The Norman Transcript

December 3, 2012

Defense sparks Sooners’ win vs. Red Foxes

By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — It wasn’t pretty, but Oklahoma will take it. That was coach Sherri Coale’s sentiment after watching her Sooners defeat Marist 66-58 on Sunday at Lloyd Noble Center.

The 12th ranked Sooners improved to 7-1 on the season and won their sixth-straight game. They did this despite shooting a season-low 42.2 percent from the field and committing 19 turnovers.

“Good win,” Coale said. “All wins are good. It wasn’t quite as pretty as we would have liked for it to be. But give them credit. Marist plays really hard, very well coached and are hard to guard. We didn’t shoot it very well. So a double-digit win, shooting as poorly as we did, we will take that.”

Marist coach Brian Giorgis was proud of the way his team kept the game close. But he understood the Sooners just had too much talent that allowed them to take over down the stretch.

“I thought we played a great game for about 30 minutes, and then we ran out of gas,” Giorgis said. “I think OU turned it up and showed why they’re the team they are, why they’re No. 12 in the country.”

The Sooners came into the matchup against Marist (4-4) with a size and speed advantage at almost every position. But the Red Foxes banged away in the opening 10 minutes and kept the score tight.

Oklahoma was unable to keep Emma O’Connor out of the lane, which opened up shots for her teammates.

However, led by Whitney Hand, the Sooners found their touch from the outside. As a team, they knocked in 5 for 12 from behind the arc in the first half. OU grabbed a double-digit lead with five minutes remaining in the half.

The Red Foxes stormed back and closed the gap to 32-28 when Elizabeth Beynnon was fouled on a layup. She knocked down both free throws to get them to within two points.

Oklahoma’s Sharene Campbell missed a shot from the baseline, and Marist had the ball and a chance to tie the game before halftime. Aaron Ellenberg came up with a steal at halfcourt and went in for an easy layup as time expired. OU led 34-30 at halftime.

“It’s fun,” Ellenberg said of playing defense. “When you get to really anticipate and use your instincts and stuff, I think that helps out in these type of situations.”

The Sooners’ offense began a downward spiral in the second half as they were unable to knock down open shots.

But Oklahoma turned to its defense to regain control of the game. Ellenberg and Hand came up with back-to-back hustle plays that turned the tight contest into a double-digit lead.

“Well there seems like there are always moments that if you can grab them and bottle them, you can change the destiny of the game,” Coale said. “I thought Whitney’s save that Morgan (Hook) converted. And then Vegas (Ellenberg) followed that play by taking a charge at the other end. That really gave us that cushion, that ignition that we needed.”

O’Connor led the Red Foxes with 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Leanne Ockended added 10 points and six rebounds.

Ellenberg paced Oklahoma with 18 points and three steals. Hook chipped in with 16 points. Hand’s presence could be felt in all area’s of the game as she ended the contest with 12 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. It was her first double-double of the season.

“I don’t really think I’ve got to do this and I’ve got to do that,” Hand said. “You just take what you get and right now, I’m playing in a position where I’m getting a lot of rebounds. And I’ll take those stats.”

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