NORMAN — The idea was to get ready for Duke. At the very least, eventually, the Oklahoma women made way for the second-ranked Blue Devils, clearing out Western Illinois 97-80 Wednesday night at Lloyd Noble Center.
The Leathernecks came into the game known for moving the ball and piling up points. They didn’t disappoint, entering averaging 79.4 per outing and matching it against the 17th-ranked Sooners.
OU simply scored more.
“Western Illinois played hard and they played well tonight,” Sooner coach Sherri Coale said. “They shot the ball extremely well and they played their tails off for 40 minutes.”
A rare college basketball occurrence, both teams made more than half their shots, with WIU canning 51.9 percent (28 of 54) and OU canning 54.3 percent (38 of 70).
Of all the things Coale wanted to see her squad do, rebounding was atop the list. Yet with so few missed shots, rebounding dominance wasn’t really available. OU still maintained a 36-27 advantage and though Coale said she’d have to watch the game tape to know if progress was made, she suspects some was.
“There were lots fewer possessions in which I lost my mind because people were blatantly not doing what they were supposed to do,” she said. “Sometimes when we didn’t get the rebound, we were all trying to do the right thing and that’s all we ask.”
The brightest spot for OU was shooting guard Aaryn Ellenberg, who finishing with a team- and season-high 25 points on 9-of-18 shooting and 7-of-12 3-point shooting. Perhaps as important, she was looking for chances to get her shot off from the tip.
“I think it’s going to be important for me to play well and shoot well (against Duke),” she said. “I kind of haven’t been doing that lately. I don’t really know why.
“It felt good to knock down a couple of shots and get in a rhythm. Going into that game, that’s what I’m looking to do.”
Ellenberg led a big and balanced attack that included 14 points from Morgan Hook, 13 from Nicole Griffin and 12 from Sharane Campbell. Hook and Ellenberg each dished five assists and Campbell added a trio of steals.
Ellenberg’s hot hand wasn’t only good for Ellenberg.
“When Aaryn makes shots, we all kind of relax a little bit,” Hook said.
Yet, the best player on the court might have been WIU’s Ashley Luke.
Though her team hit 10 of 23 from 3-point land, she didn’t hit any and still finished with 27 points on 11-of-15 inside-the-arc shooting and 5-of-5 foul shooting. Luke even led the Leathernecks with six steaks and four assists.
OU established its first 10-point lead, 20-10, 13:28 before the half, but WIU was Pesky.
The lead was 17 points at intermission and 21 with 18:20 to play. But it was back to 11 with 14:54 remaining and only 12, 67-55, with 12 minutes remaining.
“I have such respect,” Coale said, “for the way they coached, for the way they competed. They’re going to win a lot of basketball games.”
So, too, should the Sooners. They hope their next triumph comes Sunday against the Blue Devils.
Follow me @clayhorning
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