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OU basketball: Sooners await NCAA tournament fate after crushing loss to Oklahoma State

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Madi Williams

Junior forward Madi Williams shoots over Oklahoma State's Kassidy De Lapp during the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals March 12.

OU head coach Sherri Coale was near tears Friday night, knowing her team had possibly played its last game of the season.

Ahead 38-23 in the second half, it looked like the Sooners were on their way to victory. Instead, rival Oklahoma State scored 28 points in the third quarter to make it an eight point game before forcing overtime and outscoring OU 18-9 in the period.

The Sooners (12-12, 9-9 Big 12) lost to Oklahoma State (18-7, 14-5), 89-80, in overtime in the Big 12 Championship tournament quarterfinals on Friday night in Kansas City, potentially ending their season. Junior guard Taylor Robertson had 24 points with six 3-pointers, junior forward Madi Williams had 22 points and eight rebounds and sophomore guard Gabby Gregory added 14 points. OU shot 18.2 percent from the field in OT compared to 43.4 percent in regulation.

Oklahoma State guard Ja’Mee Asberry led all players with 28 points including 10 in OT. The Sooners also struggled to handle the Cowgirls’ post players as they were out-rebounded 50-38.

“I felt like at the end of regulation that we could really get rolling,” Coale said. “But, unfortunately, Ja’Mee Asbury was the one that was rolling. The bigs were just a problem for us.”

Despite the loss, OU finished the regular season strong, winning six of its last nine games heading into the conference tournament. But the question is whether that’ll be enough for the Sooners to land an NCAA tournament bid.

“What they’ve done this year has been nothing short of remarkable,” Coale said. “The stoppages in play … the perseverance that they have shown. … This team individually and collectively got the spoils of giving all you’ve got, throwing your heart and soul into the ring and doing the best you can with the hand you’ve been dealt.

OU battled through a tough year, not just on the basketball court, but also because of COVID-19. The Sooners had a total of seven games postponed or canceled during the 2020-21 season. They also had three players opt out of the season and lost guard Ana Lllanusa and forward Liz Scott to injury and forward Heavenly Greer to academic eligibility. Oklahoma played most of its season with just seven players and also competed in four games with just six.

The Sooners currently stand as one of the last four teams out of the tournament in the latest ESPN Bracketology predictions. Coale knows the committee has a tough decision to make, but thinks her team deserves a shot because of the way it fought down the stretch, and additional leniency due to COVID-19.

“I feel like getting to the NCAA tournament has become so formulaic,” Coale said. “Coaches schedule to it, and this committee gets together and has all these rules to follow … as humans we tend to want to build all these boxes that things fit in so that we take away any discretion or any discrepancies, and I think this year more than ever the committee has room for feel.”

Now, Oklahoma will wait to see if it gets selected to play in the tournament during the selection show. Its fate will be decided at 6 p.m. CT on Monday, March 15 on ESPN.

“I’m an optimist,” Coale said. “You can’t tell me we’re not one of the best 64 teams in the country.”

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