NORMAN — Can the Oklahoma women be believed?
Perhaps that is the question entering the NCAA tournament, where the Sooners meet Central Michigan at 10:10 a.m. Saturday at St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
OU has appeared out of sorts many times this season. The Sooners went 11-7 against the Big 12, good for third place in the conference race, yet four of those losses were by 19 or more points (and only one of them to No. 1 Baylor).
Also, in the Big 12 tournament, OU fell behind by at least 20 points twice, somehow beating West Virginia but falling by 19 to Iowa State.
Yet OU’s self-image is not mired in inconsistency. Far from it. Instead, the Sooners see themselves as a group that brings its best when it must.
Generally, it goes back to their entire season, one in which three starters and a team captain — Whitney Hand, Kaylon Williams, Maddie Manning, Lyndsey Cloman — were lost for the season to injury, and still, here they are, back at the NCAA tournament for a 14th straight season after finishing third in a conference that’s placed 7 of 10 teams in the tournament.
Specifically, it goes back to the last two games of the regular season, when OU, 19-9 at the time, wasn’t even sure it had locked up another Big Dance bid and responded by beating Kansas 85-77 and Texas Tech, in Lubbock, 77-73.
The Jayhawks and the Lady Raiders also received NCAA tournament bids.
“This is the tournament,” point guard Morgan Hook said. “This is it.”
And when it’s been a matter of this is it, the Sooners believe they’ve played their best basketball.
“When it comes down to pressure situations, we always seem to string good games together,” Hook said.
OU coach Sherri Coale understands there’s a not-so-great flip side to her squad’s this is it mentality.