OKLAHOMA CITY —
“The next day in practice, I went right back to them both and said, ‘I did not see this coming, but you two guys in uniform helped me so much.’
“It’s hard to explain, it was subtle but it’s constant. In a huddle, I’m not just looking at four guys … I thought, ‘You know what, if I feel like that, I’ll bet our players feel like that.’”
Now Williams is wearing the uniform again. Manning, too. Every game could be their last one of the season and, for Hand and Cloman, their last one, period. But that’s not the reason they keep putting on the crimson and cream.
They’ve just found another way to make their team better.
“Putting on the uniform, the symbolism, it switches your mind from watching the game to being in the game,” said senior forward Joanna McFarland, who, after breaking her jaw at Stillwater last year, knows what it’s like to have a season interrupted by injury. “Now they can cheer and jump and they’ve got basketball shoes on, so they can run out on the court … It’s great because it gives us more energy.”
It’s bound to again today, when the Sooners and Tennessee meet at 3:35 p.m. in the semifinal round of the NCAA tournament’s Oklahoma City Regional at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Hand and Cloman will be on the bench, yet in uniform. They miss the court, but it’s the only thing they’ve missed since being sidelined.
None of it has been lost on Coale, who knew exactly who she wanted to hug six days ago in Columbus, Ohio.
“They made the decision to stay completely immersed in what we’re doing,” she said. “The reason I went to them was I know it’s an open wound that will not close until our journey is over.”
Perhaps not, but OU’s two senior captains, Whitney Hand and Lyndsey Cloman, appear to be managing very well.
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