Long day suits Sooners
After a 5 1/2-hour bus ride that got them there 30 minutes before the tip, Oklahoma women nab second straight victory over top-10 team, finish first season sweep of Baylor since 2009
Sometimes there’s no beating the story.
You can write with flourish and style, insert your own thoughts here and there and still, it doesn’t get much better than what happened, and that was Wednesday for the resurgent Oklahoma women.
Ranked 18th, but coming off a two-point home-court victory over then-ninth-ranked Texas, the Sooners began in Norman planning to fly to Waco, were then told they’d have to catch their plane in Oklahoma City only for the flight to be canceled, leaving them, at 1:40 p.m., trapped inside Lloyd Noble Center after a walk-through practice, to get on the bus that delivered them to Ferrell Center at 7:15, 15 minutes after their contest at No. 9 Baylor was supposed to begin, and were on the court against the Lady Bears a half hour later.
“It was the craziest day, one of the craziest days of all time,” first-year Sooner coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “But we made it.”
They did more than that.
Getting to Waco on wheels and so late meant the players changed into their uniforms on their bus, got themselves taped up on their bus, departed their bus into the same kind of sleet and snow that put them on it in the first place about 275 miles away in only their uniforms, sneakers and warm-up jackets, and then went about knocking off the ninth-ranked Lady Bears 78-77.
“This just shows how good we are” said Madi Williams, who led OU with 20 points, “and the adversity we can face and come out with wins.”
Once again, as has been the case so many other times this season, the Sooners’ failure to value the ball nearly came back to haunt them. Also, once again, they overcame nonetheless.
Thirteen first-half giveaways were a big part of their trailing by as many as 11 points, yet holding Baylor without a field goal over the second-quarter’s final 6:27 was enough to hit intermission tied 38-38.
A more reasonable seven post-half turnovers followed, as did the Sooners’ ability to close in the final moments.
A layup from Sarah Andrews made it 74-68 Baylor with 4:12 remaining and a 3 attempt that looked good in the air from Andrews 40 seconds later might have ended it. Instead, the ball bounced away, OU got it back and played fantastic basketball to the buzzer.
True freshman and Norman High product Kelbie Washington earned a pair of free throws and made them both.
Reigning national player of the year NaLyssa Smith answered on the other end and it was back to a six-point game.
Williams diced through the lane for a layup that made it 76-72 with 2:31 remaining.
Next, not only did OU get a stop — two stops, actually, after giving up an offensive rebound to Jordan Lewis — but it scored in transition, Washington going coast-to-coast for a layup that made it a two-point game.
Another stop and another transition chance led to two free-throws from Williams that tied it, and after Queen Egbo made one of two free throws to hand Baylor a one-point edge, Williams missed on the other end and Baylor turned it over with 23 seconds remaining, the Sooners had their chance to win it.
They got the ball to Williams, who forced the action in the paint before finding Liz Scott open on the weak side, nearly as low as the basket, though outside the lane, who coaxed home a lefty finish over Smith, hustling to defend.
Baylor still had 6 seconds, but Lewis missed and that was that.
It means a bunch of things.
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• It means OU, which had won just 32 games the previous three seasons, is now 19-3 in this one, needing only to stop West Virginia at home on Saturday to claim its first 20-win season since coach Sherri Coale’s 2016-17 Sooners went 23-10.
• It means OU’s now 8-2 in the Big 12 Conference (even 6-1 on the road), tied atop the standings with 11th-ranked Iowa State.
• It means the Sooners swept the season series from the Lady Bears for the first time since 2010, also the last season the program reached the Final Four.
• It means the Sooners have three wins against the NCAA selection committee’s top-16 list — a sort of CFP ranking for women’s hoops — two over No. 13 Baylor and one over No. 7 Texas (and all three of its losses are against teams on the list, too: No. 10 Iowa State, No. 14 Oregon, No. 16 Kansas State).
• It means OU has beaten top-10 teams back-to-back after not beating any top-10 teams since the 2016-17 season.
Somehow, the Sooners managed to out-rebound the bigger Lady Bears 46 to 35.
“They didn’t know that,” said Baranczyk, “because I kept telling them we were getting out-rebounded.”
Taylor Robertson only hit 2 of 9 from 3-point land, but finished with 14 points by hitting all six of her free throws.
Scott, who had the game-winner against Texas, as well, added 16 and five boards.
Washington, who led OU at +11 over her 17 minutes, finished with eight points, as did Skylar Vann, who also grabbed seven rebounds, one less than Williams’ team-high eight.
“It was a crazy day,” Robertson said. “It was fun, though. We got to just be together all day.”
It suited them.