OU WOMEN'S HOOPS: Sooners do everything but beat No. 1 Connecticut

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

OU's bench celebrates a shot during the Sooners' game against UConn, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, at Lloyd Noble Center.

NORMAN — In the book, it’s just another loss, the Oklahoma women’s seventh in 10 games to begin the season.

Yet, if coach Sherri Coale and her preposterously young team — only freshmen and sophomores even saw the court for the Sooners — is able to make something out of so difficult a start to the season, it surely began Wednesday night at Lloyd Noble Center.

OU actually led the unbeaten and No. 1 Huskies from the moment Taylor Robertson hit her first 3-pointer of the game with 6:24 remaining in the first quarter, until the moment Napheesa Collier hit a layup with 3:36 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Sooners, who went with seven players the whole night, were tired at that point.

Collier’s basket was UConn’s third shot of that particular possession and part of a 13-1 run to end the game, a run that lifted the Huskies to their 72-63 victory.

In the 2002 national championship game, in San Antonio, the Sooners twice cut the Huskies’ edge to six points in the last 4 minutes.

Wednesday, UConn scored the game’s first six points with the game’s first three baskets, yet did not lead by six points again until 38 seconds remained.

“We were not afraid and that’s huge,” Coale said.

The Sooners’ leading scorer was Taylor Robertson, who made 8 of 15 shots and 6 of 12 from 3-point land to finish with 23 points, matching Collier’s game-high total.

A year ago at this time, Robertson was playing for McPherson (Kan.) High School, yet Wednesday she almost beat the No. 1 team in the nation.

“It was a really fun game,” she said.

If there was a moment the almost 6,000 in attendance really believed OU might win, it came with 7:14 remaining in the third quarter.

Robertson received the ball in the right corner and with UConn’s Chrystin Williams flying at her, just lifted the shot over Williams’ outstretched fingertips.

The ball ripped the net and Williams clobbered Robertson and the resulting four-point play gave the Sooners a 45-33 edge, their biggest of the game.

“They’re really, really, really tough to guard,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.

After Robertson, Shaina Pellington added 16 points for OU. She struggled from distance but made a living driving and converting through the Huskies’ defensive traffic.

Madi Willaims, another freshman, added 12 points and 11 rebounds for OU.

Collier, who also grabbed 17 rebounds, was one of two All-Americans the Huskies put on the court. The other, Katie Lou Samuelson, only made 1 of 6 from 3-point land, but still finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Her lone 3 set the table for UConn’s final run, bringing the Huskies within 60-59 with 5:49 to play.

Auriemma, who’s been a close friend of Coale's ever since he recruited Stacy Hansmeyer out of Norman High School when Coale was the Tiger skipper, said there was something he wanted to tell her after the game.

“If your team played like that every night,” he said. “it wouldn’t have the record it has.”

The hope for the Sooners is Wednesday night can be transformative going forward.

“This had so much opportunity,” Coale said, “and I think we wrung it dry.”

Everything but the finishing ahead part. Perhaps that will come against other teams yet played.

“To have the poise we had, the grit,” Coale said, “the focus … the way we played the game with our heads … Those are big time things.”

Need to know

• History turned on its head: Not only had Oklahoma never beaten Connecticut in 11 previous meetings, the Sooners had never led after a half either. Yet, not only did they lead after a half Wednesday night at Lloyd Noble Center, they led after the first quarter (21-19), second quarter (37-31) and third quarter, too (52-48). And, it’s not like those previous Sooner teams weren’t any good.

One of those games came in the Sweet 16 in 2000 and another was the 2002 national championship game. In others, OU was ranked No. 4 when it fell 106-78 at UConn on Nov. 30, 2008, No. 18 when it fell 86-72 at Hartford on Dec. 22, 2001, and No. 3 when it fell 73-60 in Honolulu on Dec. 1, 2002.

The Sooners did all that despite entering the game with a 3-6 record, which happened to be the only losing record in the entire Big 12.

Notable

• Robertson comes through: The 23 points Taylor Robertson scored against Connecticut is the most anybody’s scored against the Huskies this season. Robertson, a freshman, entered averaging 18.4 points and her 6 of 12 3-point shooting pushed her long-distance accuracy this season to 46 of 102. She was also an iron woman Wednesday, playing all 40 minutes.

Tip-ins

The Sooners are now 0-12 against Connecticut all-time, with all of those games coming in the Sherri Coale era … UConn outebounded OU 72-63, the entire margin and more coming in the fourth quarter, when it led 17-6 … OU committed 15 turnovers. It’s had more than 20 in 7 of 10 games … There were 21 assists the entire game, 11 for UConn, 10 for OU.

Next

Oklahoma, now 3-7 on the season, concludes the non-conference portion of its schedule at 2 p.m. Saturday at SMU. The Mustangs are 6-5 following Wednesday’s 49-43 victory over Cal-State Bakersfield.

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