NORMAN — For at least two days, Sharane Campbell saved the Oklahoma women’s season.
Given the game she played Saturday afternoon at Lloyd Noble Center, she probably deserves more for her stunning effort. However, Baylor will be in Norman Monday night, so the Sooners will take what their junior forward from Star Spencer delivered to them and like it.
“Sharane Campbell was unbelievable,” Sooner coach Sherri Coale said.
Without her, OU doesn’t earn its biggest win of the season, at least to a date, 81-74 over Bedlam rival and 11th-ranked Oklahoma State.
Without Campbell’s 28 points — 8-of-13 shooting, 11 of 11 free throws — eight rebounds and even three drawn charges, the Sooners weren’t sniffing victory over the Cowgirls.
“She beat us off the dribble,” OSU coach Jim Littell said. “I wish I could give you some fancy, long drawn-out answer, but she beat us off the dribble. And when she didn’t make it, we fouled her.”
As has long been her way, Campbell also led the Sooners in floor spills, with the first one coming in the middle of the first half when, taking a charge, Campbell hit her head on the hardwood. She left the game, but only for a few possessions.
Later, with about a minute remaining, Campbell stepped on teammate T’ona Edwards foot and went down in a heap. Eventually, she limped off the court to a standing ovation. OU was nursing a 79-68 lead and the fans thought Campbell was done for the day. Instead, she was back on the court only a second later and long enough in real time for Gioya Carter to make a free throw.
In the game for Carter’s next charity toss, a miss, Cambell stole the ball from rebounder Liz Donahoe, got fouled, went to the free-throw line and knocked down her last two points. She appeared not to understand the kind of game she’d played.
“I was just taking what they were giving me,” she said. “They were giving me the drive so I just kept taking it. Simple as that.”
Her teammates understood better.
“We just fed off her, her defense or anything. She is all over the ball and we just feed off of that,” senior point guard Morgan Hook said. “When we see her do that, everyone wants to join in and has as much fun as she has. She was definitely that spark and we fed off her.”
OU’s best supporting actor was center Nicole Griffin, who was aggressive throughout and finished with 14 points — 10 in the second half — 10 rebounds and six blocked shots.
The Sooners needed games like that from Campbell and Griffin on a day leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg finished 2 of 9 from the field and only reached 10 points on the strength of last-minute free throws.
OU trailed 37-34 at the half, but appeared to take control at the second half’s mid-point when a Campbell layup made it 55-46 Sooners. Instead, less than 2 minutes later, the lead was back to three points.
Ellenberg stopped the bleeding with a 3-pointer and a Griffin layup put OU on top 60-52, yet once again the Cowgirls responded, pulling within 60-56 on a Tiffany Bias layup.
OU’s daggers were delivered by Hook, whose 3-pointer made it a nine-point margin with 5:10 remaining, and, who else, Campbell, who hit her own 3 with 4:34 remaining, putting the Sooners up double digits, 68-56, for the first time.
After that, the Cowgirls were never closer than the final score.
Bias led OSU with 18 points. Kendra Suttles added 13 off the bench and Liz Donahoe finished with 11, yet none after the half.
OU got the big game from Campbell, some big moments from others and a win it desperately needed.
“That was fun,” Coale said.
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