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OU basketball: Skylar Vann, Liz Scott, Kennedy Tucker rise to occasion, help shorthanded Sooners top Wichita State

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Skylar Vann

Sophomore forward Skylar Vann looks to pass during the game against ECU on Dec. 7.

Oklahoma came into its game against Wichita State shorthanded, missing two of its key starters.

Senior guard Ana Llanusa and senior forward Madi Williams — OU’s leading scorers this season — were out due to injury , and head coach Jennie Baranczyk was forced to run with an inexperienced lineup.

The new starters, sophomore guard Skylar Vann, junior guard Kennady Tucker and junior forward Liz Scott, contributed greatly to OU’s (11-1) 89-67 win over the Shockers (9-4) on Wednesday evening in Norman. The three combined for 45 points, with Vann’s 21 leading all Sooners. Scott led OU with 12 rebounds and Tucker scored 12 points on 50 percent shooting, going 2-for-3 from 3-point range.

Regular starters like guards Taylor Robertson and Kelbie Washington also performed well, with Robertson scoring 19 points on 50 percent shooting and Washington leading OU with a career-high 13 assists. Consistency from regulars mingled with role players stepping up culminated in a dominant victory for the Sooners.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the balance and scoring energy that we played with.” Baranczyk said after the game. “I thought Liz Scott… took a whole new jump today. I think Kelbie Washington really grew today. She just had to be steady for us and had to keep playing. (Freshmen) Kaley Perkins, Brianna White and Emma Svoboda also continue to get better.”

In the absence of OU’s stars, players that normally wouldn’t get a chance under normal circumstances got an opportunity. Those opportunities came for players like Perkins, who played 25 minutes against the Shockers, more  than she had garnered in her previous six games combined. She put in a good outing with six points, five rebounds and three assists, with both of her baskets being 3-pointers.

Wednesday’s game also gave players like Vann a chance to break out. The Edmond native hadn’t been in the starting lineup before, but made the most of her first start with her team-leading 21 points. She also recorded eight rebounds and three assists, the former of which was second-most among Sooners.

“Who knows,” said Baranczyk when asked if Vann could earn a permanent starting spot in the future. “To me, I don’t think it matters who starts. It matters who’s in the game. We constantly sub, it makes the whole thing look different.

“For Skylar, she can play inside and she can play outside. She has those skill sets already. Within the system, she can play well. I don’t really care who starts. I just want us to keep playing and getting better.”

Vann echoed that, not wanting to  let a personal goal of being a starter distract her from the team’s aspirations.

“It just comes down to grit… and playing our game,” Vann said. “We just need to have fun… and create for each other. That’s the best thing we can do.”

Oklahoma is on an eight-game winning streak. Its only loss so far was against Oregon, who was ranked No. 9 at the time, on Nov. 20. Entering Wednesday’s game, the Sooners narrowly missed out a spot in the Associated Press Top 25 for the second straight week.

As they prepare for Big 12 Conference play on Sunday, Jan. 2 against Texas Tech (9-4) in Lubbock, the Sooners want to do what they’ve always done this season — focus on themselves.

“I am just really proud of the team,” Baranczyk said. “Every game and every day, we continue to enjoy it more. To me, that’s the mark of great teams.”

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