KANSAS CITY – Before the Missouri women’s basketball team’s game against Oklahoma, freshman forward Shakara Jones said words couldn’t describe how excited she was to be facing Oklahoma centers Courtney and Ashley Paris again.
She took advantage of the opportunity on Tuesday and more than held her own against the dominant post duo in MU’s 70-64 upset of Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 tournament.
When the Tigers fed Jones in the post she almost always delivered. She scored 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting and attacked Courtney Paris, the Big 12 Player of the Year and a member of the Big 12 All-Defensive team, whenever she had the chance.
“I knew that I would have to take it to her, because we do need some points in the paint,” Jones said.
Jones often took a pass with her back to the basket, made a move and was able to shoot over Courtney Paris even though she is two inches taller than Jones.
“(I) just (got) the ball up as high as I could get it,” Jones said.
Despite being second in the conference in 3-point shooting (35.8 percent), the Tigers came into the game planning to attack the basket, and the Paris twins, and not rely too much on jump shots. Jones helped MU carry that out by going right at her defender.
“Shakara gave us great presence inside,” coach Cindy Stein said. “We definitely wanted to make sure we were attacking inside; we wanted to go at the twins. Our whole mindset was that they’re a great team, but we weren’t going to stand back and try to shoot jumpers around them.”
Jones impressed Stein the most on Tuesday with her confidence. Despite being a freshman facing one of the best players in the country Jones didn’t hesitate to try to score.
“She wanted the basketball, and I can tell you there’s a lot of kids that when Courtney Paris is guarding them, they don’t want the basketball,” Stein said.
Jones’s performance against the Sooners showed how much she learned in her freshman season. Jones said she felt two years older after this season, and Stein said her improvement was seen in Tuesday’s performance.
“The things you saw today, she’s learned,” Stein said. “From a position standpoint, move your feet and go with what they’re calling … and how to get open. She learned so much.”
HANNEMAN SHINES: Amanda Hanneman had been struggling before Tuesday. The sophomore forward hadn’t scored in double figures since scoring 14 at Kansas Jan. 19 and averaged just 4.8 ppg in the last 12 games of the season. But she scored 13 points and made the biggest shot of the season against OU.
MU trailed by three with under 30 seconds in regulation and junior guard Alyssa Hollins and Hanneman were on a two-on-one fast break. Hanneman took a pass from Hollins on the wing with a clear path the basket, hesitated, then stepped back behind the arc and drained a 3-pointer to tie the game with 15.7 seconds left.
“I was actually going to for a lay-up, but then I remembered we were down by three, and I stepped back and shot it without even thinking about it,” Hanneman said.
Hanneman, a Blue Springs native, was playing near her hometown, and Stein said she noticed her forward liked playing in Kansas City.
“She loves playing in front of her family, so they have to go to every game now,” Stein said.
SHUTTING DOWN THE SUPPORTING CAST: Courtney Paris was dominant as usual for OU, scoring 30 points and going 14-for-24 with 20 rebounds, but MU shut down everyone else. All other Sooners combined to shoot 15-for-64 (23.4 %), and Ashley Paris was the only other OU player to score in double figures (12 points). OU had 33 more rebounds (62) than field goals (29).
“Courtney is an all-American and she’s going to get hers,” junior guard Alyssa Hollins said. “We were just looking to cover her and sagging off other players, and (be) active with them to disrupt their offensive flow.”
AGGIES UP NEXT: The Tigers will now play No. 4 Texas A&M at 2:30 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium today. The Tigers were blown out, 62-43, in their only meeting of the season with the Aggies in College Station.
Texas A&M was second in the conference in scoring defense (55.7 ppg allowed), and Stein lauded the Aggies’ defense saying each of their starters deserved consideration for the Big 12 All-Defensive Team. A&M junior forward Danielle Gant made the squad.
“They’re a tough team, a great defensive team,” Stein said. “So obviously our offensive possessions are going to be important. They have tremendous players and athletes and it’s another challenge for us.”
The game will be televised on Fox Sports Net and broadcast on KFRU-AM 1400.