NORMAN — Though it’s been a season of fits and starts, Oklahoma women’s point guard, Morgan Hook, believes the Sooners, at long last, are on the same page.
Because, perhaps, nothing can get a basketball team’s attention like the threat of impending doom.
For OU, after 14 straight trips to the NCAA tournament, not making it 15 straight would be an absolute calamity. But, says Hook, the Sooners (15-9, 6-5 Big 12) have accepted that horrid possibility and it’s fueling them.
“That is extremely real to us,” she said. “Every single game we have to treat it like the Super Bowl and we started that mindset before we played our last game. It’s do or die at this point.”
That last game was an 81-71 victory at Kansas that was not quite so close after OU stormed out to a big second-half lead.
It’s a fine jumping off point to today’s 6 p.m. Lloyd Noble Center tip against West Virginia. Tonight’s matchup against the 13th-ranked Mountaineers (20-3, 9-2) is the first of seven straight games that, by Big 12 standards, represent a fairly reasonable run of contests before the conference tournament begins March 7 in Oklahoma City.
After West Virginia, the Sooners are at Oklahoma State on Sunday, at home for Texas and Kansas, away at Baylor and TCU and back home for Texas Tech.
If OU can take care of business at home and top just TCU in Fort Worth, it will have won six of eight games to close the regular season and enter the postseason with real momentum. Yet it has to begin tonight, and tonight is just the kind of game OU has failed to win all season.
“It’s the game at the op of the hill that takes you, it’s that one. And, we’ve been there repeatedly,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “We had a chance at Kansas State and we didn’t do that.”
OU’s 86-78 loss to the Wildcats ruined the squad’s first chance to at three straight conference victories.
Another opportunity arrived after the Sooners topped then-No. 11 Oklahoma State. Instead, terrible foul trouble and four combined points between Aaryn Ellenberg and Sharane Campbell, the Sooners’ two leading scorers, conspired to help create an 81-67 home-court loss to Baylor.
“We’ve been here before. We’ve made a statement in a game and then laid an egg in the next game,” Hook said. “Now it’s do or die and everyone knows that.”
Beyond simply playing with great energy, Hook believes there’s one thing the Sooners can do that will make the most difference: talk to each other.
It keeps OU connected and on the same page and it’s come very hard this season.
“When we’re talking and we have that much passion, we can compete with anybody in the country, and when we don’t, we’re bad,” Hook said. “It’s a thing that we can decide to do.
“We have plenty of talent … It’s just deciding whether we’re going to talk or not, which sounds silly, but it’s just been such struggle for us the whole entire year.”
OU can even draw confidence from its 77-63 loss in Morgantown earlier this season. In that one, the Sooners came back from a 16-point first-half deficit to tie the Mountaineers in the second.
“We did a lot of good things and then shot ourselves in the foot with our shot selection and a couple of turnovers,” Coale said. “We’re not that far away, from anything.”
OU has seven games to get it right, and it needs to start tonight.
Follow me @john_shinn
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