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February 20, 2013

Wildcats on deck as Oklahoma women face critical juncture in season

NORMAN — There the Oklahoma women were, not even three weeks ago, after opening the Big 12 conference season with four straight wins, a loss at Iowa State, a victory over Texas and a loss at No. 1 Baylor.

There they were, 5-2 against the league, with five games coming up they could build their season around.

They knew it.

They talked about it.

“We know if we win these next five games, that we know we’re capable of winning, it separates us from the whole pack,” junior point guard Morgan Hook said.

How’d it work out?

Well, OU was just plain bad at West Virginia, losing by 21 points. But the Sooners followed with victories over Kansas State and, maybe their best game of the season, an 80-61 dispatching of Bedlam rival Oklahoma State.

Terrific.

Then they were stunned by Iowa State and dumbfounded by officiating that allowed the Cyclones to attempt 34 free throws to their 14. Then they went to Kansas and played like Iowa State was still in their head.

Had the Sooners gone 5-0 or even 4-1 over the stretch, they’d be sitting pretty, all alone in second place in the conference by a wide margin and, perhaps more importantly, in position to build off that success.

Instead, they’re in the conference’s third spot with no momentum and have been bounced out of the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this season with more tough games upcoming.

Tonight’s game, however, isn’t supposed to be one of them. OU (18-7, 8-5 Big 12) has already topped Kansas State (13-12, 4-9) in Manhattan and tips off with the Wildcats at 7 p.m. today at Lloyd Noble Center.

How the Sooners are looking at their plight, range from philosophical to a strong sense of urgency.

Junior shooting guard Aaryn Ellenberg, who leads the team at 19.2 points per outing against conference opponents, but who has made just 19 of 57 shots in OU’s last three losses, said there are three keys that should keep the Sooners in good shape, “Rebounding, 50-50 balls and deliberate pushes in transition.”

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