Women's basketball: OU escapes defeat but loses senior leader
UPDATE, 11:27 p.m.: An MRI confirmed that senior guard Whitney Hand has a tear in her ACL of her left knee.
Senior guard Whitney Hand left the court with heavy assistance and tears in her eyes near the end of the first half in a game against North Texas on Thursday.
The Sooners went on to beat the Mean Green, 71-68, but the win came at a heavy price.
Hand crumpled to the floor with 1:50 on the clock, clenching her left knee, screaming and crying. As of press time, a diagnosis had yet to be made, but the attitude surrounding the Sooner star was not hopeful.
“I’ve watched them fall,” coach Sherri Coale said. “There’s a way they fall, there’s a way they scream. I’m not a doctor; I can’t give you any diagnosis. I can just tell you what I saw.”
North Texas coach Mike Petersen was the first to Hand when she went down in from of his team’s bench.
“I just told her to hang in there, her trainer was on the way,” Petersen said.
After Hand left the court, the Sooners were down by three points and still had nearly 22 minutes of basketball to play. Initially, the team, Coale included, struggled to stay focused on the game at hand.
“I have no words,” Coale said. “I don’t even know how they could think, much less change defenses and run sets and change matchups.”
Once the Sooners got back on track, Coale said they “gutted” out the win.
“I don’t know if I have ever been prouder of a team in 17 years of doing this,” Coale said. “Unbelievable determination, and they revealed their mettle and their character.”
Sophomore forward Sharane Campbell – who made her third career start – provided a spark for the Sooners in the face of the adversity, scoring 11 points and going 7-for-9 from the free throw line.
“[Campbell is] really good late in games,” Coale said. “(She) just sort of has that knack for drawing people to her and finishing tough shots and getting to the free throw line.
“I thought she did some good things defensively too that made [North Texas] nervous and a little unsure.”
The Sooners finished the game with a win by making their free throws down the stretch. OU got to the line 40 times in the game, making 30 of their attempts.
They were led by junior center Nicole Griffin and senior forward Joanna McFarland who scored 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Moving forward without Hand, Coale has faith in her team.
“I will promise you this, that group of warriors that showed up and finished the game, are going to fight their tails off every time they play. I guarantee you they will,” Coale said. “They’ll fight with Whitney’s spirit and do everything they can.
“We’re going to find ways to win basketball games.”
With Hand out, the Sooners are left with just eight players on the active roster after losing three players to injuries before Hand. Coach Coale said she has confidence in the players she has left.
“Last time I checked you can make it with five, because that’s all that have to be on the court at a time,” Coale said.
Thoughts on Whitney Hand:
“I just feel for the kid,” Petersen said. “If young adult adoption was legal, her last name would be Petersen, trust me.
“Nobody loves to play basketball any more than Whitney Hand,” Coale said. “I’ve never met a kid who loves to compete and play this game more than Whitney.
“The fact that she is denied that and has to endure that is really hard for all of us to accept and understand.”