CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va — If the Oklahoma women come together and find their best game at the NCAA tournament, it will be a case of young and old meshing.
Simply put, this is the youngest team the Sooners have put on a March Madness floor in some time.
Five seasons ago, OU had two freshmen on the floor playing extended minutes, but one of them — Courtney Paris — was a first-team All-American. This is different.
The Sooners start two freshmen — shooting guard Aaryn Ellenberg and center Nicole Griffin — while Morgan Hook still plays a lot of minutes. All three will be playing on the game’s biggest stage for the first time, trying to digest it and handle it for the first time. Coach Sherri Coale doesn’t see a big problem.
“They’re not the kind of kids to be wide-eyed or overwhelmed by anything. They’re just not like that,” she said. “They have fun and they’re lighthearted and they don’t take themselves too seriously, which can be a really big attribute this weekend.”
The “weekend” begins Sunday, when the Dayton Regional No. 6 seed Sooners (21-11) meet No. 11 seed James Madison (26-7) at 1:45 p.m. inside John Paul Jones Arena. The winner, on Tuesday, will play winner of Sunday’s early game between No. 3 seed Miami (27-4) and No. 14 Garnder-Webb (23-10).
Ellenberg may have consistency issues, but she’s hardly ever shy. She’s started 30 of 32 games, is second on the team in scoring at 16.5 points per outing and, at 477, she actually leads OU in shot attempts (with 14 more than point guard Danielle Robinson). With 40.5 percent 3-point accuracy, she must be accounted for.
Griffin has gone from playing very little to starting. Since taking on that role nine games ago, she’s averaged nine points and 5.5 rebounds. She’s really picked it up lately, averring 12 points, 8.7 rebounds and 36.7 minutes over her last three games.