NORMAN — You know how the Oklahoma women have this tendency to struggle for so much of their season? To get out of their own way, to quit thinking long enough to play their hardest?
One game into the Big 12 season, this Sooner team appears to be taking a different path. Wednesday night at Lloyd Noble Center, OU took West Virginia’s best shot — several of them, actually — and walked away a 71-68 winner.
The game was marked by extremely physical and tight defense from West Virginia and OU’s refusal to back down from it. That led to a parade of free throws from the Sooners and a trio of Mountaineers disqualified on fouls.
It was just enough.
“That was a fight. That was a fight for 40 minutes,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “I thought it was a great show of character by our team just grinding its way back.”
Aaryn Ellenberg led OU with 19 points, but it was Sharane Campbell and Joanna McFarland who made victory possible, both turning in their best games of the season.
Campbell, who enjoyed a personal six-point possession early in the first half — four free throws and a field goal — finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while McFarland added 13 and 13 and maybe the game’s biggest defensive play.
For a moment, in the second half, Campbell backed off. Then she got some good advice.
“I was a little worried about (my) fouls,” she said. “Whitney (Hand) came up to me and told me I needed to get back on it, I needed to step up, I needed to not play afraid and that’s when I was like, ‘OK, yeah, it’s time for me to step back up and do what I have to do.’”
The duo’s combined 25 boards led to a 44-31 OU rebounding advantage that was as crucial to victory as anything else.