Women's basketball: Sooners look to outshine Mean Green
Kingsley Burns, The Oklahoma Daily
The Oklahoma women’s basketball team has been a constantly evolving animal so far this season.
The Sooners will look to continue their evolution when they take on North Texas at 7 tonight at Lloyd Noble Center.
After entering the season with national championship expectation, the team lost two players before it played a single game — sophomore forward Kaylon Williams and senior forward Lyndsey Cloman — and another after just six games in freshman guard Maddie Manning — who had gained a starting spot just before tearing her ACL.
Down to nine players, the Sooners’ expectations and goals don’t change, but it changes how they work.
“(In practice) their rotation gets a little skewed,” coach Sherri Coale said. “It’s not an issue at all except that it’s a bit of a distraction in terms of their effort and their concetntration; trying to figure out who’s on now, who’s a [power forward] ... They’ll work their way through it; it’s just a little bit icky right now.”
Despite the setbacks, OU sits at 7-1 and so far this season with wins against Creighton, Arkansas and Marist and is in the midst of a six-game win streak.
Heading into the game against North Texas, the Sooners are led by junior guards Aaryn Ellenberg and Morgan Hook and senior guard Whitney Hand.
Ellenberg leads the team in scoring with 17 points per game — scoring always being her strong suit — and more surprisingly has led the team defensively, averaging nearly two steals per game, including a three steal outburst against Marist.
“That’s a part of my game that has been lacking,” Ellenberg said. “ So when that’s really up now, it gives me a lot more energy and a lot more confidence on the other end as well.”
The Mean Green provides a different style for the Sooners to contend with than they have as of late.
“They like to penetrate,” Hook said. “Marist was a 3-point shooting team and we were worried about the perimeter. This time we have to be worried about their penetration, so we have to worry about our defensive plan that we have set.”
With Williams and Cloman out, the Sooners often have resorted to four-guard sets, with freshman guard Nicole Kornet replacing Manning in the starting lineup.
This leaves Hand— ordinarily a shooting guard, small forward combo player — at the power forward position most of the time. The change has led to an increase in the senior’s rebounding numbers, she currently leads the team with 7.5 per game.
“Whitney is the type of player that’s going to do what the team needs to have done in order to win,” Coale said. “She’s just a warrior.”