By Clay Horning
CNHI News Service
NORMAN – How good a day was it for the Oklahoma women? With 3:54 remaining, direct from the Sooner volleyball team, Eden Williams and Tara Dunn entered to a standing ovation.
They’d been with the program since the day after Christmas, yet against Cal State Northridge, a team coming off a victory over No. 17 UCLA, the newbies were on the floor.
OU led by 28 points at that moment and settled for a 79-57 victory.
The Sooners committed 20 turnovers. Too many and a figure they best not repeat when West Virginia visits on Wednesday for both squads’ Big 12 opener. Still, otherwise, the game was a dream.
Despite a couple of rough patches, OU shot the 3-pointer well (43 percent or 12 of 28), ran like it hadn’t run most of the season, leading to easy baskets and its highest point output in six games, and received a breakout game from junior college transfer forward Portia Durrett, who used 15 minutes on the floor to finish with 14 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot.
“It gives us as individuals and as a team a lot more confidence. They beat UCLA, who we lost to,” OU shooting guard Aaryn Ellenberg said. “To come out here and beat them by that much, it gives you a lot of confidence to know that even though we’ve lost people. We’re still collectively together a good enough team to win games.”
A fine example of playing well together, the Sooners assisted on 23 of 29 field goals, getting seven from point guard Morgan Hook, six from Sharane Campbell, who drew her third start of the season, and four each from Ellenberg and Nicole Kornet.
“The play was an extension of the way that we practiced over the break … I thought we adhered to the game plan extremely well,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “(The Matadors) are a better basketball team than they appeared today.”
Ellenberg, coming off a 27-point outing against Cal-Riverside that matched a season high, poured in 24 more against the Matadors on 9 of 17 shooting, including a 5-of-9 clip from 3-point range.
“They’re looking to me, I guess,” she said. “I think I’m taking as many shots as I always have.”
Nicole Griffin added 11 points inside and Campbell added 10 to go with the assists, six rebounds and three steals.
Janae Sharp and Jianni Jackson each finished with 12 points for the Matadors, who were hounded by OU into 28 percent (21 of 75) shooting.
For Coale, the performance began with senior forward Joanna McFarland, who was beating everybody on both teams to 50-50 balls in the opening minutes. Foul issues limited her to 22 minutes, yet she still finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.
“We can’t start talking about this game without talking about Joanna McFarland,” Coale said to radio play-by-play man Brian Brinkley immediately after the game. “(She) really set the tone.”
From there, Durrett, who had scored 11 points her previous three games, picked up where McFarland left off.
“Today was basically clearing my head … I felt like I just played,” Durrett said. “In the past I really hadn’t played very well. I was basically thinking too much. Now, it’s time to play.”
Saturday, that might have gone for every Sooner.
“All the way to Eden and Tara coming in and fighting for rebounds and loose balls,” Coale said, “it was awesome.”