The Norman Transcript
COLUMBUS, Ohio —
It’s personal for Joanna McFarland.
Really, really personal.
So personal, she personally kept the Sooners afloat Saturday morning until the rest of them came along for their 78-73 first-round NCAA tournament victory over Central Michigan.
She took one of those what got into you type of questions afterward and spoke from the heart.
“I didn’t want to lose. I don’t want to lose,” she said. “Every game could be my last game as a college athlete and I’m very emotional about that.”
So emotional, you could hear her voice threatening to crack before she said “emotional.”
If only every other Sooner could summon the same kind of effort McFarland summoned Saturday, and pretty much the rest of the season, they’d be that much closer to getting back to Oklahoma City, an appointment they can only earn by topping UCLA Monday evening back inside St. John Arena.
McFarland scored 18 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, the first a career high and the second her third highest total of the season. She scored 16 points, twice as many as any of her teammates, and grabbed nine rebounds before the half.
She was the only player Oklahoma could count on to make a 3-pointer or chase down the ball.
Despite sharing the court with players from both teams who will always bring more natural athletic prowess to the floor, she was the only one who was everywhere on the floor.
It’s not that the Sooners might not have won without her, but that they might have been buried.
The Chippewas grabbed 23 offensive rebounds.
How many do they get if not for McFarland’s 13 defensive boards?
Though Aaryn Ellenberg finally came along and filled it up for the first time since the regular season concluded, she was still jumping in to help maintain a lead McFarland played the key role in building in the first place.
The Sooners’ signature moment finished with a 3-pointer from Ellenberg, yet was still all about McFarland.
Sharane Campbell had just ended a string of five straight empty trips with a natural three-point play that re-established OU’s first nine-point lead, 61-52, since the half. On the other end, a three-shot trip for the Chippewas, an opportunity they were too often afforded, Crystal Bradford scored two of her 36 on a putback.
Back the other way, Nicole Griffin missed but McFarland chased down the rebound in the corner amongst all kinds of Chippewa traffic. After the ball came back to her, she found Ellenberg breaking free for a layup that sent the lead back to nine.
You sort of had to be there. It was the moment, more then any other, that told the Chippewas it just wasn’t happening for them today, have a pleasant trip back to Mount Pleasant.
Sooner coach Sherri Coale acknowledged how badly McFarland wants to go home with more basketball to play, but also said something interesting about how McFarland played.
“She played at the right speed, where she could really see what was going on,” Coale said.
The right speed probably had something to do with McFarland escaping the first half foul free. Still, whatever that speed was, it wasn’t so controlled that it wasn’t clear to everybody in the gym who the most important Sooner was.
McFarland’s been saying much the same thing all season.
She’s said she has to show up for her teammates, so many of them unable to play after so much injury.
She’s never made it about herself and yet she’s been able to explain that her time is almost up, if not now, when, and that whole thing.
It makes perfect sense and still it’s different when you watch it right in front of you. Because playing hard, while simple, is never easy. It takes confidence and a quiet mind. It takes living in the moment, even if your greatest motivation lies in giving yourself another game to play.
It’s been said McFarland has figured it out.
Saturday, OU would have been lost without her.
Follow me @clayhorning
For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.