'You leave her open, it’s three points': Taylor Robertson shoots OU past IUPUI in NCAA Tournament opener
NORMAN — Taylor Robertson knew she’d be able to find space.
The OU sharpshooter probably didn’t figure it’d be with IUPUI star Macee Williams on her hip.
But as the Sooners’ frenetic pace started to wear Williams and the Jaguars down early in the third quarter of Saturday’s NCAA Tournament opener, Robertson patiently waited as she dribbled along the perimeter.
A speck of a moment of inattention was all Robertson needed to pull the trigger, draining a 3-pointer to ignite a big Sooners run and helped OU beat IUPUI 78-72 at Lloyd Noble Center.
Robertson scored 17 of her game-high 22 points in the second half to lift the Sooners to their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2017 and their first at home in a decade.
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“I think as the game goes on, our pace wears against everybody we play against because we try to get up and down so fast,” Robertson said. “I think that we were able to get more open looks because they either start running to the paint or running out on shooters and we just get wide open looks at the basket.”
Robertson tried just two 3-pointers in the first half, missing the first and drawing a foul on the second.
And Williams proved to be every bit the handful that Jennie Baranczyk and the Sooners expected, scoring 14 with four offensive rebounds before halftime.
But after halftime, the Sooners kept pushing the tempo and the Jaguars wore down.
With the Sooners up two early in the third, Robertson casually dribbled along the perimeter, turned slightly away from the basket, as Williams defended.
As soon as Williams gave her space, Robertson quickly squared up, and coolly hit her first 3-pointer of the game.
A day earlier, Jaguars coach Austin Parkinson compared Robertson to Golden State Warriors’ stay Klay Thompson.
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“Doesn’t need a lot of dribbles, but is tall and has such a high release,” Parkinson said. “You can be there and it doesn’t matter sometimes.”
Williams was there. It just didn’t matter much.
Robertson’s 3-pointer ignited a 12-0 Sooners run that gave them control, though IUPUI cut what was a 14-point lead down to just four three times in the final four minutes.
Both times, though, Robertson gave OU breathing room — hitting a 3-pointer with 3:14 remaining to answer the Jaguars run, then four free throws in the final minute to put the game away.
Williams had just three points after halftime, making just 1 of 5 shots and had just one offensive rebound.
“In watching her, you knew that she was good; you respected her,” Baranczyk said of Williams. “But when you go against somebody live, you really get the real story, and she’s good. She’s a very, very good basketball player, and she just makes everybody around her really great.”
The Sooners couldn’t fully appreciate Williams without going head-to-head with her, and the same was true of Robertson.
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“I thought we did a poor job on Robertson in the second half,” Parkinson said. “We covered her great in the first half and lost her on some really pretty easy switches we would normally make.
“A player like that and you leave her open, it’s three points.”
It was far from just Robertson making OU’s offense go.
Madi Williams steadied the Sooners throughout, mostly finding ways to score near the basket even with Macee Williams making it difficult to find much space to work inside.
Madi Williams finished with 21 points while Skylar Vann added 13 — seven in the first quarter — and the 5-foot-2 Nevaeh Tot added 10 points and a season-high eight rebounds with no turnovers in 30 minutes.
“I think our balance just continues to come out,” Baranczyk said.
Now the Sooners (25-8) advance to take on No. 5 seed Notre Dame at 5 p.m. Monday for a berth in the Sweet 16.