NORMAN — The most important game is always the next game but that doesn’t mean they’re all created equal. Also, that is the fix the Oklahoma women find themselves in at Kansas State tonight.
The Sooners are coming off, arguably, their worst performance of the season, a Sunday afternoon 82-63 loss at West Virginia.
In Morgantown, foul trouble limited the time of senior forward Joanna McFarland. She scored 14 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while in the game, but played only 27 minutes. And the moment she left the game after picking up her second foul 10 minutes into the first half, the Sooners buckled.
Pushed around physically, coach Sherri Coale said, “It affected us mentally.”
As McFarland said, looking back on the game, “That wasn’t us. We need to clean the slate.”
There’s plenty to clean up.
Even with 16 rebounds from McFarland, the Sooners were out-boarded 46-42. Both leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg and point guard Morgan Hook made just 5 of 17 shots. OU built an 11-point lead before getting outscored by 30 points over the game’s final 30 minutes.
Headed to Bramlage Coliseum, the Sooners say two things. One, a very important game has been made that much more important by Sunday’s failure. Two, they know they must earn their way back into the win column.
"In terms of our playing as close as we can to our true self, in the way that we have to be good,” Coale said, “this one could speak volumes.”
It should begin with standing up to the challenge, something that should have its roots in the practice gym.
“It just comes from defense,” Hook said. “Like, if we don’t play better defense, then our shots probably aren’t going to fall. It’s like the basketball gods will reward you for playing hard on defense … We just have to come out and practice harder than we have been.”
Coale believes the practice issues have been rectified. She also believes that Sunday, she didn’t see a team that couldn’t shoot, couldn’t handle West Virginia’s pressure and was a step slow on both ends of the court. Instead, she saw a team that had one big problem, causing everything else to sputter.
“I think all the things that went wrong emanated from our inability to handle the physical play,” she said.
Kansas State (12-9, 3-6 Big 12) isn’t likely to go too quietly. The Wildcats may be the only team in the league to have bigger inure and depth problems than OU (16-5, 6-3). While the Sooners are playing eight players, Kansas State is only six or seven players deep.
Still, last time out, the Wildcats took a good Kansas team to double overtime before falling 89-80. In that game, Mariah White played all 50 minutes and three other starters played at least 45.
But OU doesn’t want to win a war of attrition. It wants to find the game it gave away 10 minutes into Sunday afternoon.
“We weren’t proud of what we did there,” McFarland said. “We want to come out and show who we really are."