Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
OU's back, Taylor Robertson makes history and Skylar Vann's why we watch sports
Everything comes together as Sooners win their biggest game in years
For weeks and weeks, Oklahoma women’s basketball has been much improved under first-year coach Jennie Baranczyk.
Now, it’s back.
It’s back because, even though it’s not coach Kim Mulkey’s Baylor women the 23rd-ranked Sooners beat 83-77 at Lloyd Noble Center, it was still the Lady Bears, the 14th-ranked team in the nation, and it was still OU, which hadn’t beaten them since 2015 and hadn’t beaten any top-15 opponent since 2017.
So it counts.
Write it down.
All that and, the way it happened, at the end, Skylar Vann became why we watch sports, even if it was a teammate who made the history.
Other than that, it was just another Wednesday night.
The history belonged to Taylor Robertson, who made all five of her 3-point attempts and though her coach and team would prefer to spring her for more than five chances, she hit them all and passed Kansas State’s Laurie Koehn as the Big 12’s most prolific 3-point shooter, having now made 393 of 875, which calculates to an otherworldly 44.9 percent accuracy rate from beyond the arc.
“That’s something you dream about,” said Robertson, reflecting on not just setting a new mark, but not missing, period. “That’s cool. I never thought that would actually happen.”
The NCAA 3-point record is 497, set by Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell, a figure Robertson could reach if the Sooner season lasts long enough and she gets enough shots off; and the all-time NCAA 3-point accuracy mark is 44.7 percent, owned by UConn’s Aleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who canned 398 of 890, a record Robertson could secure by not taking another shot, but what kind of fun would that be given what she’s already done this season, canning 71 of 142, a perfect 50 percent of her trifecta tries.
It’s crazy and amazing, just not as crazy and amazing as the finish Vann offered against the Lady Bears, because it was ridiculous; or, as mentioned, why we watch sports.
Only Saturday, Bijan Cortes, from coach Porter Moser’s Sooner men’s team became why we watch sports, coming off the bench to push OU past Iowa State as though reprising Robbie Benson’s role in “One on One.”
It was the kind of unlikely heroic performance you might see once every few seasons, yet Vann bettered it just four days later on the same court.
A sophomore out of Deer Creek, Vann finished with a team-high and career-high 22 points, seven rebounds, also a team high, and three assists, but those were just her totals.
Here’s what she did that made OU a winner and had the fans on their feet:
It began with a right elbow jumper that tied it 71-71 with 5:29 remaining, 3:09 since the contest’s first tie, 66-66, which itself appeared quite unlikely, given Baylor having scored the game’s first 10 points.
So Vann tied it before pulling off the most amazing entry on her stat line, blocking Nalyssa Smith at the rim with 3:46 remaining.
Smith is 6-4 — five inches taller than Vann — the reigning national player of the year and had already scored 30 points. Mere mortals do not block Smith’s attempts at the rim with the game in the balance, but Vann did.
She then assisted Madi Williams, who tied it back up at 75. After Robertson stole the ball on Baylor’s next trip down the court, Vann ripped the last of her three 3-pointers, giving OU the lead for good, 78-75.
After another Williams bucket, a pair of free throws from Baylor’s Queen Egbo and a Sooner turnover, it was a Vann steal that robbed the Lady Bears of a chance to tie it.
Back on OU’s end, Williams missed but Vann chased down the rebound, a board every bit as valuable as a bucket, with 53 seconds remaining.
Finally, OU up 81-77, Queen had a lane to the basket and went right at it. Though four inches shorter and playing with four fouls, Vann stepped in the way, went straight up and stuffed her, too, effectively ending the game.
It didn’t come against last season’s Wade Trophy winner like the block before, but it was Vann’s favorite moment.
“I felt like I could time it right,” she said, “and it was like the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
Saturday, Cortes, a freshman, admitted to sort of not believing what he was doing, being in on play-after-play-after-play, pushing the Sooner men past the Cyclones.
Vann felt something else.
“I’m just locked in,” she said. “At that point, I’m like, ‘Every loose ball’s mine.’”
She did it all, hitting both her shots, blocking the last shot from two of the conference’s most imposing bigs, creating a game-tying shot with an assist and grabbing the night’s biggest offensive rebound.
“She’s the ultimate utility player,” Baranczyk said. “She does whatever we need her to do whenever we need her to do it.”
Wednesday, that was everything, as she became the reason why we watch sports, too.
Next: TCU (5-7, 1-2 Big 12) at No. 23 OU (14-2, 3-1 ), 1:30 p.m. Saturday