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Oklahoma Downs IUPUI in Tense NCAA Tournament Opener

The Sooners picked up their first NCAA Tournament win since 2017, setting up a Monday battle with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

NORMAN — Oklahoma got tested, but Jennie Baranczyk’s Sooners are into the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

Hosting the Big Dance at the Lloyd Noble Center for the first time since 2012, OU eliminated the IUPUI Jaguars with a 78-72 victory on Saturday night.

The 4-seeded Sooners (25-8) contained IUPUI’s four-time Horizon League Player of the Year Macee Williams and rode nice showings from Madi Williams, Taylor Robertson and Skylar Vann to oust the 13-seed.

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Oklahoma advanced to the second round for the first time since 2017 with the win.

"It's been rough for the last three years since we've been here," Madi Williams said after the game. "But we made it and we're here, and we're blessed to be here. We're excited to be here."

Despite having to travel behind enemy lines, the Jaguars (24-7) were up for the challenge and hung tough with the Sooners for a half.

Macee Williams scored 14 points in the first half to pace IUPUI, and the Jaguars only trailed the Sooners 41-37 at halftime.

Out of the locker room, Baranczyk’s defense keyed in on IUPUI’s star center, holding Macee Williams to three second half points.

"We had to defend her a variety of ways," Baranczyk said. "... We just tried to change up different looks, so we obviously fouled her a few too many times. 

"At the same time I felt our team did a really nice job of being able to adjust every few minutes on changing what we were trying to do."

While OU picked up the defensive intensity, Robertson got going on the offensive end.

The Sooner sharpshooter hit a pair of 3-pointers to help fuel a 12-0 Oklahoma run, building a 14-point lead that gave OU some breathing room for the first time all night.

WBB - Taylor Robertson, 2022 NCAA Women's Tournament, IUPUI Jaguars
WBB - Jennie Baranczyk, Taylor Robertson, 2022 NCAA Women's Tournament, IUPUI Jaguars

A string of poor offensive possessions late in the fourth quarter gave the Jaguars a glimmer of hope.

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Freshman point guard Kelbie Washington was called for a travel and Nydia Lampkin air-balled a 3-pointer on back-to-back trips down the floor, allowing IUPUI to go on a 7-1 run and cut the Sooner lead to four points with three and a half minutes remaining in the contest.

But OU’s senior duo of Willams and Robertson came up big when the Sooners needed them most.

Robertson drained a corner 3 and Nevaeh Tot found Williams in transition on to extend the lead back to seven points, which proved to be all the cushion Oklahoma would need to get across the finish line.

Robertson paced the Sooners with 22 points on 5-of-11 shooting, and Williams added 21 points and six rebounds in the win.

"I thought Madi was incredible from the very beginning," Baranczyk said. "... I think (Robertson and Williams) do a very nice job of having a balance of still being able to focus on themselves and not try to fix everybody but still build everybody up.

"... They bring a steadiness, a competitiveness and they are definite leaders on the team in terms of strategy."

Tot, OU’s 5-foot-2 point guard, led the Sooners with eight rebounds, though the Sooners ultimately lost the battle on the glass 45-42.

As a team, Oklahoma did a great job taking care of the basketball as well.

OU only committed 10 turnovers on Saturday night, a season-best for Oklahoma.

Baranczyk and the Sooners will now turn their attention to Monday, where OU will face off against the 5-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish for a spot in the Sweet 16. With a win, Oklahoma would reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013.

Tip-off between OU and Notre Dame is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Monday night, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

"We are really excited and we're not done," Robertson said. "We are not going home yet so we get another chance to play and then hopefully we get even more chances after that."

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