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March 24, 2013

CMU can’t close gap

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Those things the Oklahoma women didn’t think they could afford to do Saturday morning in their first-round NCAA tournament game against Central Michigan, they did them, anyway.

Those things they hoped they might do against the Chippewas? They did them, too.

“We just find a way to win,” OU coach Sherri Coale said.

So they did inside St. John Arena, topping Central Michigan 78-73 to earn a Monday night rematch with UCLA hoping to go home to Oklahoma City for the Sweet 16.

The Sooners allowed 23 offensive rebounds and turned the ball over a season-high 24 times. The most mind-bending statistic of all? The Chippewas attempted 31 more field goals than the Sooners.

Also, senior forward Joanna McFarland finished with 18 points and 17 rebounds. Aaryn Ellenberg became a factor again after being only a small one at the Big 12 tournament, coming on to score 18 second-half points and finish with 22. And the Sooners chased the bigger and more athletic Chippewas for 40 minutes, never tiring of the task.

“We’ve had two weeks off now,” McFarland said. “We were fresh. It felt good.”

The Sooners took the lead for good when McFarland hit a layup that made it 12-10 with 13:32 remaining in the first half.

Still, the lead had to feel tentative. It reached nine by the half, but was quickly back to four. After the Sooners made it six, it was only two after Crystal Bradford scored three of her game-high 36 points on a natural 3-point play with 14:46 remaining.

That was when Ellenberg, who had yet to knock down a 3-pointer, finally asserted herself. She went back to back from long distance put OU up 55-49. After empty trips from both teams, she hit another and it was 58-49 with 11:32 remaining.

Ellenberg played it plenty cool afterward.

“I wasn’t worried,” she said. “Whenever they got close, we knew we had to gather ourselves and get a bigger lead. I don’t think we were ever scared we were going to lose.”

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