The Norman Transcript

November 18, 2013

Tough loss could propel Sooners

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — For a team that blew a six-point lead over the last 90 seconds on its home court, good news abounds for the Oklahoma women.

Probably because they had already come back from 11 points down with 8:08 remaining against the nation’s then-No. 5 team, Louisville, who reached last season’s Final Four through the Oklahoma City Regional, the regional in which Brittney Griner and Baylor were the top seed.

Indeed, after falling in overtime, 97-92, to the Cardinals on Sunday, the Sooners received two fine pieces of news on Monday.

One, rather than dropping, they moved up in the media-voted Associated Press Top 25, rising from No. 11 to No. 10. Two, senior shooting guard Aaryn Ellenberg was named Big 12 Player of the Week.

The first nine teams in the AP top 10 are Connecticut, Duke, Tennessee, Louisville, Notre Dame, Stanford, Kentucky, Maryland and Baylor. The only other Big 12 team in the poll is No. 20 Oklahoma State.

For Ellenberg’s part, she averaged 21.5 points and eight rebounds against No. 24 Gonzaga and the Cardinals.

But as that’s all well and good, what OU coach Sherri Coale wants to see happen is good things continuing to come the Sooners’ way the rest of the season, thanks in part to Sunday’s experience.

“Losses can be magical. It just depends what you learn from it,” Coale said. “It’s never about the loss, but what you do next.”

Next, in an immediate sense, is not-very-good Texas-Arlington (0-4), which visits Lloyd Noble Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday.  However, the “next” Coale was talking about is longer range.

Before conference play begins Jan. 2 at Texas Tech, the Sooners have difficult games at UCLA (Sunday), against Creighton (Dec. 1) and against No. 2 Duke (Dec. 8). Coale sees tremendous opportunity.

“I sense that there’s an understanding of how close we were and maybe, even, a lifted ceiling,” Coale said after the Louisville loss. “Maybe even a lifted ceiling that wouldn’t have been there had we been able to hang on in the end.”

The Sooners got to overtime against the Cardinals despite trailing by 13 points in the second half, getting out rebounded 50-40 and shooting 34.7 percent (5 of 72) from the field and 24.1 percent (7 of 29) from beyond the 3-point arc.

Part of the reason why OU was very good from a place it hadn’t been previously — the free-throw line — where it canned 35 of 41 attempts. Another thing, as well, was pressure defense, particularly late, when Coale called for a half-court trap that helped produce some of Louisville’s 25 turnovers.

Only time will tell, but Coale believes great possibilities remain.

“Who knows what will come of it,” she said, “but the opportunity for growth is tremendous.”

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning

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