The Norman Transcript

March 26, 2011

With speed to burn, both Sooners and Irish expect an up-tempo game

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

DAYTON, Ohio — There are so many pieces to what the Oklahoma women have done and have become since the NCAA tournament began.

Carlee Roethlisberger has upped her game, hitting big shots and grabbing big rebounds. Whitney Hand has broken free from her knee pain to score 51 points in two games. Joanna McFarland has come off the bench to grab 30 rebounds and record consecutive double-doubles.

But apart from any individual, the Sooners have turned up their tempo.

It became a focus in practice and has translated to the court. The Sooners scored 86 points against James Madison and 88 against Miami last Sunday and Tuesday in Charlottesville, Va.

The last time they scored at least 174 points in back-to-back games, it was Sam Houston State (94) and Ohio State (84) on Dec. 1 and 5.

Today, around 1:30 p.m. at University of Dayton Arena, the 21st-ranked and No. 6 seed Sooners (23-11) will play ninth-ranked and No. 3 seed Notre Dame (28-7), yet another team that doesnt mind getting up and down the floor with an opponent.

I dont think we will need the shot clocks. Just give the guy a break (today), Irish coach Muffet McGraw said during Fridays pregame press conferences. I think its going to be an up-tempo game. Both teams want to score quickly. Both teams are going to get a lot of shots up.

The Irish averaged 77.5 points this season, while the Sooners averaged 76.5. In Big East play, that average dropped to 73 for Notre Dame, while OUs dropped to 71.9 in the Big 12.

But the Sooners have played significantly faster than the Irish since the tourney began, getting off 135 shots against James Madison and Miami, while Notre Dame got off 110 against Utah and Temple.

There would appear to be cause for OU to want as fast a game as it can force. But Sooner coach Sherri Coale believes it will be won an lost in the half court instead.

The deeper you get in the tournament, Coale said, the more the running game is negated. If you can get five or six easy baskets in the course of a 40-minute game, you have to walk away feeling lucky at this point.

Sooner point guard Danielle Robinson sees OU continuing to run. Still, answering questions Friday, she covered every base.

I think we can definitely run in transition like we have been. I dont think we will ever stop that, she said. I know we can execute in half court, and if the game has to come to that, well be successful that way as well.

For their part, the Irish sound like a team that would like to run, but not at the cost of letting the Sooners have their way.

We dont want to change how weve been playing all year, Notre Dames Brittany Mallory said. Oklahomas a great transition team. We just have to really stop the ball and find the shooters. They can really hit 3s and get to the rim. Weve just got to keep Robinson in front of us and match up on the 3-point line.

Coale took a Sooner team to the Final Four in 2002 that scored 84, 66, 72, 94 and 86 before falling short, 82-70, to Connecticut in the national championship game.

The Sooners ran some teams off the floor that March. But maybe not today.

Clay Horning 366-3526 cfhorning@normantranscript.com