DALLAS — The Oklahoma women played their worst half of the season before turning around and playing their best Saturday night at the Big 12 women’s tournament.
It was just enough.
In a game that had to be seen to be believed, the Sooners came from 19 points down at the half and 22 down early in the second, to claim a 65-64 triumph over West Virginia.
Sharane Campbell was fouled going in for a layup with 5.5 seconds remaining. Sent to the free-throw line, she missed the first and made the second.
It stood up.
Mountaineer guard Bria Holmes had a reasonable look for a corner 3-pointer as time ran out but was wide right.
As it bounced away, the Sooner bench swarmed the court liked OU had claimed its first conference tourney crown since 2007. That, though, will require two more victories, beginning with today’s 3:30 p.m. tip against Iowa State.
The Sooners may be their own inspiration after staging the biggest comeback in Big 12 tourney history and the program’s biggest comeback since it set an NCAA record rallying past Cal on Dec. 13, 2008 after trailing 52-26 at the half.
“I told them we had been down 27 at the half and come back and won,” said OU coach Sherri Coale, a point long with her memory, “and there’s no reason we couldn’t.”
It looked like West Virginia would be the reason it couldn’t. After OU scored the half’s first points, the Mountaineers followed with a 7-2 run to erect their biggest lead, 51-29, with 17:15 remaining.
Then OU went to work.
The Sooners scored on eight of their next 10 possessions while stiffening up defensively to climb within 53-45 on an Ellenberg 3-pointer.
They came up empty on their next two trips, but so did the Mountaineers. Then came a 7-of-8-trip scoring binge that handed OU its first lead, 60-58, since 11 1/2 minutes remained in the first half. Sharane Campbell made it happen with two free throws with 5:09 remaining.
In all, it was a 31-7 Sooner run to take back the lead.
As it began, Mountaineer center Ayana Dunning was hit with her fourth foul. She left the game with 15:41 remaining, reentered with 9:50 remaining and fouled out 7:42 remaining trying to guard Sooner center Nicole Griffin in the post.
“When they cut the lead to four, what the heck, it’s tournament time,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “We just had to put her in there and see what happens.”
Of all the moments it appeared OU might complete the comeback, Dunning’s removal was high on the list. But Coale’s favorite may have been the alley-oop inbound jumper that Ellenberg delivered with 2:01 remaining that put OU up 64-62.
“You have to have a kid that does something extraordinary, who just makes a play,” Coale said, thinking of her junior shooting guard. “We use that term in sports all the time, but there’s a lot of reality to it. You have to have a kid who can go make a play.”
OU suffered a couple of ties after grabbing back the lead, but did not trail again.
The Sooners got 16 points from Griffin, 15 from Campbell, 12 from Ellenberg, nine from Nicole Kornet and eight and 13 rebounds from Joanna McFarland.
The Mountaineers got 22 from Christal Caldwell, who buried the Sooners early with a flurry of 3-pointers.
West Virginia’s advantage, though deep, proved momentary.
“We just made a decision,” Griffin said. “Coach told us (in) many time-outs in the second half that we just have to make the decision that we are going to win this game and that’s what we did.”
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