By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
Norman — In Asriel Rolfe and Shanika Butler, Arkansas-Little Rock boasts a pair of spark plug guards who abused Georgia Tech Sunday night at Lloyd Noble Center.
They beat the Yellowjackets’ press, combined on 10 assists, and got the game moving at a pace they preferred.
“They actually do a lot of stuff in transition,” Oklahoma point guard Danielle Robinson said. “The just play free.”
With today’s 8:45 p.m. second-round NCAA Tournament game at Lloyd Noble Center approaching, the thought that both teams might push the action, each trying to outrun the other, is a reasonable one.
Nobody’s faster with the ball than Robinson and OU might relish the chance to play as fast as the Trojans allow.
On the other hand, there’s another place on the floor the Trojans would appear not to match up.
UALR coach Joe Foley seemed to wave off the concern, at least insofar as it being any greater than what the Trojans’ faced Sunday, against Georgia Tech’s Sasha Goodlett, who stands 6-5, an inch taller than starting Sooner center Abi Olajuwon.
“I can tell you she’s a strong kid, but no more than the kid from Georgia Tech,” Foley said. “I thought we did a good job inside (Sunday) night … She’s a great post player but, like I said, just about everybody you see at this stage is going to have a great post player.”
Still, allow Olajuwon to like her chances.
She scored 15 points in just 20 minutes in Sunday night’s 68-57 victory over South Dakota State. She made 6 of 10 shots and 3 of 4 free throws. And it wasn’t foul trouble that limited her time, but defense.
She was guarding SDSU’s Maria Bouver, who popped outside for two early 3-pointers that gave the Jackrabbits an early lead.
Still, when she returned to the floor, she liked it.
“It was nice to know when I turned around to the basket, (somebody) 6-8, 6-9 or 6-7 wasn’t going to come and block my shot,” Olajuwon said. “So that always helps trying to finish.”
The tallest starter among the Trojans is 6-2 forward Britteni Williams. Nobody on the bench is any taller.
If she can keep herself on the court, it would seem to bode very well for Olajuwon, who has experienced success against much bigger centers in the Big 12 Conference.
“I think if there’s an advantage there, it might be the post play in terms of Abi and Jo(anna McFarland), establishing themselves,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “As Abi said, it’s so different from what we see in the Big 12. I think, for her, she’s really excited to not face a Brittney Griner, a Kelsey Griffin, a Cory Montgomery.”
Olajuwon’s quietly been very good when she’s been able to keep herself on the court. She’s started all 34 games, yet played less than half the game 11 different times.
She averages 22.4, but has played exactly 30 three times and more than 30 only once. Nonetheless, she’s racked up four double-doubles and averages 10.3 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Occasionally, she’s been great. And tonight, she won’t have to pick on somebody her own size. She can pick on somebody smaller.
So OU may run, but it might also look inside.
“They have quick guards. Also, they have big players inside,” Butler said. “Really, they have an all-around game with the posts and guards and we are going to have to stay focused.”
If Olajuwon plays well, it might be too much.