OU women's basketball: Shorthanded Oklahoma leans on balance in victory over Iowa State

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

Oklahoma guard Tatum Veitenheimer goes after a loose ball during the Sooners' game against Iowa State on Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center. Despite the absence of guard Ana Llanusa, OU won 81-71.

Up seven points with the ball, with one of its leading scorers absent, Oklahoma had to hold on for two more as Iowa State tried to steal a win at Lloyd Noble Center.

OU wouldn’t let it happen.

Late in the fourth quarter, Gabby Gregory knifed down the lane and banked in a layup to reach 16 points for the game, providing the Sooners’ final answer in a balanced 81-72 win Saturday over the Cyclones.

Gregory was one of four OU players in double figures, led by Taylor Robertson’s 22 points, as junior guard Ana Llanusa missed the game due to minor injury.

Madi Williams was instrumental in OU’s comeback victory at Oklahoma State earlier this week, and she was a key contributor again with 18 points off 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point range.

“I think what was great today was Madi asserting herself as a scorer,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “Whether she was sizing up a defender that she could take to the rim, or figuring out how she could get away from somebody on the perimeter, she just was incredibly discerning in the shots that she took and made big ones a big time. I thought her play today, all around, was like first team All-Big 12 kind of play. I just thought she was fantastic.”

Mandy Simpson tallied 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists while playing all 40 minutes, along with Robertson. The Sooners (9-6, 2-1 Big 12) also committed a season-low eight turnovers.

Robertson had just three points by halftime but erupted in the second half, making 5 of 7 shots and 4 of 6 from long range.

“We all have shooters, not as many of us have makers. She’s a maker,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “I thought Mandy Simpson was really good — I thought all of them were really good; they did a great job playing off of Robertson.”

Llanusa didn’t start for the first time this season, which increased the need for more all-around scoring.

The Sooners built an early 14-9 lead with just two points between Robertson and Williams. Simpson delivered 10 of her points in the first half and OU held Iowa State without a field goal the final 3:04 of the first quarter to lead 17-14.

Early in the second, Iowa State took its first lead since the opening minutes, getting help from center Ines Nezerwa. She fought for a rebound inside and scored, then on OU’s next possession her blocked shot led to a transition layup in an 8-0 run that put the Cyclones ahead 26-22.

OU stayed close despite going 4:19 without scoring at one point during the first half. Down 33-31, Simpson fed the ball toward the baseline to Taylor Robertson, who touched a one-handed pass out to the perimeter for a Williams 3-pointer that put the Sooners up 34-33 seconds before halftime.

That lead was erased by an Iowa State trey, but OU was firmly in the mix, and Robertson’s pass shined as the highlight play of the day.

“Mandy bounce-passed it to me and I couldn't really catch it with two hands because there was it was like a jumbled mess in the middle,” Robertson said. “So then I saw Madi and I just tossed it off to her and she made a bucket.”

OU used an 8-0 run to take its largest lead of the game, 50-43, after a Robertson 3-pointer at the 6:10 mark in the third quarter. It was quickly erased by five quick Iowa State points, but the Sooners surged again for a 63-53 lead when Williams hit an off-balance shot at the third quarter buzzer.

Iowa State guard and Big 12 leading scorer Ashley Joens scored 21 points.

OU held the Cyclones (9-6, 1-2) below their scoring average despite the absence of Llanusa, the team’s top perimeter defender.

“They are very volatile offensively they can shoot from everywhere,” Coale said. “They are long so almost all of them can take turn post it up if they need to. And they run great stuff. And I thought our attention to defending all of their stuff was really, really good.”

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