LOS ANGELES (AP)Oklahoma is best known for having the nation’s second-highest scoring offense. It was the Sooner’s physicality on defense and ability to control the paint though that allowed them to advance over Portland in the NCAA Tournament.
Fifth-seeded Oklahoma outrebounded Portland by 16 and held the No. 12 seed Pirates to 37.7% percent shooting from the field in an 85-63 victory Saturday night in a first-round game.
“We like to establish the paint. That’s one of our main focuses on the offensive and defensive end. Just being aggressive early and playing from inside out,” said Taylor Robertson, who had 14 points. “We were able to execute that pretty well today.”
Aubrey Joens also scored 14 points as the Sooners took control in the third quarter. Oklahoma (26-6) will face No. 4 seed UCLA in Monday’s second round. The winner will advance to the Greenville 1 regional.
Alex Fowler led Portland (23-9) with 18 points while Emme Shearer and Lucy Cochrane had 12 apiece. The Pilots were 3 of 19 on 3-pointers.
“They were plus-16 on the boards but I think we did have stretches where we contained them really well,” Shearer said. “There was just a few times where they got two, three, four, which kind of hurt us. Overall I’m proud of the team and we made changes. We just weren’t able to sustain them the whole game.”
Joens had eight points during the pivotal third quarter. Oklahoma had a 39-34 halftime lead, but went on a couple runs and were up 63-47 going into the final 10 minutes.
“I think that we were starting to get the groove of the game, and we were able to find our flow, and steady up and be able to get stops,” said Madi Williams, who had 13 points. “That was helping us with our possessions and getting back on offense.”
Portland got within 39-36 early in the third quarter when coach Michael Meek was called for a technical with 8:16 remaining. Robertson hit a pair of free throws which started a 13-4 Oklahoma run.
The Sooners also were able to pull away due to their trips to the foul line. Portland was called for 10 fouls in the quarter was Oklahoma went 11 of 15.
“I clearly don’t think that was helpful. I think those kind of things can really sway momentum in a big way,” Meek said.
Oklahoma, which came into the game as the nation’s second-highest scoring offense at 84.5 points per game, improved to 22-0 when scoring 80 or more points.
“I thought the second quarter we went away from the ball movement. I thought in the second half we did a much better job,” Oklahoma coach Jennie Baranczyk said.
Of Oklahoma’s 47 rebounds, 20 came on the offensive boards. Liz Scott had seven of her 12 rebounds on the offensive end. Skylar Vann came off the bench and had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Portland: The Pilots, who were playing in the tournament for the first time since 1997, fell to 0-5. They qualified in 2020, but it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Five players from that 2020 squad were on this year’s team.
“For this senior class to have accomplished that; I think when we came in as a staff four years ago, I don’t think anybody could imagine that,” Meek said. “Unfortunately we didn’t have that tournament experience that first year because I think it would have helped out this year.”
Oklahoma: The Sooners improved to 30-8 in the tournament when facing lower-seeded teams. They are looking to get to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013.
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