NORMAN — The Oklahoma women began their Big 12 schedule on Jan. 2 against West Virginia.
The Sooners trailed the length of the first half and by as many as nine points in the second before finally mounting a sustained rally that grabbed the lead for good with 4:55 remaining.
OU prevailed 71-68.
Conventional wisdom holds that home-court advantage is worth more than three points.
Oh, yeah, at noon today, inside WVU Coliseum, the Mountaineers (12-8, 4-5 Big 12) and No. 21 Sooners (16-4, 6-2) meet again.
“It’s going to take every one of us,” Sooner coach Sherri Coale said.
That’s why what happened Wednesday night inside Lloyd Noble Center figures to be so important.
In a great departure from previous form, OU’s first three players off the bench — Jasmine Hartman, Portia Durrett and Nicole Kornet — as a group, easily played easily their best game of the conference season the last night the Sooners were on the floor, a 74-53 victory over TCU.
“I just think for all three of those guys, being in position to log consecutive minutes without every possession having the weight of the world on it,” Coale said, “gives them the breathing room they need to put their feet on the ground and to feel good about what they can do on both ends of the floor.”
Hartman, actually, didn’t have the luxury Coale describes.
She entered the game soon after the Horned Frogs ran off to an 11-0 lead, played 27 minutes and finished with a career-high nine assists against a single turnover. She was a big part of the reason OU won the game at all.
Kornet and Durrett may not have faced the same pressure, but their performances were still valuable, with the former finishing with nine points and three rebounds on 3 of 5 made 3-point attempts after missing 17 straight entering the game, and the latter finishing with seven points and five rebounds.
Today, there’s even possibility one of them might be called upon for extra duty.
Sooner leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg is slated for the starting lineup, but has not practiced since spraining her right ankle against TCU. Ellenberg shot with the team before leaving for West Virginia on Saturday, but has spent most of her time since incurring the sprain in a protective boot.
Whatever the Sooners’ needs, it would appear Hartman, Kornet and Durrett are in a better position to fill them.
“When you demonstrate (playing well) it makes you feel that much more confident as a group and in each other,” Ellenberg said.
It can feel like shedding weight, kicking the gorilla out of the room.
“I feel like it just finally clicks and feels good. Just kind of back to normal,” Kornet said. “It’s a whole different story, just not to be struggling and have everything in your head.”
Now, maybe, they can just go play.
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