The Norman Transcript

Sports

November 24, 2013

Sooners staying very wary of Bruins

NORMAN — The 10th-ranked Oklahoma women are in Los Angeles today to play UCLA. A year ago, in Columbus, Ohio, the Sooners upset the Bruins to reach the Sweet 16.

“I’m sure they haven’t forgotten that,” Sooner coach Sherri Coale said.

Still, that may not be the great storyline for the visiting team today at historic Pauley Pavilion. Instead, it’s more about how the Sooners see themselves.

UCLA is still receiving votes in the Associated Press Top 25 despite losses to No. 11 Nebraska and No. 12 North Carolina, because the Bruins remain a talented team and everybody expects them to be back in the NCAA Tournament. But, given the heights the Sooners believe they should be reaching this season, today becomes a very important game.

Take care of business against a good team seeking revenge on that good team’s home court, and suddenly there’s some real meat on the bones of expectation. And, maybe, this season won’t be like the last four, in which OU lost 10, 12, 11 and 10 games before it reached the NCAA tournament. Instead, it might be much more dominant start to finish.

Sooner coach Sherri Coale sees it like that.

“For the aspirations of this team, playing well in that environment, whatever it’s ends up being,” she said, “Playing well there is imperative for what we want to do.”

For senior shooting guard an leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg, it’s a baseline game.

She remembers the way the Sooners played the last time they faced the Bruins. Though there are newcomers bound to see the court, she doesn’t see any reason why OU won’t play a similar game.

“I think it should look a little bit like how we played them the last time,” she said. “I thought our focus in that game was probably as high as I’ve ever seen it, really, in terms of attention to detail.”

That means the little things, like taking care of the ball and not allowing offensive rebounds. Just the kids of things a good team takes care of to avoid being upset.

The Sooners are coming off an overtime loss to fourth-ranked Louisville, a game they led by six points in the final moments, only for it to slip away. After that one, Coale said losses could be “magical” for a team.

Maybe so, but finding that magic may begin with a very straightforward approach.

“I really feel like (we) will have a businesslike approach to the trip and to the game because we have four seniors,” Coale said. “(We have) a lot of senior leadership on this team and they have shown mature leadership in everything we have done thus far.

“I don’t see that this will be any different.”

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