The No. 24 ranked Women's Oklahoma Sooners defeated the Samford Bulldogs in front of 5,755 at the Lloyd Noble Center 66-35. Playing without leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg, who's out with a concussion that she suffered in practice the other day, the Sooners turned to veteran role players like Morgan Hook, Nicole Griffin and a true freshman, Derica Wyatt.
Oklahoma (9-4) fell behind early to the Bulldogs 8-4 with some poor shooting. They started out 1-of-7 before they finally hit a shot, but were shooting 3-of-11 before something finally clicked. Hook's aggressiveness and offensive ability really just willed the Sooners through that bad stretch in the first half. She had eight points in a 25-7 run that spanned over 10 minutes in the first half.
Without Ellenberg's ability to crash the paint and get to the rim, the Sooners really relied on the three-point shot. Oklahoma was 6-of-11 in the first half, really pushing the Sooners in the lead. Wyatt was huge in that first half, going 3-of-3 from deep. Wyatt, starting in her first game, finished with 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three-point range.
The story of the day was Oklahoma's defense. They forced Samford to sit on the perimeter and settle for long three point attempts all game long. The Bulldogs (3-9) took 33 three-point attempts, only hitting six of them. The 18.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc was a season best, defensively for the Sooners. Despite scoring a season low 66 points, Oklahoma held Samford to a defensive season low of 35 points.
We have a lot of work to do," Hook said. "We've been going over hills and hills, just trying to get up that mountain. We've taken steps in the right direction in the past couple of days. We just have to keep growing. I believe we have a shot."
Rebounding from a disappointing upset against Marist last week, this was just the confidence builder that this Sooners team needed. Despite the struggles early in the game, the great execution on the defensive end, complimented by young core helping out while Ellenberg sat with a concussion was huge.
Defensively, Oklahoma forced 20 Samford turnovers, that turned into 16 Sooner points. While the Sooners did turn the ball over at a pathetic amount, 23 turnovers, they limited the Bulldogs to zero points off turnovers. Huge!
Another fault Oklahoma did not do well today was shoot free throws. They finished 13-of-24 from the line. They were at one point 7-of-14, so it improved as the game went along, but was not something you want to credit to this victory. You can however, credit the defense, once again, limiting the Bulldogs to just 5-of-6 attempts for the game.
Griffin really was just a huge advantage for the Sooners down low. She finished 12 points and eight rebounds. She and Kaylon Williams were the two pieces that limited the Bulldogs to just 10 points in the paint. Williams finished with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting.
The status of Aaryn Ellenberg is day-to-day according to coach Coale. She has to be re-evaluated and pass all tests before she's allowed to play again.
Six different players scored at least seven points for the Sooners. Their bench included 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting. All but one player who logged game minutes was able to find their way into the scoring column.
In the second half Oklahoma, after leading just 41-25 with 16:47 remaining, went on a 21-5 run over the span of 12 minutes and four seconds. Lots of efficient shots, and not settling for the three-point shot really helped the Sooners shoot 50 percent for the game, 23-of-46.
It was just the fourth time this season that Oklahoma shot at least 50 percent from the field. The season high was a 54.3 percent outing against Western Illinois. The 46.7 percent from three-point range is a season high for the Sooners from deep.
"The Big 12 Conference is a marathon," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "You cannot get to high or too low. You have to figure out how to win games. It sounds so trite, so coach speak, but you have to scratch and claw, find a way to win games. A win is a win."
Oklahoma will next host the Texas Tech Lady Red Raiders on January 2nd in Lubbock, Texas to open up the Big 12 Conference play.