No. 24 Oklahoma women top UWM 72-50 to end skidBy JEFF LATZKE, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Dec 11, 2011
NORMAN, Okla. (AP)—Whitney Hand can’t sleep when Oklahoma is losing.
Maybe now she can rest a little easier.
Oklahoma (4-3) ended its first three-game skid since March 2008 and avoided losing four straight for the first time since January 2004.
“We don’t expect to lose, I think, ever. It was like a shock to all of us,” Hand said. “This last week has been a hard week and it’s been a growth week and it’s been exhausting.
“We’re just glad to have a win and I think we can start moving on again. It’s good. Stop being depressed around the facility.”
The Sooners—who have just one senior and two juniors healthy after season-ending injuries to Lyndsey Cloman and Jasmine Hartman—are still in jeopardy of falling out of the Top 25 for the first time since the 2004-05 season following consecutive losses to Vanderbilt, Ohio State and Fresno State.
“It’s just such a process. We all have to take deep breaths and be patient and bring these guys along,” coach Sherri Coale said. “Unfortunately, our schedule has not allowed us to bring them along at a real comfortable pace. So, they’re kind of just hanging on and their heads are spinning.”
They snapped out of it long enough to take control against the Panthers (2-6), who were on the back end of their first-ever consecutive games against ranked opponents and finishing a five-game road trip.
Joanna McFarland, Morgan Hook and Hand hit 3-pointers as Oklahoma cruised to a 24-5 lead in the first 13 minutes. The Panthers missed 17 of their first 18 shots and had seven turnovers by the time Ashley Green’s 3-pointer fell with 6:57 left before halftime to give UWM its second basket.
“They’ve had some ups and downs, having their own little losing streak going. I’m sure they were ready to get back home and they really set the tone in the first 5 minutes,” Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Sandy Botham said. “I thought that was really the key was just how they came out and knocked down shots.”
Oklahoma shot 58 percent in the first half while Milwaukee made 22 percent.
“Right now, our defense has been pretty strong, pretty solid, but we’ve just struggled putting it in the basket,” Botham said. “I thought we took some bad shots, off-balance shots and that’s what bigger, stronger, a little bit more physical teams will do to you.”
Courtney Lindfors scored 15 points to lead UWM, which kept up with Oklahoma for about 20 minutes after shots finally started going in.
The Panthers were still within 20 when Lindhorst fouled out with about 5 minutes remaining, and then freshman Sharane Campbell had a three-point play and a jumper in a 7-1 burst that stretched Oklahoma’s lead to its largest point at 68-42.
Aaryn Ellenberg scored 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting, including just 2 for 9 from 3-point range, and Campbell had a career-high 14 for Oklahoma.
No one else reached double figures for UW-Milwaukee, which lost 72-41 at top-ranked Baylor on Thursday night in the first half of its challenging southern swing.
“I don’t know if maybe we’ll ever do that again,” said Botham, whose team will now play five straight at home, ending with a Horizon League game against No. 21 Green Bay.
Even in victory, the Sooners’ lingering problems didn’t go away.
They turned it over 21 times, increasing their average of 19.8 per game, and starting center Nicole Griffin continued a monthlong slump. The 6-foot-6 sophomore from Milwaukee had two points, five rebounds and two turnovers before fouling out in 12 minutes. She has also gone without a point in two games this season.
Coale said Griffin ran the floor better but all of her post players failed to get open enough and also played undisciplined defense.
More generally, Coale thinks the Sooners are suffering from “momentary amnesia” and let one bad play undo a stretch of solid basketball.
“We are clicking. You look out there and you think, `How have we lost three games in a row? Look at this!’ And then something bad happens and suddenly we just crumble,” she said. “And that’s where the immaturity is. The roots aren’t deep enough yet to sustain us through a bad play, a bad possession, a bad call, a great play from the opponent. …
“We had several of those in the second half just—boom, boom—layered themselves and all of a sudden we looked like kindergartners.”
The Sooners haven’t been out of the Top 25 since they fell out in November 2004, then never got back in over the final four months of that season. Courtney Paris, an eventual national player of the year, arrived the following fall and Oklahoma stayed ranked for the next six seasons with her and then WNBA-bound point guard Danielle Robinson on the roster.
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