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OU women's basketball: Sooners slowed by absence of 3 starters in loss to Jayhawks

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Gabby Gregory

Freshman Guard Gabby Gregory looks for a pass against Kansas on Feb. 26.

As late as Wednesday, the Sooners were notified that COVID-19 contact tracing was going to hold starting forward Mandy Simpson, starting point guard Tatum Veitenheimer and starting forward and leading scorer Madi Williams from traveling to Lawrence, Kansas.

Overall, the Sooners had six players available for their conference opener at Kansas, three of whom were freshmen. Despite that setback, the Sooners still traveled to Lawrence and were in close contention with the Jayhawks for the majority of the game. But in their third game of the season, the Sooners (0-3, 0-1 Big 12) fell short of picking up their first win, ultimately losing to Kansas (4-1, 1-0 Big 12), 74-64.

“There was a lot of good stuff to take away (from that game),” OU head coach Sherri Coale said afterward. “Offensively, our IQ is developing. They are learning how to look for each other, move off penetration, and read defenders off of screens. The defensive breakdowns, I was completely prepared for and not surprised by. We’ll get better because of that experience.”

In the first quarter, both squads had slow starts, as they ended the quarter tied 14-14. Both offenses were struggling to formulate scoring drives or turnovers, and both defenses were able to capitalize on the offensive struggles by slowing each other down.

The momentum began to increase in the Sooners’ favor as sophomore guard Gabby Gregory scored seven of Oklahoma’s 13 points in the second quarter, which led the Sooners to holding a one point advantage heading into halftime. Gregory made up for the absence of key players by leading the team with 22 points.

The evenly-matched battle became even more intense in the third quarter, as the Jayhawks got fired up about two fouls that benefited the Sooners, and both teams exchanged the lead. The Jayhawks got on top on the last play of the third quarter with a 3-point jumper made by junior guard Brooklyn Mitchell, giving them a one point lead going into the final quarter.

Despite Oklahoma keeping the matchup in contention, Kansas strengthened its lead and ended the game with a win. But throughout the game, the Sooners were able to gauge their skills and struggles in a way that will be beneficial to their preparation for and performance against the Texas State Bobcats this coming weekend.

Regardless of the score posted on the scoreboard in Allen Fieldhouse when the buzzer sounded, Coale and her squad counted the contest as a victory for their growth and determination.

“In a million ways, we won,” Coale said. “We didn’t win the final score. It will go down as a loss on our record, but we won in every other imaginable category. Not only did we have six players (but) we left three starters at home. The growth was exponential and I couldn’t be more proud. (It was an) unbelievable effort.”

The Sooners will look ahead to hosting Texas State at 2 p.m. CT this Sunday, Dec. 13 at the Lloyd Noble Center.

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