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January 2, 2013

Sooners’ McFarland responding to greater expectation

NORMAN — They say the truth will set you free. Sooner forward Joanna McFarland is testament to the adage.

A returning starter entering her senior year, she was sent to the bench after three lackluster games to begin the season in which she totaled six points, 12 rebounds, 10 fouls and one assist.

In her next five games, coming off the bench, she totaled 29 points, 43 rebounds, 13 fouls and seven assists.

Then Whitney Hand lost her season to a torn ACL in the first half against North Texas. In that game and the next three, in which McFarland returned to the starting lineup, she totaled 35 points, 44 rebounds, 11 fouls and six assists.

Sometimes it takes the truth revealing itself in simple terms. In the first place, McFarland wasn’t playing up to expectation. Dealt a consequence, she realized her role in clearer terms and responded. When Hand exited, leaving just eight healthy bodies on the roster and McFarland the only senior among them, the terms and stakes became more stark and more clear.

“I think I just didn’t know my role. We had all these new players, I was trying to figure out where I fit in,” said McFarland, who has emerged as a leader just in time for Big 12 conference play, which begins at 7 tonight inside Lloyd Noble Center, where OU meets West Virginia. “Now, it’s very apparent. We need every single person right now, we need their ‘A’ game, and I guess that just made it easier.”

A consistent contributor since arriving on campus from Derby, Kan., McFarland has averaged 3.8, 5.3 and 5.4 points, and 3.8, 6.6 and 5.9 rebounds her previous three seasons.

Within those seasons, she has enjoyed spells of expanded production. Still, lately, there appears to be a clarity of purpose not present in the past. Others have seen it.

“I think she’s gotten over herself,” Hand said. “Sometimes you’re paralyzed with fear, and Jo and I have both had that problem … But she’s playing for something bigger than herself right now and it’s really obvious. She’s kind of let go of all of her fears and she’s just playing.”

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