The OU women's basketball team faced easily their toughest test of the season Thursday night in the Lloyd Noble Center against Gonzaga. With an appearance in this year's preseason WNIT championship game on the line, both teams came out ready for a fight and in a very physical game, at times, it almost resembled exactly that. However, in the end the Sooners were the squad left standing with an 82-78 victory and will now host a No. 5 ranked Louisville team on Sunday at 3 p.m. (CT) in Norman.
As for Thursday night, it was a back-and-forth game for almost the entirety with 14 ties and 21 lead changes and no team (Gonzaga) leading by more than five points at any particular point in the contest.
It was a true team effort from an Oklahoma team that continues to struggle with their three point shooting (21% in the game), but managed to finish with five players in double figures including two off the bench.
As you've come to expect, superstar Aaryn Ellenberg was the leading scorer in the game with 21 points but also filled up the box score with four rebounds, five assists, and two steals. However, the difference maker in this game for the Sooners was probably Kaylon Williams. The sophomore post player provided a ton of energy off the bench, 14 points of her own, and a number of big rebounds (nine in the game overall, five on the offensive end) at key points in the game. Her effort was rewarded with thirteen trips to the free throw line where she eight of those attempts.
In addition to Ellenberg and Williams, Sharane Campbell (13), Nicole Griffin (12), and true freshman Gioya Carter (10) also finished in double digits scoring. And while Morgan Hook only made one field goal in the game, she continues to be the leader on the floor this team needs while also playing through a very painful dislocated thumb (on her shooting hand mind you). Hook would finish with seven points (five from the free throw line), six rebounds, four assists, and one steal.
As teams continue to adjust to the new rules this year, on this night Oklahoma was the beneficiary going to the line a ridiculous forty nine times. In comparison Gonzaga only had 26 free attempts on the night and while for most of the game it seemed as though they couldn't miss, down the stretch they failed to convert on several attempts from the charity stripe in what proved to be quite costly. Neither team shot particularly well from the free throw line both finishing at just 69%, but the Sooners made their free throws when it counted.
While Thursday night was their toughest test to date, Sherri Coale would be the first to tell you it will only get even tougher Sunday night in the championship game. As mentioned at the top, their opponent Louisville is currently ranked as high as No. 5 in the country and also played in last year's Final Four. The Cardinals took down a No. 14 ranked LSU team 88-67 Thursday night as they advanced to Sunday's championship game.
The Sooners will have the advantage of playing on their home court and in front of their fans, but Sunday will certainly still be a very difficult task. But if you know anything about Sherri Coale teams, you know she'll have them ready to go and while likely an underdog on paper this team definitely has the talent to come out with a win on Sunday.