Norman — The hardly flattering interpretation of the Oklahoma women’s 60-44 second-round NCAA Tournament victory over Arkansas-Little Rock has to be on the table.
Because even up 15 points at the half, as long as the Sooners had the basketball in their hands, even making half their shots, Tuesday night’s first 20 minutes remains one of their worst halves of the season.
Danielle Robinson hadn’t committed five turnovers in a game since March 2 at College Station, and prior to that not since Missouri Jan. 20. But there she went against the class of the Sun Belt, the Trojans a far cry from Gary Blair’s Aggies, coughing up the ball five times before intermission.
Not to be outdone, Ms. Double-Double, Amanda Thompson, turned in, for her, a seemingly impossible half: two points on five shots, an assist and a rebound. She’s had more productive possessions than the 15 minutes she played before the break.
One of the tricks to winning in March is getting your best players to bring their best games and the Sooners were a long way away for a long time against UALR. Even flirt with miserable play like that and you’re courting disaster.
That’s one way to look at it.
Given all the forgettable play, and there was lots of it, there’s something about this team that leave you thinking it’s got another win in it, maybe even two.
It really was an awful first half, but OU really did lead 28-13. Of course, the Trojans left the court thinking they couldn’t have played any worse, but they came by their putrid play honestly. OU forced it out of them.
It wasn’t that UALR couldn’t make shots or deliver accurate passes. They couldn’t, but the story was the reason why. They were frustrated like nobody’s been frustrated all season long at Lloyd Noble Center. You could see it on their faces.
OU’s defensive mastery was so complete, the Trojans would have been forgiven for throwing up half-court shots, because a half-court shot might go in. Anyway, it’s one way to avoid turning it over.
Then there was the play Robinson made to beat the first-half buzzer. Her third assist against the five giveaways, she hit Nyeshia Stevenson with one of those classic backdoor feeds that brought the crowd to its feet, but also sent a message.
This team still knows how to play.
To say OU ever got rolling would be a lie, but even as UALR came back to life after the half, the Trojans were nonetheless never in the game. They hung around 10 points or so down for a while, but that was it.
Kim Sitzmann, who’d gone for a career-high 21 against Georgia Tech was hounded into 1 of 13 shooting.
Chastity Reed, a pro on the making, worked hard for her game-high 20 points, yet was the only Trojan in double figures.
Meanwhile, when the Sooners had the ball after the half, Robinson, Thompson and Nyeshia Stevenson all struggling to get anything going, they were wise enough to figure out the one place their advantage couldn’t have been more huge.
That was inside, where Abi Olajuwon proved there’s at least one thing she can do maybe as well as anybody in the country and that’s abuse smaller defenders trying to single cover her.
Olajuwon was the question the Trojans couldn’t possibly answer. She finished with 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting and if she can just stay on the court, out of foul trouble and playing enough defense, she remains a weapon of great destruction.
That was it.
It was all very messy.
The Sooners didn’t play very well.
But what if they do?
Clay Horning 366-3526 firstname.lastname@example.org