Oklahoma started slow, fell into a big hole early against rival Texas and eventually clawed back with what equated to a gutsy effort.
“The one thing I would say about them, they don’t ever not play hard,” Texas coach Karen Aston said.
But for the reeling Sooners, the end result was much of the same.
Twelfth-ranked Texas left Lloyd Noble Center with a 76-67 victory Saturday, handing OU its eighth consecutive loss. It’s the Sooners’ second-longest losing streak under Sherri Coale and longest since 1997-98.
Ana Llanusa scored a team-high 17 points and Madi Williams added 15 off 8-of-12 shooting from the foul line, that wasn’t enough to overcome four different Longhorns who scored in double figures.
With second-leading scorer Shaina Pellington on the bench due to violation of an unspecified team rule, OU (5-15, 1-8 Big 12) needed a valiant effort to get within nine in the closing minutes. Texas post players Joyner Holmes (14 points) and Jatarie White (17 points) created a big mismatch inside as the Longhorns scored 40 points in the paint.
Scoring over them was a challenge, too.
“When people are bigger than you, you have to find other ways to score, even if it’s not down in the post,” Williams said. “I didn’t knock down a lot of shots but I did get some open looks. I have to get back in the gym and work on it some more.”
OU (5-15, 1-8 Big 12) committed 20 turnovers, never led and got behind by as many as 18 points. Still, it was an eight-point game at 1:25 in the fourth quarter when freshman forward Nydia Lampkin made two free throws.
There just wasn’t enough firepower to overcome Pellington’s absence and another slow start, which allowed Texas (17-4, 7-2) to build on an early 11-2 lead. The Longhorns went up by 12 in the first quarter before OU kept things relatively manageable.
Taylor Robertson (eight points) sank a 3-pointer with just over a minute left in the period to cut the deficit to 18-11, with the Longhorns suffering through a 2:07 scoring drought.
OU trimmed the deficit to 24-18 in the second quarter off a nice feed from Llanusa to Tatum Veitenheimer. But Texas reeled off a 9-0 run, capped by Danni Williams’ 3-pointer that made it 33-18 with six minutes until half. Minutes later it was an 18-point lead.
Seven straight points from Llanusa helped keep things from getting out of hand as OU went into halftime down 42-30.
“First half, it was just defensive transition,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “We just didn’t get back, we didn’t run, didn’t have the focus we needed. Then once again, turnovers are getting us.”
With nine regular-season games remaining, the Sooners’ youth — seven of the eight players who scored Saturday are freshmen or sophomores — have pushed the program out of NCAA tournament projections. The Sooners haven’t missed the tournament in 19 seasons.
Heading into Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma State, more than a month will have passed since OU’s last victory. As Aston noticed, the Sooners are still playing hard.
“Having your teammates’ back, having your coaches’ back, just being out there playing for each other," Llanusa said, “that’s what keeps us playing hard.”
It just wasn’t enough Saturday.