Oklahoma holds on to beat Jackrabbits 68-57
NORMAN: One late dry spell couldn't spoil Oklahoma's run of success in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Nyeshia Stevenson scored 17 points, Abi Olajuwon added 15 and third-seeded Oklahoma beat South Dakota State 68-57 on Sunday night despite going the final 7 minutes with just one field goal on its home floor.
The Sooners (24-10) stalled on offense against the Jackrabbits' zone defense, but No. 14 seed South Dakota State (22-11) couldn't close the gap quickly enough. Oklahoma moved into the second round for the fifth straight year and the ninth time in the last 11 seasons.
Coming off a Final Four appearance last season, the Sooners could never deliver a knockout punch in the second half against the Summit League champions.
Kristin Rotert scored 13 points and Maria Boever had 12 for South Dakota State.
The Jackrabbits had the ball twice with a 64-57 deficit in the final 2 minutes but came up empty on back-to-back possessions before Joanna McFarland and Stevenson sealed the win with a pair of free throws apiece for Oklahoma in the final 10 seconds.
Danielle Robinson added 13 points, eight assists and four steals, while Amanda Thompson had 11 points and 15 rebounds for the Sooners.
Robinson sparked a 20-5 first-half run by the Sooners with a steal and a run-out layup that ended up turning into a three-point play. It was a sign of things to come.
She added another fast-break layup in the big run and Stevenson hit a pair of 3-pointers as Oklahoma went up 24-13. Then she did it a third time to cap a string of eight straight points for the Sooners that restored the lead to 34-20 after the Jackrabbits had gotten within six.
But Oklahoma couldn't come up with a similar run after halftime, when Stevenson and Robinson combined for only six points.
South Dakota State spent most of the second half with a deficit of just over 10 points before closing in with a run of six straight points to get within 62-55 on Leah Dietel's foul line jumper with 3:49 left. Robinson ended a 4-minute scoreless stretch with a layup off a baseline cut, but the Sooners didn't score again until the closing seconds.
South Dakota State was looking to duplicate the thrilling finish to its first season in Division I. The Jackrabbits made it to the NCAAs last season and won their first game in a blowout, then pushed second-seeded Baylor to the limit in a 60-58 loss in the second round.
Oklahoma lost former national player of the year Courtney Paris and her twin sister, Ashley, from last year's team that went to the Final Four for the second time in school history. Then, only five games into the season, the Sooners lost 3-point shooting ace and co-captain Whitney Hand for the season with a torn ligament in her right knee.