The Norman Transcript

January 28, 2013

Coale sees positive signs after battle with Baylor

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

WACO, Texas — After Saturday’s 82-65 loss at Ferrell Center, the No. 20 Oklahoma women have lost five straight games to Baylor going back to 2011.

Saturday, they were in the game, down nine points with 11:49 remaining, but were down 26 points with 4:49 remaining.

The Sooners picked up 33 points from junior shooting guard Aaryn Ellenberg, 12 points and 16 rebounds from senior forward Joanna McFarland, and eight points, five rebounds and five assists from junior point guard Morgan Hook. They received very little from anybody else.

Nonetheless, Sherri Coale sounded like a coach who saw more good than bad as she exited the Sooners’ meeting with the nation’s No. 1 team, saying, “I thought we did some really, really good things.”

Baylor was bigger and more athletic at pretty much every position, yet the Sooners (15-4, 5-2) hung with the Lady Bears (18-1, 8-0) on the glass, only outrebounded 44-40.

“They have emphatic rebounders,” Coale said. “So, to be able to stay with them in that category bodes well for us moving forward. That’s been sort of an Achilles’ heel for us.”

Even the fact that OU was within 10 points as late as it was and kept the final number inside 20 is more than many teams have managed against Baylor.

The Lady Bears have one loss, by a point to No. 6 Stanford, but have beaten many strong teams by big margins: 80-51 over No. 5 Kentucky, 76-53 over No. 9 Tennessee, 83-49 over No. 12 Oklahoma State and 67-39 over No. 24 Iowa State.

“As you come into this game, yeah, you’re doing everything you can to win it, but you’re also trying to make sure you get better at the things that will help you win games in the future, and I thought we did that today in terms of our execution, in terms of our rebounding,” Coale said. “It got away from us a couple of times in our sureness (with the ball), but still we’ve come in here and turned it over a lot more than 15 times.”

What the Sooners didn’t do was shoot the ball well. They made a respectable 11 of 26 from beyond the 3-point arc, but the looming presence of Baylor center and reigning player of the year Brittney Griner contributed to shooting a horrid 9 of 46 from within the 3-point arc.

Griner blocked eight shots but was nowhere in sight for a drive to the basket that should have been an easy lay-up for Ellenberg. Instead, as she reached the lane, Ellenberg turned her head and, looking for Griner, promptly lost focus and laid the ball directly into the front of the rim.

“It just makes you think twice about it,” Ellenberg said.

Nonetheless, Coale likes where her team is headed. The Sooner Nation surely wants to believe her, for the next three weeks should determine where OU finishes in the conference race and just what kind of a season the Sooners will have to draw upon as they enter, presumably, the NCAA tournament.

Wednesday, TCU visits Lloyd Noble Center in a game OU should win comfortably. What follows is a gauntlet: at West Virginia, at Kansas State, No. 13 Oklahoma State, No. 24 Iowa State and at Kansas, a team that is receiving votes in both national polls.

The schedule eases after that, though OU’s remaining slate still includes a visit to OSU and welcoming Baylor to Lloyd Noble Center.

The coach is confident.

“These guys have just taken every shot they’ve been dealt and they just continue to get better and keep plugging away,” Coale said of her players. “I’m proud of them.”

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning

cfhorning@normantranscript.com

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.