NORMAN — The Oklahoma women are bound to miss Maddie Manning, the 6-2 freshman point guard who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee at practice Wednesday. It is a question of how much.
Thursday night at Lloyd Noble Center, the Sooners didn’t miss her at all. And if they play the rest of the season as they played against Northwestern (La.) State, they may not merely survive without her services, but thrive despite not having them.
OU crushed the Lady Demons 98-35 behind a quick and crisp offense, active defense, hot shooting and a willingness to keep its foot on the accelerator.
“I was proud of our team … I thought we shared it well as evidenced by our high number of assists,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “(We had a) fairly low number of turnovers and a lot of guys got in on the action.”
It is the third straight blowout victory for OU (6-1), which took down Oregon 100-61 and Hawaii 74-49 last week at the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu. The Sooners believe it’s part of a trend of offering sustained effort that began during their time in the islands.
“I think we started building that in Hawaii,” senior guard Whitney Hand said. “And today was a better all-around game.”
Aaryn Ellenberg led the Sooners with 22 points on 8 of 13 shooting, including 4 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc. Nicole Kornet, who replaced Manning in the starting lineup, added 19 on 7 of 10 shooting, including 5 of 7 from long distance.
Center Nicole Griffin added 12 points and point guard Morgan Hook 10, in addition to dishing five assists without a turnover.
OU shot well over 50 percent (35 of 61) from the field, a fact not unrelated to the intensity they maintained throughout the game.
“It makes it a lot easier when everyone else is scoring and creating and it’s not falling all on my shoulders or Whitney’s shoulders.” Ellenberg said. “It loosens everything up.”
The Sooners certainly played loose. They outrebounded the Lady Demons 44 to 25, and a season-high 14 steals were part of 24 Northwestern State turnovers, twice as many as the Sooners’ 12.
The person most affected by Manning’s injury is Hand, who will now be guarding opponents’ power forward — the “four” in basketball parlance. Offensively, her game may not change much, though she’s bound to spend a little more time nearer to the basket.
“I’m whatever they need me to be,” said Hand, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds, tops on the boards among Sooner starters.
The game was out of hand almost from the start, with OU taking care of the ball and scoring just about every trip down the court over the game’s first 10 minutes.
The Sooners scored the game’s first 10 points and grabbed its first 20-point edge, 26-5, 12:17 before the half. It was 45-19 at the half and the next 20 minutes were even more lopsided.
Though shorthanded, the Sooners may be on to something.
Clay HorningFollow me @email@example.com