Finally ranked, Sooners lay an egg
As OU suffers second loss, its first-year coach blames herself, staff, for putting too much in players' heads preparing to face 12th-ranked Cyclones
NORMAN — Seems like, if your size-challenged team isn’t playing any defense to begin with, while giving up offensive rebound after offensive rebound, even if it means playing your 5-foot-6 point guard on the same court as your 5-foot-2 point guard, you have no choice but to bite the bullet and do it in the hope of forcing a turnover or two.
First-year Sooner women’s basketball coach Jennie Baranczyk, who had come up aces the first 13 games of the season, chose not to and No. 23 Oklahoma fell 81-71 to No. 12 Iowa State Wednesday night at Lloyd Noble Center.
Of course, while playing Kelbie Washington alongside Neveah Tot might well have made a difference, it’s unlikely it would have made a 10-point difference.
Also, as a matter of strategy, nothing else the Sooner coach ordered or failed to order appeared out of line. Instead, it felt like one of those games home-team partisans might have hoped their coach to exit not just fed up with losing, but fed up with her players’ roles in conspiring to make it possible.
The Sooners just looked … lost.
Baranczyk, though, placed the blame on herself and her staff and, if we’re to take her at her word, perhaps they deserved it.
“I think we’re overthinking,” Baranczyk said. “And I think because of some of the things we talked about in practice, where we’re just trying to get better as coaches, I think we overdid it. So, to me, this one’s on us for creating a little bit too much in terms of overthinking, and our team’s really good when we just play.
“We’ll find a balance.”
Wednesday, there was no balance.
Madi Williams finished with 26 points, yet the only other Sooner in double figures was Washington, the 5-6 freshman point guard, the player Baranczyk kept on the bench down the stretch when OU wasn’t stopping anybody, wasn’t rebounding and, after a quick 8-0 run to begin the final quarter, closing within 66-60, wasn’t scoring either.
Baranczyk stuck with the 5-2 Tot, who finished with nine points and a single turnover, while Washington gave it away five times. Still, somehow, Washington finished -1 over her 22 minutes of court time, while Tot finished -9 over her 24.
In each game prior to Wednesday, OU put at least three scorers in double figures and six times, four or more.
“I think all of us can attest to it,” Williams said. “In that first quarter, we all looked at each other and we’re like, ‘Oh, we’re thinking too much.’ Like, we literally all said the same thing.”
While Baranczyk and Williams saw it affecting the offense — OU’s 71 points were a season low after it entered averaging 89.7 — it clearly affected other areas, too.
OU was beaten on the boards 46 to 37 and 16 to 7 on the offensive glass, which made all kinds of difference, for even as the Sooners made 43.8 percent of their shots and the Cyclones 39.7 percent, it was Iowa State that made more shots, period, hitting 31 of 78 to OU’s 28 of 64, the attempt differential entirely a product of ISU’s board advantage.
The Sooners could get nobody but Williams going offensively.
Taylor Robertson finished with eight points, 11.5 off her average, hitting 2 of 6 3-point attempts and getting just seven shots up, total. Liz Scott, though a defensive albatross, scored eight.
Baranczyk thought her team looked “stagnant.”
“If we’re ever, ‘Hey, Taylor, you have to make 3s,’ or ‘Hey, Madi, you’ve got to make every play,’ that’s too hard and that’s not how we play,” she said. “That’s not our style or our system … I think we stood a lot around the perimeter … We didn’t get nearly enough [points] off our cuts today.”
OU was also shorthanded, playing without Gabby Gregory one game after the junior guard, who averaged 16.6 points last season, finally played for the first time at Texas Tech.
Baranczyk said Gregory was “out for different health and safety protocols,” than caused her to miss the season’s first 12 games, which sure sounds like COVID.
Iowa State got 22 points from Emily Ryan, 17 from Ashley Joens, 15 from Beatriz Jorado and 10 from Morgan Kane, mimicking the breadth of output typically enjoyed by OU.
Iowa State improved to 13-1 overall and 2-0 in the conference, while OU fell to 12-2 and 1-1.
Saturday, the Sooners are at Kansas (9-1, 0-0), four days before playing host to No. 14 Baylor (10-3, 0-1).
(See boxscore here)