NORMAN — The Sooners did not lose the game. And still, for Oklahoma women’s basketball, the program and its fans, it’s only a matter of being thankful for small favors.
Whitney Hand, the squad’s fifth-year on-court leader, spiritual leader and most indispensable player on the team since Danielle Robinson left for the WNBA, exited with about 2 minutes remaining in the first half after her left knee buckled as she planted for a shot in the lane.
Hand fell to the hardwood crying in pain. Already she had missed her true sophomore season to a torn ACL in her right knee, and almost half of the following season when additional surgery was required.
Hand left the arena for an MRI on the knee as the game played on. About two hours after the game was over, OU announced the results: an ACL tear in her left knee.
That would appear to put the Sooners in the position of facing down the season the same way it faced down North Texas, 71-68, Thursday night at Lloyd Noble Center.
That is, with eight healthy bodies, assuming nobody else is lost.
Already OU had lost posts Lyndsey Cloman (back) and Kaylon Williams (ruptured Achilles tendon) in the preseason. Freshman guard Maddie Manning, three games after entering the starting lineup, tore the ACL in her right knee in practice earlier this week.
“The game is immaterial,” Sooner coach Sherri Coale said, her voice cracking with emotion, as she begged out of her postgame radio interview with play-by-play man Brian Brinkley to get back to her players.
About 15 minutes later, into her postgame press conference, Coale appeared pretty certain of Hand’s condition.
“I’ve watched them fall,” she said. “There’s a way they fall and a way they scream.”
The Sooners played a messy game, turning the ball over 12 times in the first half and 19 in all, shooting a season-low 37 percent (25 of 68) from the field.