NORMAN — Making it to the Final Four last year, No. 5 Louisville learned one important lesson. No matter the situation, nothing is impossible.
So when they found themselves down by 15 points to No. 11 Oklahoma, the Cardinals didn’t panic. They just kept on playing Louisville basketball. That was enough for them to storm back and earn a hard fought 97-92 overtime win over the Sooners on Sunday in the Preseason WNIT Championship game.
“I think we are very experienced team.” Louisville’s Sara Hammond said. “We are veterans. Coach kept telling us don’t panic. We had confidence we were going to get stops on defense and get back in this game. And you saw it on the court.”
In the extra period, Louisville jumped out to a 95-87 lead with 1:39 left on the clock. Morgan Hook hit two free throws and got the Sooner to within six points.
Aaryn Ellenberg hit her third 3-pointer of the afternoon closed the deficit to 95-92. The Cardinals (4-0) then turned it over on the inbounds pass with 25 seconds on the clock.
The Sooners got the ball to Hook, who’s 3-point attempt was off the mark. OU got the rebound and it was Ellenberg’s turn. But her shot also fell short and that ended the Sooners upset bid.
“I am really proud of our team,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “What a great basketball game. What a great showcase for women’s college basketball. I think everybody here was entertained and everybody who watched at home was entertained as well.”
Ellenberg paced the Sooners (3-1) with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Sharene Campbell added 19 points, five rebounds and three steals in the loss.
Tia Gibbs scored 23 points and had nine rebounds to lead Louisville. Shoni Schimmel scored 16 points while Asia Taylor had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Hammond, the tournament MVP, posted 13 points and seven rebounds.
“It’s an honor, any individual award you get,” Hammond said. “But this is a team MVP type thing. Each game, someone stepped up big time throughout the tournament.”
After falling behind 17-2 Tia Gibbs led the Cardinals back into the game. They closed to within 35-34 with 4:25 left in the first half. Louisville did it by pounding the glass and the getting second chance points. But it was a 3-pointer by Shoni Williams that gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game at 40-39.
In the final 13 minutes of the first half, Louisville outscored Oklahoma 46-26 and took a 48-43 halftime advantage.
Ellenberg had a chance to end the game in regulation when she drove the court and had an open layup attempt. But the senior was unable to put it down as the buzzer sounded and the game went into OT.
“It’s a top 15 battle.” Hammond said. “And of course, we are here on Oklahoma court. They are very good at home. These are the games you love. This is why people come to pay their money to watch us. We didn’t want it to go to overtime, but I am glad people got their money’s worth with a game like this.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth firstname.lastname@example.org