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February 23, 2014

OU women hold on to beat Kansas

NORMAN – Say this much for the Oklahoma women. Staring their NCAA tournament destiny in the face, though it’s hardly been pretty, the Sooners haven’t blinked.

For the second straight game, OU prevailed on grit and guts far more than beauty and execution.

The 64-61 victory over Kansas that followed Saturday night at Lloyd Noble Center wasn’t for any time capsule. Also, OU will happily take it.

“I don’t know how well we played, but we played tough, with great intestinal fortitude and great purpose,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “We just weren’t going to be denied.”

The Sooners couldn’t shoot a lick, topping out at 34.4 percent (22 of 64). But they were good from the free-throw line, where they canned 20 of 24 attempts, amazing on the glass, owning a 48-25 rebound advantage and, for the second straight game, they had senior point guard Morgan Hook delivering in the clutch.

“I was just trying to get to the rim and she cut me off,” Hook said. “I knew we needed one more basket to kind of seal the deal there.”

Up 60-58 with the shot and game clock winding down, Hook drove left, yet had nobody open nor a path to the basket. Naturally, she stopped as much of her leftward momentum as she could and put up a 12-foot, right-handed jumper/floater hybrid of an attempt.

“That was a crazy, tough shot,” Coale said. “But you know what, she makes plays at the end of games.”

For good measure, after the Jayhawks missed on the other end, Hook added two more free throws to put OU up six points with 10 seconds remaining. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Kansas’ Markisha Hawkins ended the scoring.

With that finish, the Sooners (17-11, 8-7 Big 12) did what they had to do. They’re at No. 6 Baylor Monday, where pulling an the upset is a great idea, but not necessary. Easier games will follow at TCU and at home against Texas Tech.

Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson couldn’t get over the rebounding differential.

“The nauseating part,” she said, “was (OU’s) 24 offensive rebounds and it was still a one-possession game with 30-something seconds left.”

OU, which was playing its second straight game without leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg, didn’t mind. The Sooners were reveling in barely hitting a third of their shots, and not one of them a 3-pointer (in 11 tries) for the first time all season, yet still prevailing.

“We finally won two in a row and we have done it with our leading scorer in street clothes on the sideline,” Coale said. “I think the guys who were left to compete in this tough situation in (Ellenberg’s) absence have grown exponentially.”

Sharane Campbell came through with her biggest game since netting 28 against Oklahoma State Feb. 1, making 7 of 14 shots and 8 of 9 free throws to finish with 22 and nine rebounds. Center Nicole Griffin didn’t solve her shooting woes, making 5 of 15, but still finished with 13 points to go a game-high 14 rebounds.

Markisha Hawkins led Kansas (12-15, 5-10) with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting. CeCe Harper added 14 points and Chelsea Gardner finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

The Jayhawks led by three at the half, but the Sooners soon took control, eventually establishing a nine-point edge, 45-36, after 15-3 run with 12:24 remaining.

Kansas made it a one-point game once and a two-point game four different times the rest of the way, yet never led or pulled even again.

“We know how to play hard together,” Hook said. “Different people stepped up at different times.”

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