By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — However tempting, don’t stick a fork in the Oklahoma women just yet. Though it may not be clear exactly how, the Sooners knocked off Red River rival Texas 64-63 Wednesday night at the Lloyd Noble Center.
Considered a must-win if OU is to reach the NCAA tournament on the strength of its regular season, the victory was made to happen without leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg for the entire 40 minutes, and without post Kaylon Williams for the final 5:46.
Ellenberg continues to recover from a concussion suffered against Oklahoma State; Williams suffered a right knee injury, of which the severity is unclear, though OU coach Sherri Coale said it was not a season-ending ACL tear.
“I’m not very often at a loss for words, but I’m not sure I have a lot right now,” Coale said. “I thought it was a very gutsy effort by our team.”
What Ellenberg and Williams’ unavailability did was create a wider berth for senior point guard Morgan Hook to play the hero.
First, she tied the game with a driving layup that caught the Longhorn defense completely off guard. Better, it came early enough in the shot clock to make certain OU would get the ball back.
Second, after Texas failed to convert, she challenged 6-foot-8 Longhorn center Imani-McGee Stafford, the sister of Denver Nugget center JaVale McGee, drawing a foul at the rim with 4 seconds remaining.
“I knew I had to create a different way of trying to get to the rim and get a foul or get it over her,” Hook said, “instead of just going with a normal left-handed layup.”
Hook made the first, the game’s final point, and missed the second.
Texas moved the ball past mid-court off the miss but Nneka Enemkpali failed to get her driving layup attempt off before the buzzer.
“She may have taken one less dribble,” before taking the shot, Texas coach Karen Aston said.
It was a sweet ending for Hook, who has endured a trying season while, far and away, being asked to do more than any of her teammates. The on-court and, by default, emotional leader of the team, she finished with a near triple-double: a team-high 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
“We just attached ourselves to Morgan’s will,” Coale said. “We really did. She almost had a triple-double and just made tough play after tough play, and when you’re a point guard with nine rebounds, that’s ‘want-to.’”
“She was not going to be denied this win.”
Led by Hook, OU never reached a place from which it couldn’t come back. Though they trailed more than they led, the Sooners were never behind more than six points in the first half or four in the second. The game was tied eight times.
“We just kept telling ourselves, just in the huddles, every time, it’s do or die,” Hook said. “At this point it really is. We played every possession like it was the possession that decided the game.”
Sharane Campbell added 12 points in 18 foul-plagued minutes for the Sooners. Gioya Carter added 11.
Texas was led by 17 points from Enemkpali and 16 from Chassidy Fussell. McGee-Stafford and Celina Rodrigo both grabbed eight rebounds. McGee-Stafford blocked seven shots.
Coale said she told her team not to look at the box score because all numbers but one were beside the point.
OU won despite shooting 38.6 percent (22 of 57) from the field, while making 4 of 13 from 3-point land and 16 of 25 from the free-throw line. Texas shot 40 percent (22 of 55), hit 5 of 17 from long distance and 14 of 22 from the free-throw line.
“The important number on there is 64,” Coale said. “We had one more point than they did and we finally figured out how to win a close game.”
Follow me @clayhorning
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.