NORMAN — Everybody might have thought they understood how important Whitney Hand was to Oklahoma women’s basketball. Now, perhaps, they understand it much better.
Playing without her for the first time since the senior guard and captain tore the ACL in her left knee 10 days earlier, the 12th-ranked Sooners were a shell of themselves in a Sunday afternoon 76-63 home court loss to Vanderbilt.
“Everybody was tentative,” OU coach Sherri Coale said.
As her roster has been beset by injury, going from 12 able-bodied players to eight, Coale’s request has been that each of her player simply be a little better.
“Two percent better,” she has often said.
Sunday at Lloyd Noble Center, however, few players raised their games. The only one to clearly do it was senior forward Joanna McFarland, who survived extreme first-half fouled trouble to finish with a game-high 11 rebounds and nine points.
“I was just trying to play hard for my team … We have four people who can’t play [Hand, Kaylon Williams, Maddie Manning, Lyndsey Cloman], so every minute you’re on the court, your representing them,” McFarland said. “I went through some of that last year with my injury, so I know what it’s like. To not play your heart out is disrespectful.”
Point guard Morgan Hook touched on the same theme.
“I think that some of us went out there and didn’t play as hard as we could,” she said. “That’s the No. 1 thing we said to each other, was go out there and play hard and the game will come to us.”
If only it was that easy.
OU did little right.
The Sooners’ 37.5 field-goal percentage (21 of 56) amounted to their second worst outing of the season, 15 first-half turnovers had them playing catch-up over the game’s final 351⁄2 minutes, while 13 Commodore offensive rebounds that led to 17 second-chance points helped put the breaks on any potential Sooner rally.