By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — How good are the 11th-ranked Oklahoma women?
Well, today is a chance to find out, perhaps, and not only for fans, but for players and coaches, too.
Thus far, the Preseason WNIT could not have worked any better for coach Sherri Coale’s Sooner basketball program. Today will make it four games in 10 days, which is just about perfect. Each game has been at home, which any program would love. And each game has brought a challenging and ever-better opponent.
First OU knocked off Stetson, then it was Wichita State, quite possibly the best team in the Missouri Valley Conference, followed by No. 25 Gonzaga, a squad Coale is convinced is very under-ranked, and today is the showstopper.
Louisville, with a whole lot back from the team that eliminated Baylor at last season’s Oklahoma City Regional, on the way to the Final Four, visits Lloyd Noble Center today for a 3 p.m. tip.
The two teams last met at the 2009 Final Four, with Loisville winning 61-59.
“They’re very, very experienced. They’re physical. They’re athletic,” said Coale, who had the opportunity to coach the young woman who makes the Cardinals go, when Louisville point guard Shoni Schimmel played for Coale’s World University Games Team USA squad in Kazan, Russia over the summer. “They know who they are and they play towards their strengths. They have a lot of movement, a lot of aggression.”
If hearing that brings offensive rebounds to mind, Coale was already there. The Sooners have allowed 51 in three games and gave up 19 to Gonzaga.
“We’ve got to improve on that quickly,” she said.
Another thing the Sooners want to do better is make their free throws. Against Gonzaga, they went to the foul line an amazing 49 times and made 34 of their attempts. It was enough, but just barely.
Still, OU accomplished plenty by beating the Bulldogs two days ago. Not only did the Sooners prevail, but they prevailed without senior point guard Morgan Hook, who missed the last 3 minutes after appearing to badly sprain her ankle. In the program’s advance media notes, Hook continues to be listed as a starter, though she was said to be day-to-day exiting the arena Thursday night.
“I think we displayed a great deal of toughness, especially down the stretch after Morgan went out,” Coale said. “We got great minutes from T.T. [T’ona Edwards] and Gioya (Carter), great toughness from our bigs and our All-American makes baskets at the end of the game.”
The All-American reference was for Aaryn Ellenberg, who led OU with 21 points.
The Cardinals will be a tough out.
Thus far, they’ve topped Loyola-Chicago by 47 points, Quinnipiac by 18 and No. 14 LSU by 19.
Coale believes her players will have the right approach.
“I don’t know how much they look at it like ‘That team was in the Final Four.’ They sort of draw a curtain and see it as a new year,” she said of her players. “I think it is more about how we see ourselves than how we see Louisville.”
Afterward, how the Sooners see themselves should be even clearer.
Follow me @clayhorning
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