Around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 2, Jennie Baranczyk received a text.
She and the Sooners were preparing to drive 20 miles north to Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City from Norman. There, OU had a scheduled 1:30 p.m. flight for Waco. With just six hours remaining until she had to lead No. 18 Oklahoma against No. 9 Baylor, snow and ice were beginning to pound the area.
The text Baranczyk opened delivered the worst news she could’ve received.
“They sent us a message saying we couldn’t fly out,” Baranczyk said. “I said, ‘What do you mean we can’t fly out?’ and they just told us that we wouldn’t be flying out.”
It was another setback in OU’s frostbitten trip to Central Texas. The Sooners had made plans days in advance to fly out of Max Westheimer Airport in Norman on Tuesday to battle the Bears. The Sooners, who with a win could sweep the season series with Baylor for the first time since the 2009-10 season, saw their chances of playing dwindling by the minute.
After that flight was delayed to Wednesday, it was canceled entirely due to an icy runway. A bus was arranged to take the Sooners to Oklahoma City, where their new flight was scheduled.
When that flight got canceled, OU’s travel options were slim. Director of basketball operations Shannon Gage spent the next hour trying to contact nearby airports before realizing they would have to drive. Kincaid bus driver Kevin Kingsbury, who declined an interview with The Daily on Friday, agreed to stick with the Sooners through the winter storm.
“We asked the bus driver that was going to take us to Oklahoma City to take us to Waco instead,” said Baranczyk. “And he did. He didn’t have to, and he was not prepared to, but we all jumped on the bus.”
Suddenly, OU’s travel time to Waco quadrupled. A one-hour flight turned into a four-hour bus ride. Players grabbed as many snacks as they could in 15 minutes before starting the 290-mile journey south into the heart of Texas.
Tip-off at the Ferrell Center was originally set for 7 p.m., but was pushed back to 7:30 p.m. due to snow in Waco. With the extra time, the Sooners were set to arrive at around 6:30 p.m., giving them an hour for pre-game preparations.
And then, OU hit rush hour.
As they approached the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex on Interstate 35, the Sooners were stuck in traffic. After an hour of little movement, OU finally got through, but its journey had lengthened. It was clear the Sooners weren’t going to make it in time, so tip-off was delayed 15 minutes more to 7:45 p.m.
“It took us about five-and-a-half, maybe six hours to get (to Waco),” Baranczyk said of OU’s journey from Norman. “We had to sit (in traffic) for a while trying to find alternate routes. It was pretty crazy.”
When the Sooners finally got to the Ferrell Center at 7:15 p.m., they had just 30 minutes to change, warm-up and take the floor. One by one, each OU player took turns in the bus restroom changing into uniform. Bags were unpacked, ankles were taped, meals were eaten and stretches were performed inside the bus.
It was an unorthodox way to prepare for any opponent, much less a top-10 team in Baylor. Alas, the Sooners were allotted a 15-minute shootaround while Baranczyk remained on the bus for her pre-game interview.
Despite the adversity, OU beat the Bears, garnering its second top-10 win this season and the long-awaited sweep. A go-ahead basket from junior forward Liz Scott with 5.6 seconds left gave the Sooners a 77-76 victory.
“It was a crazy day, and we got a crazy win,” senior guard Taylor Robertson said postgame. “It was really fun, though. We got to be together all day, and we came in and played as a team. It was cool.”
After the game, OU celebrated in the very locker room it couldn’t use earlier, but the challenge of returning to Norman still awaited.
For the duration of the game and OU’s trip to Baylor, snow continued to fall, clogging up the path home. Instead of going back to Norman, Oklahoma opted to find a hotel in Fort Worth after the win because of the difficult trip ahead.
On the ride home the next morning, a car accident in Pauls Valley, just 40 miles south of Norman, halted the OU bus. The Sooners were stuck for about two-and-a-half hours in a snowstorm, and spent that time making the best of it.
“I got to listen to our team do some TikTok videos and listen to some music,” Baranczyk said. “(OU radio host Chris Plank) was with us, and he was live on his radio show with us during all of that.”
Despite challenges before, during and after the game, the Sooners rose above. A wild journey ended with a statement win as OU continued pushing for its first Big 12 title since 2009.
“Everybody handled it really well,” Baranczyk said. “We had those moments where we’re mad, we’re angry, we don’t understand. But, when you’re sitting on a bus, there’s nothing you can do. You just got to … keep relying on what you do.
“That was it. Let’s just be us and let’s keep going.”