With 6:45 remaining in the third quarter, West Virginia senior guard Tynice Martin nailed a 3-pointer to cut OU’s lead, once as high as 13, to just three.
In response, the Sooners did not call a timeout and regroup, they didn’t hustle down the floor and launch a retaliatory 3-ball.
Instead, they did the same thing they had done all game: they kept their poise, stuck to their fundamentals, and made West Virginia pay by executing in every phase.
“I thought we had a really balanced effort tonight,” head coach Sherri Coale said. “We didn't shoot it particularly well but we were never rattled by that. We were calm and moved on to the next possession. It was certainly a team effort.”
OU shot 41.8 percent from the field, compared to 39.7 percent for West Virginia. The victory moved OU ahead of West Virginia and into fourth place in the Big 12.
Junior guard Ana Llanusa led the Sooners with 19 points on 8-12 shooting. Llanusa made her return from injury against Kansas on Saturday after missing six-straight games with back pain. Wednesday night marked her first game back in Norman.
“It honestly just felt good to be back out there and not in pain,” Llanusa said. “I felt like I could finally move how I wanted to. In the Kansas game, I didn't feel like I could move like myself. I was just happy about that and happy to be back out there with my team."
Wednesday night, Llanusa also became the 36th player in program history with at least 1000 career points.
“She just gives us such a different dimension,” Coale said about Llanusa. “I just love the fact that she looked like herself tonight, the way she was moving. I'm happy to see her being able to play without the pain.”
OU is now 2-0 since Llanusa’s return, after going 2-4 during her absence.
“I think that it's just a breath of relief for all of us,” said sophomore guard Madi Williams on Llanusa’s return. “Just knowing what Ana can do and what she's capable of. She just brings another piece to the table that we missed."
Williams added 18 points and eight rebounds and left the Lady Mountaineer defense scrambling in search of a way to slow her down.
“We struggled with Williams,” said West Virginia head coach Mike Carey. “She can go in there and post you. She can crank it up and get out on the break. She gives you a lot of mismatches."
Where the Sooners lacked in shooting on Wednesday night, they made up for ten-fold in rebounding. The Sooners out-rebounded West Virginia, 45-31. They also won the battle on the offensive glass 13-8.
“It's not difficult to see why we lost,” said Carey. “Look at the hustle plays, look at the second-chance points. You look at our guards, none of them had offensive rebounds.”
Especially during the first half, OU’s dominance on the boards made a massive impact on this game.
“Early, we got a lot of second-chance opportunities,” Coale said. “That's sometimes the thing that steadies us early in games. There's just something calming about knowing that everything doesn't just ride on that first shot.”
After a difficult four-game losing streak, OU has now won two in a row, their veteran leader in Llanusa has returned, and it appears they are experiencing serious growth as a unit, both physically and mentally.