MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

January 26, 2014

Sooners ride defense past Horned Frogs

NORMAN — The Oklahoma women may have solved their energy shortage.

It wasn’t a problem last Tuesday at Iowa State, where the Sooners upset the 20th-ranked Cyclones and the effort was back Saturday night at Lloyd Noble Center, where the Sooners welcomed a TCU team that entered having won twice as many games as it had lost.

What happened offered two conclusions: one, high energy is its own reward, as evidenced by OU’s 63-52 victory; two, playing with energy and playing well are two different things.

The Sooners (13-7, 4-3 Big 12) created their victory by playing relentless defense from the tip.

The Horned Frogs were cold, for sure, but it wasn’t like they were missing easy shots on the way to a 24.1 percent (14 of 58) shooting performance.

Also, OU found its offensive footing for enough spurts to run away just far enough not to worry. There was a 10-3 blitz in the first half and a 15-2 run to begin the second. A short 8-3 run a little later built OU’s biggest lead, 57-37.

The Sooners managed to shoot almost 50 percent until failing to convert a field goal over the last 5:45, leaving them at 42.9 percent (21 of 49) for the game.

OU coach Sherri Coale accentuated the positive, which included two quick fouls limiting the first-half availability of point guard Morgan Hook.

“I thought we played with great energy again. We got the shots we wanted on offense,” she said. “We had a little bit of a turnover fiasco in the first half when Morgan (Hook) came out. But to survive that and take a nine-point lead into halftime with Morgan only playing seven minutes in the first half, I thought that was really big.”

The star of the game had to be Sooner senior shooting guard Aaryn Ellenberg, who led OU with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, but also was the primary defender of Zahna Medley, the TCU shooting guard who entered averaging 15.8 points, but finished with five on 2 of 12 field accuracy.

“I thought what they were really good at knowing, was where our shooters were on the floor,” TCU coach Jeff Mittie said. “I thought they did a great job of rushing Medley … They took our leading scorer out of the game. She really felt crowded.”

Still, the headline wasn’t defense, but the energy required to play it, even when things weren’t going so well on the offensive end.

“It is every single day and it is practice. Our practices have been great,” Hook said. “It all stems from practice and just being focused on energy and it coming from within and not having people drag it out of us.”

Hook played every minute of the second half and finished with 11 points, including 3-of-6 3-point shooting. Also, with her back on the floor, OU’s turnover totals dropped from 12 to five from first half to second half.

Mittie called it “the key to the game.”

Natalie Ventress led TCU with 14 points and five rebounds. Chelsea Prince added nine and a game-high 10 boards.

No masterpiece, but OU believes it made another important step forward.

“I thought the energy level for the entire 40 minutes was really, really good,” Coale said.

She’ll likely take that every time.

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