Oklahoma women roll past Michigan 88-67By JEFF LATZKE, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Mar 18, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. (AP)—When Aaryn Ellenberg was mired in a three-week shooting slump right in the middle of Oklahoma’s season, her teammates never stopped believing in her.
After she was done leading the Sooners to a first-round victory in the NCAA tournament, she stated what may not have seemed so obvious a month earlier: “I have to shoot for us to be successful.”
“I think so, too,” teammate Whitney Hand chimed in.
“Me, too,” coach Sherri Coale quickly added. “Ditto.”
Ellenberg poured in 21 of her 28 points in the second half, Morgan Hook added 13 points and Oklahoma defeated Michigan 88-67 Sunday night to move on in the Fresno Regional.
Ellenberg was limited to only 7 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, then made up for lost time by scoring 13 of Oklahoma’s first 14 points in the second half. Her jumper off an inbounds pass extended the Sooners’ lead to 57-38 with 14:33 remaining.
Michigan (20-12), making its first tournament appearance in 11 years, never got any closer than eight after that.
“I sat a lot of the first half, so I saw how much fun they were having. I really wanted to be part of the action. That was pretty much my main goal,” Ellenberg said.
“They were having so much fun, I wanted to be out there. I hate not being out there.”
Playing on their home court, the sixth-seeded Sooners (21-12) took control with an early 14-4 run and never trailed. Oklahoma built a 12-point lead in the first 8 minutes and had the same cushion at halftime before holding the Wolverines to one basket over the first 5 1/2 minutes.
Ellenberg hit a 3-pointer, two jumpers and a free throw during that span and afterward acted as if her second-best scoring performance of the season was no big deal.
It was exactly what Oklahoma had been missing during a three-week stretch when Ellenberg made only 16 of 75 shots (21 percent) and had five of her seven single-digit scoring outings.
“That’s Vegas. She’s casual Sally,” said Coale, referring to her top scorer from Las Vegas. “She makes it look effortless and she’ll make you think that she’s kind of just along for the ride. She really cares, it really matters to her and she came to play tonight. It was obvious.”
Carmen Reynolds hit three 3-pointers during a comeback bid that got Michigan within 66-58.
“We’re back in the game at that point. They miss a basket, we make a basket and you’re right back in it, obviously,” coach Kevin Borseth said.
Instead, Ellenberg added two more 3-pointers down the stretch as Oklahoma rebuilt its lead and then closed it out by scoring the final eight points.
Hand chipped in 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Oklahoma, and Kaylon Williams and Nicole Griffin scored 10 apiece as the Sooners moved to 8-1 when playing on their home court in the NCAA tournament.
The lone loss came the only time they were the lower-seeded team, and they’ll need to buck that trend Tuesday night when they face No. 3 seed St. John’s.
Reynolds finished with 20 points to lead the Wolverines. Michigan’s leading scorer, Rachel Sheffer, had only three points—11 below her average—in a season-low 14 minutes.
Borseth said he thought backup Sam Arnold was playing better on offense and defense, so he went with her instead. Arnold had 11 points, reaching double digits for only the sixth time.
“Sam played really well and we really haven’t utilized those two together very much this year. Probably something we maybe should have explored,” Borseth said.
“That’s what my mother has told me. My 86-year-old mother has been telling me that for two years, that the two of them should play together. Maybe I should listen to her.”
Oklahoma was able to find quick offense to counter the Wolverines’ Big Ten-best defense, which had been giving up only 58 points and forcing 17 turnovers per game.
The Sooners surpassed the 58-point mark with more than 13 minutes remaining and matched their season low with eight turnovers in the game. They had been averaging 17 giveaways per game and had at least 20 in 10 games this season.
“We got shots,” Coale said. “When you don’t throw it to the other team, you don’t throw it out of bounds, you get a shot at the basket, good things happen.”