baranczyk said when she was in her early 20s, she sat next to former UCLA women’s coach Billie Moore.

“I got to sit next to her on an airplane and have one of the most impactful conversations of my entire career,” Barancyzk recalled. “She was so gracious, so incredible. It was just by happenstance, and we never connected again.”

The teams have no common opponent. Baranczyk said the Big 12 team which would be closest to Portland would probably be Kansas State. Both teams express their common mutual respect, which is typical for NCAA press conferences.

“Portland is a very good team,” Barancyzk said. “They are very aggressive and they have sides in the interior.”

Oklahoma made it to the second round in the 2022 women’s tournament. The Sooners were seated fourth and hosted the first round. They defeated IUPUI of Indianapolis, but lost to Notre Dame in the second round.

Portland enters Saturday's contest with a 23-8 record. The Pilots defeated Pacific on March 6, and topped Gonzaga the next day by a 64-60 score, clinching the West Coast Conference's automatic bid. Gonzaga had the best conference record (17-1) during the regular season. Gonzaga defeated Portland in both regular-season meetings.

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“We can play a number of different ways,” Portland coach Michael Meek said. “We have to be aggressive and guard the 3-point line. “They (Oklahoma) are an incredible 3-point shooting team.”

This is the 23rd time OU has earned an NCAA invitation, and the Sooners have won 12 consecutive first-round games.

If OU extends that stretch to 13, the Sooners will likely have a second-round date Monday against fourth-seeded UCLA, which faces 13th-seeded Sacramento State at 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

More:OU vs. Portland women's basketball: Five things to know about Sooners' NCAA Tournament foe

When is the Oklahoma vs Portland basketball game?

TIPOFF: 8 p.m. Saturday at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles

What channel is the OU vs Portland NCAA Tournament game on?

ESPNU will televise the game with Ann Schatz on play-by-play and Meghan McKeown as the analyst.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: NCAA Tournament 2023: How to watch OU vs Portland, March Madness game