For the first time since March 7, the Oklahoma Sooners strutted onto the Lloyd Noble Center court to open the 2020–21 season, but fell short of the Houston Cougars, 97-85.
In the first half, the Sooners were matching Houston, as they approached halftime only trailing 46-44. Both teams were plagued by numerous fouls that kept the game close. The Sooners went 32-of-39 and the Cougars went 19-of-28 from the free-throw line.
After halftime, the Cougars began to build momentum and a double-digit edge over the Sooners. From junior forward Madi Williams’ two-pointers to junior guard Taylor Robertson’s deep-3s, the Cougars immediately responded nearly every time Oklahoma scored. On defense, Houston slowed OU’s momentum and maintained its lead going into the final period.
In the fourth quarter, the Cougars remained in control, but that didn’t discourage the Sooners. Williams — OU’s leading scorer with 25 points — continued to be a threat to Houston’s defense, and the Sooners sustained their success at the free-throw line. They ended the game shooting 82.1 percent from the stripe.
The Cougars had three players put up double-digits against the Sooners’ defense, and feasted off 21 Oklahoma turnovers. OU couldn’t complete a comeback, shooting only 41.7 percent from the floor in the contest. Houston capitalized on the Sooners’ errors and coronavirus-related short-handedness and walked away with the win.
“We were affected by their physicality, their size, and their speed,” OU head coach Sherri Coale said after the game. “And we knew that that was a very real possibility because we have zero way of replicating that in practice every day, when you look at the opt-outs and we are down to nine players.”
Despite the loss, there were many positive takeaways for the Sooners, such as Williams’ improved offensive talent, the team's promising free-throw shooting, Robertson’s continued 3-point prowess and the team chemistry that strengthened throughout the course of the game.
Though weaknesses were exposed, Coale remains hopeful and confident in the players she has, and believes the team will be successful if they perform in games like they do beforehand.
“There is not one thing that occurred that we can’t take care of,” Coale said. “I think for this team, the biggest thing is transferring what they do in practice to the game floor.”
The Sooners will be back on the court to face Gonzaga in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic at 5 p.m. Saturday. The game will be broadcasted on FloHoops.