By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Great crowd.
That was the experience Sunday afternoon at Lloyd Noble Center where the 11th-ranked Oklahoma women appeared to lose, before they appeared to win, before fifth-ranked Louisville made them pay in overtime.
The Cardinals prevailed 97-92 by scoring nine of the overtime’s first 10 points, and all of that after going from 73-68 up with 3:57 remaining, to 83-77 down with 1:28 remaining, to 86-86 at the end of regulation.
A classic to the end, even after falling behind eight points in the extra frame, the Sooners still had two chances to tie it in the final seconds, yet both Morgan Hook and Aaryn Ellenberg were off target, part of a 7-of-29 beyond-the-three-point-arc performance from OU.
“We just kind of got rushed in there and it was hard to slow down and get the ball where we wanted to,” Ellenberg said.
There were three huge moments in regulation. The first arrived with about 12 minutes to play in the opening half, when Nicole Griffin picked up her second foul for OU, putting both her and her back-up, Kaylon Williams, on the bench with two fouls. Eventually, they were joined by Sharane Campbell with two fouls 5:38 before the half.
OU, which had been up 17-2, was still on top 19-9 when Griffin made her first-half exit. The rest of the half the Cardinals outscored the Sooners 39-24.
“I felt like it went forever,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “That’s when you look back and think if we can keep those guys in the game, that might be a 25-point lead at halftime instead of being down.”
The second came late, after OU fought just to remain close enough to make a run at Louisivlle, which finally happened with 3:57 remaining, when the Sooners went on a 9-0 run in 2:28 of clock time.
After Kaylon Williams hit two free throws to get OU within three points, the Sooners unveiled a half-court trap that hurried and bothered Louisville into three turnovers and a technical foul levied against Cardinal point guard Shoni Schimmel.
OU got a free throw from Hook, a put-back from Williams, a layup from Gioya Carter, a 3-pointer from Ellenberg and two free throws from Campbell to lead 83-77.
“We quit feeling sorry for ourselves. We went through a stage there … (where) we missed three layups in the second half. Point-blank layups,” Coale said. “We missed wide open threes and suddenly everybody looked like their dog died … That’s really the definition of mental toughness. A lot of teams are never able to recover from that.”
Finally, it was Louisiville’s turn to come back.
Schimmel hit a jumper and a foul shot to go with it and Sarrah Hammond scored before Ellenberg put OU back on top 85-82 with 27 seconds remaining. But Schimmel needed just 8 seconds to hit a layup on the other end and, after Carter made one of two free throws, Schimmel added another layup to tie it with 13 seconds remaining. Ellenberg missed a chance in the paint to win it for OU in regulation.
Then came overtime.
Ellenberg led OU with 22 points, yet struggled from the field, making 7 of 21 and 3 of 10 from three-point land. She also pulled down a team- and career-high 12 rebounds.
“I grabbed her and told her, ‘Hey, you’re as good as we’ve played,’” Lousivlle coach Jeff Walz said of OU’s leading scorer. “And that’s UConn and Rutgers. We’ve played against a few good players in our league.”
Campbell and Hook combined for 35 points on 8-of-25 shooting, but made up for it at the free-throw line where they both canned 9 of 10. Carter added 12 and Williams 10.
Tia Gibbs finished with 23 points for Louisville, while Schimmel added 16, Antoinita Slaughter 15, Hammond 13 and Asia Taylor 10.
“What a basketball game. My goodness,” Coale said. “What a great showcase for women’s college basketball.”
Follow me @clayhorning
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