For most teams, the final home game of the season is known as senior day. Each senior appears at mid-court prior to the game as the school commemorates their career.
OU had no senior day festivities in its regular season finale — a 106-94 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday.
Instead, sophomore guard Taylor Robertson took mid-court as she was honored for breaking the Big 12’s single-season 3-pointer record.
And just as no seniors stood to lead the Sooners onto the court before the game, OU looked lost without an experienced leader on the floor during the game.
Brittany Brewer, Texas Tech’s defensive anchor and lone senior, tallied 18 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in a dominant performance in the paint.
OU struggled to find any answer for her all night. As Brewer drew increased pressure down low, Texas Tech’s spacing opened up.
Lady Raider junior guard Andrayah Adams poured in 29 points, shooting 4-7 from three. Point guard Chrislyn Carr tallied 23 added and 11 assists.
Texas Tech’s senior presence in the post punished OU’s defense and created opportunities for the rest of the team.
The right team is entirely capable of succeeding in the absence of senior leadership. Men’s college basketball is often dominated by freshman-heavy rosters.
But for these Sooners, the veteran void is indicative of the constant struggle this season has been. OU finished the season on an eight-game losing streak dating back to Feb. 8.
“It's been a journey,” head coach Sherri Coale said. “There have been times where certain players have stepped forward and assumed the reins. There have been times where they've all looked around at each other like 'who's gonna save us now?' That's just one of the perils of being young.”
OU’s four leading scorers on Saturday share four years of Division I experience among them. Texas Tech’s four leading scorers combined for eight.
Of OU’s three juniors, Ana Llanusa has missed 10 games this year due to injury, Mandy Simpson averages 5.4 points per game and Ashlynn Dunbar is in her first season of college basketball.
The Sooners’ growth from last year has been well-documented, but inconsistent at times. OU’s win total jumped from eight to 12, but the real improvement has been between the buzzers. In their losing streak, the Sooners have been within striking distance of a win multiple times, as four of their losses have been by two possessions or less.
“The growth has been that we are consistently putting ourselves in a position to have a chance to win,” Coale said. “You have to do that before you can win. As tough as it is to swallow (the results), there is obvious, tangible progress.”
Making strides as individuals and as a unit is paramount to team success, and there is no denying that the Sooners have made strides in a number of areas.
For Coale, it's an even better gauge for growth than the wins and losses.
Only time will tell whether her young squad is destined for greatness or not. But time is ticking fast. If last season was a mulligan for Coale, this season has been an unhealthy dose of deja vu.
“We're better at blocking out, we're better at rebounding, we're better at defensive rotation,” Coale said. “There are so many things that we're better at. We're just not getting as many results as we want. And that's the next step.”