By Michael Kinney
The Oklahoma women’s basketball season has not been going as planned. Heading into this week they had a 3-6 record and lost six of their last seven outings.
It seemed to be the wrong time for No. 1 UConn to be paying a visit to Norman to face the Sooners.
However, for three and a half quarters, it looked like OU was going to pull off the biggest upset of the season. But the Huskies showed that championship mentality late and pulled out a 72-63 win at Lloyd Noble Center.
“I think a coach’s job most of the time is to have a pretty good pulse on our team, and I could sense that our team coming out here wasn’t really ready for a tough game,” Huskies coach Gino Auriemma said. “I knew it was going to be tough. I’m not looking at Oklahoma’s record — I know what kind of game people play against us. You can’t go by what their record is. … I knew it was coming, and I knew it was a difficult matchup for us and I knew we weren’t going to be ready for it because I could just feel it. It was almost like a perfect storm.”
Taylor Robertson led the Sooners with 23 points on 8 of 16 shooting. That included draining six of her 12 shots from 3-point range.
Shaina Pellington added 16 points and Madi Williams chipped in with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Oklahoma played the entire game without star guard and Choctaw native, Ana Llanusa. The sophomore is still on the mend after enduring a stress fracture last month.
The Sooners could have used Llanusa’s talents late in the fourth quarter when they tried to hold off a hard-charging UConn squad.
After leading by 12 points in the third quarter, the Sooners held a 52-48 advantage heading into the final 10 minutes of play.
But then the Huskies slowly started to whittle the lead down. They seemed to get every loose ball and rebound and scored off of them.
Oklahoma on the other couldn’t buy a basket. They didn’t hit a shot in the final five minutes of the game.
In the fourth quarter, OU shot 4 of 15 from the field and was outrebounded 17-7.
Napheesa Collier had 23 points and a career-high 17 rebounds to pace the Huskies. Katie Lou Samuelson posted 20 points and 11 rebounds as UConn kept its record unblemished at 10-0.
“I was telling [the seniors] in the locker room that they live in a fantasy world. I said this is the way the rest of the world lives — tough games on the road where you have to suck it up and make big plays toward the end,” Auriemma said. “I told them they’re just never in that situation enough because you live in a make-believe world. Today they lived in the real world, and I was proud of them because they got tested and they came out with flying colors.”
The Sooners (3-7) will close out 2018 with a trip to Dallas to take on SMU Saturday at 2p.m. They won’t play again until Jan. 2 when they begin Big 12 play and host Texas Tech.
Llanusa is expected to be back in the lineup by then.
But Coale believes the Sooners now see how good they can be after their performance against UConn.
”We all could feel how much more fun it is for sure, and how much effective it is, when you just play and don’t fret,” Coale said. ”There was no fretting tonight and that’s a big step for these guys. Big step for all of us.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider