OU vs. IUPUI women's basketball: Five things to know about the Sooners' first-round opponent

Ryan Aber

NORMAN — OU is back in the NCAA women's basketball tournament for the first time since 2018, and it will start out at home, earning a No. 4 seed and taking on 13th-seeded IUPUI at 9 p.m. Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center.

Here’s five things to know about the Sooners’ first-round opponent:

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1. Redemption story

IUPUI — Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis — is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

But the Jaguars have celebrated a tournament appearance before.

In 2020, IUPUI beat Green Bay 51-37 in the Horizon League Tournament to clinch a spot in the Big Dance.

That never happened, though, as the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the tournament before selections were even made. 

Three current IUPUI players played in that Horizon League championship game — Rachel McLimore, Destiny Perkins and Morgan Allen.

“I just wanted so badly for these young ladies to be able to get to play in the tournament, because they really are incredible people off the court, and they’ve been so invested,” IUPUI coach Austin Parkinson said. “Two years ago, when that was taken away, that was hard to see the emotions on their faces, knowing that they weren’t going to get to play. This year, even though we’ve had a really good team, you still had to go do it. It was joy and a sense of relief.”

McLimore averages 12.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Perkins averages 6.8 points, and 3.3 rebounds.

Jaguars first-year assistant coach Holly Hoopingarner was the point guard on that team.

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The IUPUI mascot ‘Jazzy,’ Tuesday, March 8, 2022, during Horizon League tournament women’s finals action from Indianapolis’ Indiana Farmers Coliseum. IUPUI won 61-54,

2. Experience against the Sooners

There will be one player on the floor Saturday who played in OU’s last NCAA Tournament game.

Only it won’t be one suiting up for the Sooners.

Late in OU’s 90-79 first-round loss to DePaul in 2018, McLimore came off the bench for the Blue Demons, playing two minutes, pulling down a rebound and missing the long shot she attempted.

After that season, McLimore transferred to IUPUI and has been a mainstay in the Jaguars’ lineup, starting 75 of the 78 games she’s played in over the last three seasons.

McLimore isn’t the only IUPUI player to have faced the Sooners.

Madison Wise has much more experience going head-to-head with OU, playing the last four seasons at Iowa State before transferring for her final season of eligibility.

Wise’s best game in Norman came as a sophomore, when she had 14 points, four rebounds and four assists in the Cyclones’ 91-70 win over the Sooners.

3. Overcoming early adversity

The Jaguars found themselves in an early hole in the Horizon League, after COVID-19 issues led to IUPUI forfeiting its first two conference games in late November.

Since then, the Jaguars have gone 23-3. Including winning their three Horizon League Tournament games by an average of more than 20 points per game.

IUPUI did it with strong defense and efficient offense.

The Jaguars are No. 24 nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 55.7 points per game. OU is No. 3 in scoring offense at 83.3 points per game.

IUPUI has held opponents to just 24.8% from behind the 3-point line, No. 5 in the country, while committing just 12.5 fouls per game.

The Jaguars are No. 10 nationally in field-goal percentage at 45.92%.

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IUPUI Jaguars center Macee Williams (50), Tuesday, March 8, 2022, during Horizon League tournament women’s finals action from Indianapolis’ Indiana Farmers Coliseum. IUPUI won 61-54,

4. Williams leads the way

There’s zero doubt who the Jaguars’ top weapon is. 

In her first season, Macee Williams was named freshman of the year in the Horizon League. In each of the four years since, she’s earned the conference’s player of the year award.

The 6-foot-1 center/forward became just the fourth Division I women’s basketball player to be named conference player of the year four times.

This season, Williams leads IUPUI in scoring (18.7 points per game), rebounding (10.6), field-goal percentage (64.9%), free throws attempted (105), steals (37) and blocks (17).

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5. Playing up

The Jaguars faced just two ranked opponents all season and none since Dec. 21, but early in the season, IUPUI held its own in those two matchups.

On Nov. 9, the Jaguars took then-No. 11 Michigan into overtime on the road before falling 67-62.

Then on Dec. 21, IUPUI overcame an 18-point deficit with five minutes remaining in the third quarter to pick up its first-ever win over a ranked team when it knocked off No. 15 Iowa 74-73 in Iowa City.

The win was the first over a Big Ten opponent since December 2016.

Saturday’s game will be just the third for IUPUI against a current member of the Big 12. The Jaguars are 0-2 against Kansas and 0-1 against Iowa State and Kansas State. None of those meetings have occurred in the last decade.