NORMAN — It may only be a meaningless observation, and yet it’s so stunning.
Since coach Sherri Coale began taking the Oklahoma women to NCAA tournaments 15 years ago, perhaps no game looked more like the Sooners’ best game, through all the years, than the one it played Saturday afternoon at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Coale’s best team put together a run to the 2002 national championship game and it got there by scoring 94 points against Colorado to reach the Final four and by scoring 86 points against Duke to reach the title game.
Twelve years later, this was Coale’s most challenged team, losing 104-100, its 15th loss of the season, to DePaul.
It hit the century mark despite just 34 first-half points. It hit the century mark despite missing 19 of 33 3-point attempts. It hit the century mark without shooting 50 percent from the field.
It did it, somehow, by playing 20 minutes — 20 minutes that yielded 66 points — maybe better than any OU women’s team ever has.
How does a 15-loss team appear the equal of a team that went 32-4 and played for a national championship?
It’s a conundrum.
Clearly, this team never really found itself until it faced 20 desperate minutes on Coach K Court.
Coale issued a great postgame quote about her best player, Aaryn Ellenberg, the woman she calls “Vegas,” who finished with 36 points and four steals in her final collegiate game.
“I think it’s appropriate that Vegas’ last game in an Oklahoma uniform, she scores 36 and has key steals,” Coale said. “When you ask what fueled the ride, it was the (steals). She had two or three of them in a row that led to wide open layups and we … took the lead.
“She just played really possessed offensively and she’s done that on occasion throughout her career, and when she does there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. It’s really fun to watch.”