NORMAN — After five straight wins, this was the game the Oklahoma women didn’t want to play.
Saturday night at Lloyd Noble Center, the Sooners were sloppy, didn’t shoot well, got themselves in foul trouble and appeared out of sync. But instead of losing their first conference game, senior forward Joanna McFarland stabilized things with a scoring punch and strong rebounding, junior guard Aaryn Ellenberg found her shooting touch just in time and the Sooners prevailed going way.
OU stopped a good and rough Texas Tech team 65-55, moved to 14-2 and 4-0 in Big 12 play and can now look forward to its first chance to beat a ranked team on on the road when OU visits No. 25 Iowa State at 7 p.m. Tuesday inside Hilton Coliseum.
Texas Tech fell to 12-4 and 2-2.
“These two who are on the stage with me just had tremendous nights,” OU coach Sherri Coale said, referring to McFarland and Ellenberg. “We’re showing a lot of leadership, a lot of passion, a lot of intelligence, a lot of toughness.”
The Sooners, who trailed most of the first half, had two big runs in them and they were the difference in the game.
The first one began when McFarland worked inside on Shauntal Nobles, drew a foul and hit both free throws to put OU up 32-31 with 17:19 remaining. When the whistle blew to send her to the line, McFarland offered an old-fashioned Tiger Woods fist pump.
“It was a close game and every play is a big play and getting fouled and going to the free-throw line was exciting,” McFarland said.
The emotional play sparked an 18-5 run that put the Sooners up 48-36.
McFarland finished with 14 points and tied a career high with 16 rebounds. Hitting 5 of 8 from the field, she was the only Sooner to make more than half her shots.
Still, playing with four fouls, as was center Nicole Griffin late, Coale was forced to pick her spots for her two bigs. That was part of the reason Tech was able to get the deficit back to four points.
Then came the other run.
Ellenberg finished 7 of 19 from the floor, but all poor shooting was forgotten when she went on a personal 13-4 run to close the game, hitting a pair of create-your-own-shot 3-pointers, a fast-break layup and 5 of 6 free-throws over the last 3:35.
“It was close, so every shot really counted,” Ellenberg said. “I was open … I didn’t think much; just shoot it and expect to make it.”
Ellenberg finished with 26 points, four rebounds and even two blocks. She’s had 20 or more points in 5 of 7 games and combined for 37 in the two she failed to reach the mark.
“Just credit her for stepping up and making big plays,” Tech coach Kristi Curry said. “I think at that point (in the game), you have to credit Oklahoma. They were able to make big plays and make big shots.”
Griffin added 13 points and four rebounds. Point guard Morgan Hook added seven points, four rebounds and five assists.
Tech got 11 points each from Chynna Brown and Casey Morris. Brown and Kelsi Baker both grabbed seven rebounds.
It wasn’t enough.
“Another really gritty performance by our kids,” Coale said.
Clay HorningFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org