NORMAN — Coming off a home-opening loss to UCLA, the Oklahoma women’s first objective Sunday afternoon was to beat St. Louis and the second objective may have been to beat the Billikens badly.
The 11th-ranked Sooners pulled both tricks. And still, it might not have been the entire upgrade they were looking for.
OU prevailed 68-33, yet all but five points of the margin were established in the first half, when the Sooners built a 40-10 edge on strong defense and fine shooting, making 15 of 24 shots in the first 20 minutes.
“Our communication on defense was really good and our attention to detail was much better,” Sooner coach Sherri Coale said.
Then, OU came out of the half in a fog, failing to score until 14:34 remained in the game and failing to give the effort Coale was looking for.
Prior to finally getting back on the board, with 16:30 remaining, Coale had seen enough and removed her entire starting five — Whitney Hand, Aaryn Ellenberg, Morgan Hook, Nicole Griffin, Joanna McFarland — and replaced them with her entire bench: Maddie Manning, Nicole Kornet, Sharane Campbell, Portia Durrett, Jasmine Hartman.
“We appeared to be playing flat and with no energy and no emotion,” Coale said. “We weren’t having defensive breakdowns. We weren’t having horrible possessions. We just had no fire and they know that’s unacceptable.”
The victory moved OU to 2-1 on the season, while the Billikens fell to 0-3. The Sooners next see the court against Arkansas Friday at the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu, the first of three games in three days.
Once again, OU will be looking to improve on its last performance.
“I was pleased with the way we came out,” senior guard and team captain Whitney Hand said. “I think we came out with an awesome attitude … Obviously, I’m not pleased how we came out in the second half.”
The Sooners were led by center Nicole Griffin’s 15 points on 7 of 10 shooting. Aaryn Ellenberg scored 13 points, but only made 4 of 12 shots. Hand added 11 points on 4 of 5 shooting.
“I’ve gotten a lot better and a lot more comfortable,” Griffin said. “So, when I have more pressure, more pushing , a lot of those shots fall when (before) they wouldn’t.”
Jacy Bradley came off the bench to lead St. Louis with 11 points.
Four days after being crushed by UCLA on the boards, the Sooners owned a 37-25 rebounding edge, even as no Sooner grabbed more than Hand’s six.
The Sooners built all the lead they would need very early, putting 19 points on the board before the Billikens scored at all, getting a 3-pointer from Bradley 11:09 before the half.
OU pushed the lead to 33 points in the first half when an Ellenberg 3-pointer made it 36-3 3:45 before the half.
The final margin — 35 points — tied OU’s biggest lead, one first established on a Morgan Hook 3-pointer with 4:46 remaining that put the Sooners on top 62-27.
Perhaps it was one to grow on.
“We blocked out. We won the rebound battle, and that was another emphasis,” Hand said. “I thought we pretty much took care of what we needed to do before we go to Hawaii.”
Clay HorningFollow me @email@example.com