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OU basketball: 5 takeaways from Sooners 108-64 season-ending loss to Notre Dame in NCAA Tournament 2nd round

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Taylor Robertson

Senior guard Taylor Robertson waves goodbye after the Sooners' game in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Notre Dame on March 21.

No. 4-seeded Oklahoma (25-9) fell to No. 5-seeded Notre Dame (24-8) in dominating fashion, as the Irish cruised to a 108-64 victory over the Sooners on Monday in Norman during the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“I think we've had incredible moments of learning this year that's going to propel us into an offseason,” head coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “I'm still really proud of these women, and I'm really proud that I get to coach them.”

The Sooners were led by senior guard Taylor Robertson, who tallied 19 points and three 3-pointers. For the Irish, senior guard Dara Mabrey erupted for 29 points, six rebounds and three assists. She finished the night 7-of-12 from behind the 3-point line.

Here are five final takeaways from OU’s season-ending loss:

Huge hole dooms Sooners

The Sooners started their second round matchup with Notre Dame in the worst possible way. OU struggled to make shots, but more importantly, the Sooners couldn’t take care of the ball.

“I don't know, I feel like maybe we just weren't as locked in together,” said senior forward Madi Williams. “I feel like we probably were locked in individually, but as a team we couldn't figure it out.”

OU ended the first quarter with seven total turnovers compared to Notre Dame’s one. The Sooners shot just 5-of-19 in the opening frame. When Notre Dame started to heat up from 3-point range, Oklahoma rolled over.

Mabrey drilled five of Notre Dame’s six 3-pointers, as the Irish shot 60 percent from deep. Notre Dame ended the first quarter on a 30-4 run, pitting the Sooners in a 35-12 deficit at the end of the first.

Offensive struggles abound

The Sooners’ cold start in the first quarter continued the rest of the game, turning into an all-around off night offensively.

“In the first half it felt like we had a lot of easy opportunities that we just missed, and that happens,”  Robertson said. “You've got to be able to play through it. There were a lot of chances around the rim and maybe it was their length that caused that, but some of them were open and we usually do hit those. I think that was part of it.”

As a team, Oklahoma averaged 83.2 points per game throughout the season. The Sooners totaled just 63 points, 20 below the season average.

Two of the biggest reasons the Sooners struggled to score the ball were turnovers and 3-point shooting. OU finished the night with 27 turnovers and shot just 6-of-21 from behind the 3-point line.

Big performances

The Sooners gave up another huge performance Monday night. That added to the trend seen throughout the season of OU giving up career nights to an opposing player.

Oklahoma previously gave up an NCAA record 61 points to Ayoka Lee of Kansas State on Jan. 23, followed by a 29-point and eight rebound performance from Iowa State’s Ashley Joens on Feb. 19. Most recently, OU allowed Baylor’s  NaLyssa Smith and Baylor to explode for 37 points and 11 rebounds on March 12. The Sooners lost all three games.

Mabrey, who averages just 9.8 points per game on the season, exploded for 17 points in the first quarter. She alone outscored the Sooners 17-12 in the period.

Even after the opening frame, Oklahoma had no answer for Mabrey. She finished the evening shooting 11-of-19 from the floor.

Veterans returning holds promise

While the Sooners season came to an end, they return a good amount of firepower from the current team for next season. In the postgame press conference, Williams and Robertson confirmed  they  both intend to return, bringing back a massive portion of OU’s scoring.

“This season is definitely something to build from,” Robertson said. “We did a lot of really great things this year, and now we know some things that we need to be better at or we can work on in the offseason. I think it was a good year, and it was really fun, and I can't wait to get back on the court next year.”

The only senior who won’t be returning for the Sooners is forward Nydia Lampkin. With Oklahoma returning virtually every player on the roster, next season is looking up.

Building the foundation

Despite OU’s blowout loss to Notre Dame, it was still a successful season for the Sooners. Oklahoma won its first tournament game since 2016-17 after consecutive years of missing the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners also won a Big 12 Tournament game.

“This program is going to go places,”  Baranczyk said. “I know a lot of people are keeping an eye on us and our fans are continuing to be so invested. Even in a game like this, they stay. They didn't have to stay at the end. They could have left, but they stayed.”

Baranczyk has ignited a newfound energy in the program and there’s a good amount to build off  after year one.

The loss to Notre Dame marks the end of the road for the Sooners. In Baranczyk’s first year helming OU, her squad finished the 2021-22 season with the program’s first tournament win since the 2016-17 season, but couldn’t replicate it thereafter.

“I think if we can learn some of this stuff,” Baranczyk said, “our program is going to go up a little bit faster than maybe we thought.

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