NORMAN — The Oklahoma women appear to have resurrected themselves after two narrow home-court victories over Texas and Kansas.
Now 17-11 overall and 8-7 against the Big 12 Conference, the Sooners are at No. 5 Baylor tonight for a game nobody expects them to win and, for a change, they likely don’t have to win to feel good about their NCAA tournament chances.
Victories over TCU, Saturday in Fort Worth, and Texas Tech, two days later in Norman, should be just the ticket to secure a 15th straight invitation into March Madness.
Should that happen, the pressure should be off entering the Big 12 tournament March 7-10 in Oklahoma City.
That leaves tonight.
When Baylor and OU met Feb. 3 at Lloyd Noble Center, a late Sooner rally that forged an 81-67 final score that reflected a closer game than had been played.
This evening, whether leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg is back from the concussion she suffered Feb. 16 at Oklahoma State or not, the Sooners are bound to need all the help they can get against the Lady Bears, and that would include getting some needed efficiency from posts Nicole Griffin and Kaylon Williams.
Griffin is actually coming off a strong game. Without her 13 points and 14 rebounds, the Sooners might not have beaten Kansas.
“Nicole Griffin was fantastic in the second half,” OU coach Sherri Coale said, “just around the rim, going after the ball, second and third efforts on offense and defense.”
Still, Griffin finished the game 5 of 14 from the floor. In fact, in her last three games, Griffin had made just 7 of 29 field goal attempts. A few misses have been unchallenged layups and almost every attempt has come from no further than six feet from the basket.
Previously, Griffin had been OU’s sharpest shooter.
Following an 8-of-12, 23-point performance at Kansas State Jan. 29, she was hitting 59.7 percent of her shots. Since, her season floor percentage has dropped to 52.7 percent.
Williams hasn’t been as inaccurate as Griffin, but nor has she been sharp. Perhaps most troubling, she’s been inactive.
Foul trouble plagued Williams early in the season. In OU’s first six games, she fouled out twice and picked up four fouls in three other games. Still, in those games, Williams was averaging 12 points, 5.5 rebounds and 14.6 minutes.
Coale would have played her more if Williams could have kept herself on the court. Since, though the Midwest City sophomore has curbed her fouling, her production has also been clipped.
Entering tonight, she’s averaging 7.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 14.6 minutes. Over her last four games, she’s made 6 of 19 shots and grabbed nine rebounds.
Williams getting back to her early-season production may be a long shot. Still, an active and accurate Williams could do OU many favors tonight and going forward.
Coale believes in the players she often refers to as her “bigs.”
“Those guys aren’t turning it over, they’re not traveling, they’re not throwing it away, they’re just missing shots,” she said. “The other problems would be big, they would be difficult to correct. I just feel like it’s going to happen.”
Baylor, at 23-4 and 14-1 in the conference, is very good, yet not as dominant in the paint since the departure of Brittney Griner.
In the two teams’ first meeting, Griffin and Williams combined to make 7 of 11 shots, 2 of 7 free throws and grab seven rebounds in 44 minutes.
Coale likes most of what she’s seen from them lately.
“I’m just elated that we’re getting good looks and that we’re really valuing the basketball.”
And if Griffin and Williams can turn that into production tonight, OU might be in position to add a victory nobody expects, and it may not need, to the ledger.
Follow me @john_shinn
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