Oklahoma women’s basketball may not be in free fall, but if it were, chances are pretty good it would look something like what’s happened to coach Sherri Coale’s Sooners since they left for Illinois last week.

Hardly considered the class of the Big 10, the Illini dominated OU in the second half and handed the Sooners their second loss. That set the stage for what happened Wednesday night at Lloyd Noble Center.

The Sooners claimed to want nothing more than to play No. 11 Michigan State, that the Spartans were just the challenge to get things headed back in the right direction.

Instead, in front of the season’s best crowd (7,827) and a national-television audience watching on Fox Sports Net, the Sooners put on a comical first-half shooting performance (that didn’t get much better after the break), only to follow it up by allowing the Spartans to go on a 14-6 run to begin the second half. The end result was a sobering 80-60 defeat that left OU grasping for answers.

“There was a stretch there in the second half where held them for four straight possessions. We forced turnovers and we were unable to score off any of those,” Coale said. “You can’t do that with good teams. Eventually, they’re going to score … You can’t score 20 points in a half and expect to beat anybody.”

On a two-game losing streak, the Sooners (9-3) have lost in the face of huge games from freshman phenomenon Courtney Paris. Against the Spartans, Paris finished with 29 points and 21 rebounds, (after going for 27 and 19 at Illinois), her most productive game yet as a Sooner, including 23 and 12 after the half to give OU what little chance it had.

“Courtney can’t win games all by herself,” said senior guard Erin Higgins, who struggled with the rest of the Sooners, making just 1 of 7 shots and grabbing a single rebound. “We need to find ways to help her and contribute, whether she’s on the floor or off the floor.”

It’s not like the Sooners came out flat.

The game’s first 12 minutes looked like something out of March rather than December. But what OU failed to do, outside of Paris after the half, was respond in any way to give the Spartans real pause.

After Michigan State (8-2) took a 34-20 lead into the half before pushing it to 48-26 with 15:26 remaining, the Sooners never climbed any closer than 12 points: at 51-39 with 12:53 remaining and 65-53 with 5:37 remaining.

Coale went up and down her bench looking for help.

“Trying to find somebody who could make a basket,” she explained, after OU shot 27.8 percent (20 of 72) from the field. “Anybody who could make a basket.”

The Spartans were led by All-American candidate Liz Shimek’s 25 points and 14 rebounds in the post. And Shimek, unlike Paris, got help as Lindsay Bowen and Victoria Lucas-Perry both netted 15 points and Rene Haynes added 13.

“I think the whole time,” Shimek said, “we had a pour-it-on mentality.”

After the Spartans got up, they never let down.

Clay Horning366-3526cfhorning@normantranscript.com

Trending Video