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OU basketball: Sooners guard Nevaeh Tot providing 'incredible spark' off bench early in Big 12 play

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Nevaeh Tot

Sophomore guard Nevaeh Tot shoots the ball during the game against ECU on Dec. 7.

When Nevaeh Tot arrived at Oklahoma in 2020, she was immediately thrown into the fire. Due to opt-outs and injuries, the six-deep Sooners had to start the then-freshman 21 times, and she averaged 31.5 minutes per game.

Now, with the season-ending injury to senior guard Ana Llanusa and the absences of junior guard Gabby Gregory due to injury and COVID-19, OU has had to turn to Tot again. Thus far into the 2021-22 season, she’s making her mark as the second team point guard.

Tot only averaged 20.7 minutes in her first nine games this season, but the sophomore has averaged 28.3 minutes in her last six games and is coming off one of her best performances this season. Against No. 14 Baylor on Jan. 12, she scored a season-high 11 points, adding four rebounds and assists. With games like that, Tot is making herself more vital as Baranczyk relies on her to give the Sooners a mid-game spark.

“Nevaeh’s special,” Baranczyk said Friday. “She’s gotten better and better as the games have gone on. I love having her… come in and change the game. (She) provides such an incredible spark.”

Baranczyk mentioned Tot’s versatile shooting and defensive grittiness as two elements  the McKinney, Texas native provides each game. Her 3-point shooting has particularly improved, as Tot has gone 7-for-16 from 3-point range in her last six games after going 1-for-16 in her first nine. That defensive prowess has shown throughout the season, with Tot recording a steal in all but three of OU’s games.

Bench players like Tot and sophomore forward Skylar Vann, who scored a career-high 22 points against Baylor, have a key role in Baranczyk’s system. The Sooners’ coach expects the dynamic of a game to shift once a substitution is made and her players are making good on that.

“When I come into a game, I want to change the pace of it,” Tot said. “I like when I can do that. I want to get my teammates open, and that opens the door for me to score as well.”

Tot strives to make her impact felt, and her teammates have definitely taken notice.

“It’s a huge momentum shift whenever (Tot) comes in,” said senior guard Taylor Robertson. “(She) brings so much energy when she comes into the game and does so many good things that help our team out so much.

In her past two games, Tot recorded the second-highest and highest minute total for her season. She played 32 minutes against the Bears and 29 against Kansas on Jan. 8, a game where she led OU with eight assists. She’s contributing as much, if not more than she did as a freshman, but doesn’t seem phased by it with more games now under her belt.

The No. 23 Sooners (14-2, 3-1 Big 12), who’ve surged to second in the Big 12 standings, will next face TCU (5-7, 1-2) at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15 in Norman.

With her increased playing time, perhaps Tot could garner a starting appearance against the Horned Frogs, but even if not, she’ll continue an incredibly important bench role for the Sooners.

“Do I think she’s deserved to start? Yeah,” Baranczyk said. “From our management standpoint, we play a lot of players a lot of minutes. I love when we play teams like Baylor and (Tot) has a lot of points off the bench, it’s pretty impressive.

“She can really come in and shift the game. We value that as much as starting.”

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