NORMAN — The Oklahoma women might be coming off their worst game of the season when it meets Cal-Riverside at 7 tonight inside Lloyd Noble Center.
Four days ago, against Vanderbilt, also at Lloyd Noble Center, the Sooners began the game by failing to guard the Commodores on one end of the floor while turning the ball over 15 times in the first half on the other.
And when the Sooners held onto the ball long enough to shoot it, they didn’t make it, hitting just 37.5 percent (21 of 56) of their shots and less than that (7 of 22) from 3-point land.
Coach Sherri Coale had reason to be plenty angry and her squad’s lack of first-half defensive detail did have her upset. Still, mostly, she was philosophical.
It was, after all, OU’s first game without Whitney Hand, who tore the ACL in her left knee one game earlier, Dec. 6, against North Texas. And while most observers understand how the Sooners will miss Hand’s experience and leadership and hustle and 3-point shooting, they may still not know what all of that entails.
“You know, Whit’s involvement in our offense (is) she’s always the guy making the first cut that sort of puts everything into motion,” Coale said. “So we’re now just looking around wondering who’s going to make that cut, who’s going to make that move.”
It seems like such a small detail, yet removing it from a team that had come to rely on details like that and it’s not small at all. Indeed, it can be paralyzing.
If OU adjusted — and it might have, turning the ball over only three times over the game’s last 18 minutes — it still did not get comfortable. The shots never did start falling, even after the Sooners quit giving the ball away.
Coale called her team “tentative” before ticking through individuals.
“I thought Nicole Griffin was tentative on the inside …,” Coale said.
The Sooner center finished with 11 points and five rebounds, but OU needed more from her.
“I thought Sharane (Campbell) was tentative,” Coale said.
The sophomore, who gets to the free throw line more than any other Sooner, attempted just two shots and two free throws.
“And I thought (Aaryn Ellenberg) tried to do too much,” Coale said, “and it resulted in five crazy first-half turnovers.”
Cal-Riverside (6-3) may not be in Vanderbilt’s league, but that doesn’t mean OU won’t be challenged tonight.
The Highlanders only won five games all of last season, yet have already won six this season. And their guards are good, with starters Tre’Shonti Nottingham and Brittany Crain combining to average 38.5 points per outing.
Additionally, Nottingham is averaging almost five assists per game, while Crain is grabbing 7.7 rebounds, the exact same average as Joanna McFarland, who leads OU in the category.
The Sooners want to win, but more than that, they need get moving, get out of their own way and not be the tentative group they were against the Commodores.
“I don’t think as a unit, or as a team,” point guard Morgan Hook said of their last outing, “that we played as hard as we could.”
Get that right, and maybe everything else will fall into place. It would at least be a start.
Clay HorningFollow me @email@example.com