, Muskogee, OK

February 9, 2014

OU women’s season on the brink at Kansas

By Clay Horning
CNHI News Service

— NORMAN – It was eight days ago when the Oklahoma women topped Bedlam rival and then-11th-ranked Oklahoma State at Lloyd Noble Center.

A few minutes after it ended, coach Sherri Coale and the Sooners sounded like an optimistic bunch.

Coale spoke about the resiliency of her team. Point guard Morgan Hook said it could be a turning point for the season. Center Nicole Griffin called what was coming next an “opportunity.”

What came next, two days later, was an 81-67 loss to then-ninth and now seventh-ranked Baylor.

At 2 p.m. today, the Sooners (14-9, 5-5 Big 12) are inside Allen Fieldhouse to meet Kansas (11-12, 4-7), which isn’t having much of a season, yet somehow managed to beat Baylor 76-60 on Jan. 19.

Once again, it would appear, OU’s season teeters on the brink.

The Sooners might have rid themselves of their current fix by topping Baylor, but a 16-1 first-half Lady Bear run, not to mention a controversially-officiated game that had OU in horrible foul trouble in the first half and its top two leading scorers — Aaryn Ellemberg and Sharane Campbell — fouled out just 4 minutes into the second half, conspired to get in the way.

Such an odd contest, Coale called it “the strangest game I’ve ever been a part of.”

Lost in the Baylor discussion, though, is the game that got away in the middle of the previous week, Jan. 29, an 86-78 loss at Kansas State, one of only two teams, along with Texas Tech, today’s opponent, the Jayhawks, lead in the conference standings.

Had the Sooners just won that game, their season would not appear to be in quite the same peril.

Even on the road, Kansas is probably a team OU could and should beat. On the other hand, the Sooners have lost at least four others much like it: at UCLA, at Marist, at Texas and at Kansas State.

After today, almost amazingly, seven conference contests remain for OU: West Virginia, at OSU, Texas, Kansas, at Baylor, at TCU, Texas Tech.

OU could go 5-2 in that stretch without even landing an upset, but that means beating TCU in Fort Worth and taking care of business at home.

Also, the best indicator of the Sooners’ readiness to embrace the opportunity of a very reasonable schedule to close the regular season may well be how they deal with today’s opportunity.

OU, unranked for a while now, entered the Baylor loss with a No. 36 NCAA RPI. That might well be good enough to earn a return to the NCAA tournament for a 15th straight season.

Closing well, however, would make the point moot with the fringe benefit of entering the postseason from a  much better place.

Today would be a good time for the Sooners to start getting things right.