NORMAN, Okla. — Sherri Coale says she doesn’t need to remind players that this doesn’t happen very often around Oklahoma’s women’s basketball program.
“They know,” Coale said. “They know why they came here.”
OU lost five straight games in Coale’s second season as OU coach in 1998. That year, “Seinfeld” was still on television, Google had just been registered as a domain name and former President Bill Clinton was still in the White House.
The Sooners didn’t lose five consecutive games again until now, and they’ll try to avoid making it six when Central Arkansas visits Wednesday (7 p.m., Fox Sports Southwest Plus).
South Florida, UAB, Clemson, New Mexico and Auburn have all taken OU out during this stretch.
“We don’t want anyone to think for a second that we take this lightly. It hurts us, you know,” sophomore guard Shaina Pellington said. “We all worked hard during the summer. I know it hurts me for sure, but it’s having the mental toughness to know this is not going to be the end.”
The struggles are easy to pinpoint.
While averaging 79.7 points per game, OU leads the Big 12 in free-throw attempts (173) but is last in makes, shooting 54.3 percent. Those were precious missed opportunities in two of the five losses that came by fewer than five points.
The Sooners (2-5) are also committing a league-high 22.9 turnovers per game.
Both are byproducts of a young team that includes seven freshmen and two sophomores, who have committed 142 of OU’s 160 giveaways. Coale thinks players are battling mental overload.
As one of OU’s most experienced guards, sophomore Ana Llanusa’s absence is being felt. She was cleared to begin shooting this week following a recent foot surgery, and Coale hopes Llanusa can return by conference play.
Until then, converting at the line and taking care of the ball is vital.
“[The free-throw line] is really the only point in the game you get to stop for a second, so all that information is whirling around,” Coale said. “They’re going to get on top of that. Don’t know when, but it’ll happen. Once they get on top of that and are able to silence on that they’ll make free throw.
“The turnovers are very much unforced errors, so it’s either being tight or being in the previous play or the next play. You get overload.”
OU’s opponents are averaging nearly 10 3-pointers and are shooting 42 percent from the field. Both defensive figures rank last in the Big 12.
“We get a big score at New Mexico and we don’t sprint back in defensive transition. They get an immediate layup,” Coale said. “[Lapses] seem to come really critically. We’re doing some good things. Auburn made 13 3s. That’s the most they’ve ever made. Were a few of them open? Yeah. About 4-5 of them were hand-in-face.”
OU (2-5) hasn’t played at home since Nov. 15. It will host 20th-ranked DePaul on Sunday, in hopes that this losing streak will have ended by then. The Sooners haven’t tasted a victory in 20 days.
“We know it’s going to end,” Pellington said. “It’s just keeping in your mind this is not going to be our story the rest of the season, knowing this will end. Some of us struggle with that. We’re very hard on ourselves. We don’t take losses lightly.”
Time/Place: 7 p.m. | Lloyd Noble Center
Records/Rankings: OU (2-5); Central Arkansas (4-2)
OU starters: G 32 Tatum Veitenheimer (5-8, Fr./6.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg); G Shaina Pellington (5-7, So./16.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg); G 30 Taylor Robertson (5-7, Fr./19.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G/F 25 Madi Williams (6-0, Fr./13.6 ppg, 11.1 rpg); F 3 Mandy Simpson (6-1, So./7.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg).
UCA starters: G 2 Kamry Orr (5-6, Sr./12.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg); F 11 Mekaylan Hicks (6-0, So./6.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg); G 21 Shay Johnson (5-5, Fr./5.3 ppg, 2.7 apg); G 24 Alanie Fisher (5-8, Sr./7.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg); C 33 Alexysa Thomas (6-3, R-Jr./3.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: KREF-AM 99.3 FM/1400 am