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Sooners lean on defense to advance to Big 12 semfinals

Mar. 9—Oklahoma opened up the Big 12 Tournament allowing just three made shots over the first 12 minutes against TCU.

The Horned Frogs closed the first half on a 7-2 run, but the Sooners had already figured out the winning formula. They dominated the paint and dared the Horned Frogs to beat them beyond the arc.

TCU shot 29% from behind the arc on 28 attempts and was outscored 30-14 in the paint.

Oklahoma allowed just three points over the final five minutes of play to run away with a 69-53 win.

"This was really good for us," OU head coach Jennie Baranczyk said. "And I feel like (the Horned Frogs) have had some injuries but now that they're back and have a few of their players back from significant injuries, that's a good team, a really good team."

The Sooners have now advanced to the semifinal round of the Big 12 tournament in all three of head coach Jennie Baranczyk's seasons with the program. It's also the second season in a row the Sooners will face Iowa State with a spot in the title game on the line.

Last year, the Cyclones pulled out an 82-72 win.

On Saturday, the Sooners were in a one-point game midway through the first quarter before going on an 11-0 run to take an early 16-point lead.

They shot just 38% from the floor in the first, but hit a pair of 3-pointers and only had one turnover.

The Sooners shot 29% in the second quarter and the Horned Frogs took advantage to cut their lead to six by halftime. Lexy Keys hit three, 3-pointers in the first half, but had none after halftime.

Freshman Sahara Williams emerged as the Sooners' top scoring option in the second half.

The Horned Frogs only used bench player the entire game and had three starters played 39 or more minutes. Williams didn't have a make from the field in the first half, but was 5 of 10 in the second half with 13 points.

"I thought we executed our offense and the shots found me," Williams said about the second half. "Just running the floor and getting my teammates open and creating for myself."

She led the team in rebounds with eight including three on the offensive glass. The center scored 17 points with a make from beyond the arc.

The Sooners shot 50% in the second half and were 4-10 from deep. They also dominated the glass in the final two quarters, 24 to 11.

"I think just being really aggressive is what we focused on. Boxing out, don't give her any easy buckets, also don't bail out. I think in the second half we did a really good job."

Keys was the only other Sooner to finish in double figures (11 points), but seven different players scored at least five.

The Sooners shot 42% from the floor on Saturday, which is their highest shooting percentage in any of their last five games.

Up Next

No. 1-seed Oklahoma's semifinal game against No. 4-seed Iowa State will tipoff at 1:30 p.m. on Monday. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

The Sooners have made it to the conference semifinals in seven of the last 12 seasons. The last time they made it to the title game was 2010.

They faced the Cyclones once this season in Ames, Iowa and earned a convincing 14-point win. They're coming off a 67-62 win over Baylor on Saturday.

Tarik Masri is the sports editor for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing tarik@normantranscript.com