Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale wants, in her words, “relentless effort” to be one facet of her 15th-ranked Sooners’ identity.
That’s what she got Wednesday night at Lloyd Noble Center. And almost nothing else.
It was enough.
Scoring just 15 first-half points, without canning a 3-pointer, making less than a third of their shots and just a tad more than half their free throws, the Sooners nonetheless remained unbeaten in the Big 12 Conference after dispatching Kansas State 52-45.
“It was a classic hard-fought Big 12 basketball game between two teams that I thought … had to battle for every possession in the game,” Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. “The way it should be in Big 12 basketball play.”
In the boxscore, OU point guard Danielle Robinson was the clear difference, scoring a game-high 20 points, including 14 in the second half.
What the stat line failed to highlight was how instrumental sophomore post Joanna McFarland was in pushing the Sooners (12-3, 2-0 Big 12) past the Wildcats.
“She had a huge impact on the game,” Coale said.
It began with 8:53 remaining with McFarland at the free-throw line. The Sooners had hit 1 of 2 in three previous charity chances awarded to Jasmine Hartman, Morgan Hook and Robinson. But McFarland hit both to begin a Sooner charge.
“She just said, ‘Do what you did in Derby,” McFarland said of Coale, who referenced McFarland’s hometown upon sending her back into the game with 9:18 to play.
So she did.
After making the free throws, McFarland knocked in a layup off a feed from Robinson on the Sooners’ next possession to push the lead to 37-33. On Kansas State’s ensuing possession, McFarland drew a charge, leading to a Robinson basket.
Two trips down the court later she assisted Robinson and OU led 41-35. After the Wildcats answered, McFarland scored OU’s next basket off an assist from Hook.
The Wildcats would make it a one-point game again at 46-45, but they would never retake the lead following the Sooners’ McFarland-led flurry.
“She’s been battling herself for a couple of games and she just needed a game like this to gut it out,” Sooner guard Whitney Hand said. “A couple of (first-half) turnovers didn’t go her way and I thought she battled through it really well. I think you’re going to see her perform better because of it.”
Despite starting, McFarland played just 19 minutes. She finished with six points, five rebounds and two blocked shots. OU could not have won without her.
“She’s a very good player when she doesn’t think too much. She’s so smart, sometimes she thinks herself into a hole,” Coale said. “But she cut lose there and that’s the competitor in her.”
McFarland provided a spark nobody else could deliver, though it wasn’t from lack of trying.
Both teams played excellent defense, with the Wildcats holding the Sooners to 32.2 percent (19 of 59) shooting and the Sooners holding the Wildcats to 34 percent (18 of 53) shooting. Nine of Kansas State’s 19 turnovers were Sooner steals. Seven of OU’s 15 turnovers were Wildcats steals.
Brittany Chambers led Kansas State with 11 points. Mariah White was next with nine.
Nothing came easy.
“It’s good for us to find another way to play, another way to score, another way to win,” Coale said. “We’re going to be better because of this.”
Clay Horning 366-3526 email@example.com