Women's Final Four Notebook
April 5, 2009
SISTER ACT: If you know anything about women’s college basketball, you’ve probably heard of four-time All-America senior center Courtney Paris – who promised the Sooners a national title a month ago or she would pay back her scholarship – but her twin sister Ashley is just as deserving of recognition for the role she has played in the Sooners’ run to the Final Four.
Ashley is the Sooners’ third-leading scorer with 12.5 points per game, and second-leading rebounder (9.6 rpg) to her sister’s 13.5 per contest, improving in both categories during her four year career. And while Courtney may have the name recognition and lengthy resume, two-year starter Ashley is pretty comfortable in her role.
“Off the court, I’m better than her at pretty much everything, except for being annoying and stuff that you don’t want to be better at,” Ashley joked. “On the court, I don’t know, it’s hard to say. I feel like I really complement her game and I think that comes with playing with her all my life. And, naturally, I feel like I’m a bit more mobile than she is and a bit more versatile than she is.”
After working to improve her fitness level for this season, Ashley has gotten more mobile with the weight loss as well.
“I feel like I have more endurance and I’m just quicker up and down the court,” said Ashley. I’m able to be out on the perimeter and give our guards some room to penetrate and Courtney more room to work on the post.”
Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale added that with developing her transitional game, Ashley’s confidence has also grown.
“I think the other way that’s she’s improved dramatically has been her confidence,” said Coale. “And it’s hard to say which came first. But typically kids’ confidence grows when you give them something really hard to do and they do it.”
The Paris twins and their Sooner teammates will face Louisville on Sunday, April 5 at 6 p.m. CT in the first semifinal game of the Women’s Final Four.
UNDERDOGS?: The University of Louisville stepped onto the biggest stage in women’s college basketball for the first time in program history this week, and yet despite the Cardinals’ 33-4 record (including two losses to unbeaten Connecticut), they have been marked as the underdog of this year’s event. However, the Cardinals’ opponent, Oklahoma, believes otherwise.
“I think Louisville is a great program,” said Whitney Hand. “I think they've gained some momentum in the tournament and they're definitely on a roll and I think they're playing with some sense of urgency that we haven't seen really from them yet in this tournament. I think Angel McCoughtry is one of the best players in the country, and she's definitely difficult to contain and they just play really well around her.”
McCoughtry, who earned Associated Press First Team All-America honors and was named the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year, is well-respected by her opponents.
“It is kind of hard because they consider themselves underdogs and they play with that the ‘world's against us’ mentality and it's hard to play against,” said Ashley Paris. “And Angel is a talented player, but they obviously have some great pieces that go along with her. They mix stuff up on defense and offense and they're just a very talented team. So it's going to be a great game, I think.”
ON THE RUN: If you like action, check out the semifinal between Connecticut and Stanford on Sunday, April 5 at 8:30 p.m. ET. The rematch of last year’s semifinal game – a Stanford victory – is poised to be an exciting back-and-forth battle according to the players.
“Our strength is running the floor, making it a full-court game instead of a half-court offense and defense,” said UConn senior Renee Montgomery. “I think our strength will just be to push the ball as much as possible.”
Sophomore Maya Moore agrees that the Huskies like to run.
“That's just definitely one of our -- mostly our style of play,” said Moore. “(Stanford is) a disciplined team. They're going to force us to play their style of basketball. They're patient with their offense and they get the shot that they want. We're just going to have to do our best to try to just disrupt their offensive flow as much as possible.”
But don’t expect Stanford to slow the pace too much according to sophomore forward Kayla Pederson.
“I think that one of the things we take pride in is our ability to run,” said Kayla Pedersen. “And I don't think a lot of those people give us credit for that. But that's our game. We run the floor. No other post can run like Jayne (Appel) can. It will definitely be a fast-paced game.”
“You never know what is really going to happen tomorrow,” said Stanford head coach Tara Vanderveer. “But our team likes to play up tempo. We like to run, and obviously Connecticut does, too.”
NO SOPHOMORE SLUMP: University of Connecticut sophomore Maya Moore was named The State Farm Wade Trophy Player of the Year by the WBCA today, becoming the second sophomore in history to win the award.
Moore, a forward from Lawrenceville, Ga., was the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Trenton Regional, for her contributions in victories over Arizona State and California. In the win against the Sun Devils, Moore became the Huskies’ single-season scoring leader and now boasts 712 points in 2009.
The 2009 BIG EAST Player of the Year and an All-BIG East First Team unanimous selection, Moore averaged 21.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 2.3 blocks, while shooting 62.5 percent from the field en route to also being named BIG EAST Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
Moore, along with teammates Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles, were also selected to the Division I State Farm Coaches’ All-America Basketball Team. Stanford’s Jayne Appel, Louisville’s Angel McCoughtry, and Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris were also members of the 10-person squad.