NORMAN — One of the reasons the 11th-ranked Oklahoma women are so excited about the season ahead is the number of options coach Sherri Coale appears to have under her command.
Friday night in OU’s season opener — a first-round Preseason WNIT contest, to boot — many of those options did not appear.
What the Sooners proved, however, by taking down Stetson 78-60, was how dangerous they can still be when just a few players are on their game.
Shooting guard Aaryn Ellenberg finished with 24 points despite opening cold, point guard Morgan Hook dished out 11 assists against only two turnovers, and post Kaylon Williams, playing her first regular season game since the spring of 2012, finished with 17 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Coale sought to temper any alarmist thoughts about her team’s struggles.
“Everybody needs to relax a little bit,” she said. “It’s the first time we’ve seen the zone and we’ve maybe spent 10 or 15 minutes on zone offense in practice. The lack of rhythm and the second guessing and some of it felt disjointed. It’s because we don’t run a half-court zone ourselves and so we don’t see it in practice very much.”
Perhaps, but outside of Ellenberg’s 6-of-11 effort from 3 -point land, OU was otherwise 1 of 17. And center Nicole Griffin, who never ranges too far from the basket, made only 1 of 5 shots and the two freshmen OU’s most excited about, Gioya Carter and T’Ona Edwards, combined to miss all five of their field goal tries and scored just a combined two points in 34 combined minutes on the floor. Also, there was no good reason the Sooners allowed the Hatters to pull down 27 offensive rebounds.
Good thing a few really came through.
Hook served to settle the Sooners down. Eventually, Ellenberg found her range and Williams’ played with an aggressiveness that belied her recent health history, which includes a torn Achilles’ tendon that kept her sidelined all of last season.
“I remember talking to (assistant) coach (Pam) DeCosta and we talked about having confidence,” Williams said. “At first I was a little nervous about being really physical but I remembered that it’s my favorite part of the game.”
Williams made 7 of 8 shots and her career-high point total would have been 20 if she’d made all her free throws.
Stetson was led by Sasha Sims’ 16 points and five rebounds. Jama Sharp added 11 points and six boards.
“I think we got frantic early, but when we started gaining confidence and slowing down we started getting better looks,” said Ellenberg, who made 2 of 6 3-point tries in the first half, but 4 of 5 afterward. “I had plenty of those I just need to (make).”
Hook kept things moving as well as she could early, dishing six of her assists over the first 20 minutes, when the Sooners shot only 38.7 percent and hit only 2 of 15 from 3-point land.
Everybody got better after the break, leading to a 30-point outburst the first 10 minutes of the second half that pushed the lead out to 64-44.
The advantage never got any bigger, nor was it reduced any lower than 15.
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