By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Oklahoma women’s coach Sherri Coale isn’t so sure Tuesday night’s loss at Iowa State boiled down to a tired team.
The Sooners might have played like one, but energy tends to get sapped when you can’t shoot a lick and Oklahoma missed its first 11 shots of the game.
That, playing from behind, and surrendering offensive rebounds while forward Joanna McFarland dealt with foul trouble was a recipe for a low-energy, out-of-sync night and that’s exactly what OU endured, finishing 19 of 60 from the floor and 9 of 31 from 3-point land.
The 82-61 loss was the Sooners’ (14-3, 4-1 Big 12) first of the conference season and back home today against hapless Red River rival Texas (7-9, 0-5) would appear to be just the ticket by which OU might begin another winning streak.
Of course, a little help from the bench might come in very handy.
Coale may not think the Sooners were a haggard team Tuesday, but it has to be a possibility.
Since conference play began, OU’s starting five — Morgan Hook, Aaryn Ellenberg, Sharane Campbell, McFarland and Nicole Griffin — have logged overtime on the court.
Both Ellenberg and Hook are averaging more than 38 minutes per game, while Campbell is playing 34.6. Only foul trouble has kept McFarland and Griffin at 28.4 and 29.6 minutes, respectively.
To listen to Coale, OU’s bench needs are pretty simple.
“We need production, we need efficiency, we need guys to come in and cover the sets of our opponents,” she said. “To be able to block out, to be in the right place for offensive entry. We just need more consistency coming off the bench.”
Once, OU’s bench was long, but season-ending injuries suffered by Kaylon Williams, Maddie Manning and Whitney Hand have left only senior Jasmine Hartman, freshman Nicole Kornet and junior college transfer Portia Durrett as viable options off the pine.
They share the bench with Tara Dunn and Eden Williams, the squad’s mid-season transplants from the Sooner volleyball team, but neither has been asked to play any meaningful minutes to date.
Since conference play began, the entirety of OU’s bench, over five games, has grabbed 18 rebounds and scored 14 points. The Sooner starters are scoring 96.1 percent of the team’s points and, setting aside team rebounds, grabbing 88.8 percent of the team’s boards.
The bench’s struggle is not a season-long phenomenon.
The last game before conference play began, against Cal-State Northridge, Durrett registered a double-double: 14 points and 10 rebounds. Kornet scored 19 against Northwestern State and 8, 6, 3 and 4 points in OU’s last four non-conference games, but has scored only a single point since.
“I just think a sense of confidence,” is what Hook believes the bench must bring into games. “When Jasmine comes in and plays with confidence it’s not like you’ve taken a starter off the floor. When Nicole comes in and shoots with confidence, plays defense with confidence and is not thinking and getting in her own way, it’s just like a starter’s out there.”
Difficult games, perhaps, have begat additional difficult games.
“A couple of us, it’s so in our heads, that if we go out there and make a mistake, (we’re afraid) we’re going to get pulled,” Kornet said. “It can’t be that mindset. We’ve had a couple of good meetings with coach and I think we’re getting better. You can tell. It shows.”
If all goes well, beginning at 2 p.m. today inside Lloyd Noble Center, the Sooner bench players will have plenty of time to work out their kinks. But if it doesn’t, the game could ride on the bench.
“We just have to get in and give a good effort,” Kornet said, “and help the team in some sort of way.”
Follow me @clayhorning
For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.