Sooners have been here before and won

Oklahoma's Shaya Kellogg (22) and Nancy Mulkey high-five assistant coach Jan Ross before their first round NCAA tournament game against Gonzaga. The Sooners beat Gonzaga Saturday and tonight face Washington at Alaska Airlines Arena, the same building in which it beat the Huskies last season.

SEATTLE — Washington is ranked 11 spots higher than Oklahoma, seeded three spots higher in the Oklahoma City Regional and has lost four fewer games.

Still, for all of that, it has to be the only team in the women’s NCAA tournament that, to reach the Sweet 16, must beat a team that beat it on the very same floor only last season.

The eighth game of the 2015-16 campaign, with very similar personnel, Oklahoma beat Washington 71-68.

Beating the Huskies beginning at 8 tonight inside Alaska Airlines Arena would be quite the upset. Also, it’s nothing every Sooner but freshmen Chelsea Dungee and Nancy Mulkey haven’t done already.

Sunday, more than 30 hours before the tip, nobody wanted to say it gave OU (23-9) any kind of an advantage.

“It doesn’t really matter what you have done, it is what you are going to do in the 40 minutes Monday,” OU coach Sherri Coale said.

However, without breaking stride, Coale at least admitted a fondness for the architecture.

“We love this gym. We love practicing in this gym. It is a shooter’s gym,” she said. “It has great site lines, and you can see really well in it. There are no depth perception issues. It’s just a shooter’s gym with soft rims.”

Any memories for the Huskies?

“I don’t remember,” said senior forward Chantel Osahor, who averages 15.8 points and a nation’s best 15.8 rebounds.

At least her coach did.

“It was two great teams early in the year heading into conference,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said.”It was a really good game.”

He went on to say that it was game the Huskies (28-5) harkened back to throughout the season, reminding themselves not to give away opportunities and not to waste possessions. 

Sooner players did not go deep on the subject, though Maddie Manning, similar to Coale, talked about the site.

“We have two games in this gym under our belt now, so there’s a comfort zone going into it,” she said. “We stayed for half of their game [Saturday night], so seeing the fans and how packed it was for their game, I think that’s going to be a benefit to us.”

Last season, it was 1,500 and change to watch the Sooners and Huskies. Saturday, as Washington topped Montana State 91-63, more than 8,000 were watching.

Still, nobody wanted to talk about last season. Nobody wanted to talk about how All-American Kelsey Plum, averaging a nation’s best 31.6 points this season, scored 30, yet more than half of it came during a furious fourth quarter.

Nor did anybody mention how OU scored the game’s last eight points to pull out the victory, how Manning played one of her best games — 5 of 8 shooting, 3 of 4 from 3-point land, 15 points, five rebounds — or how the smallest player on the court, T’Ona Edwards, hit the game winning shot.

“It’s a new year, new team, everyone’s different and we’re doing to build off last night,” OU point guard Gabbi Ortiz said, referencing the Sooners’ 75-62 Saturday victory over Gonzaga. “We know what we want to do … Washington is an extremely talented team.

“They’re experienced and they have a lot of threats, but we are going to focus on ourselves and what we can do.”

Washington was a pretty good team last year, too. It entered the NCAA tournament 22-10, yet finished four victories and a loss later in the Final Four.

The Sooners, meanwhile, are trying to go back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013. Only once before during Coale’s tenure, from 2003-05, has OU gone three seasons without getting there.

Tonight, OU meets Washington looking and sounding like a confident team.

There could be many reasons for that. One of them might be the fact the Sooners beat the Huskies on the same floor last season.

Even if nobody says so.

Clay Horning


Follow me @clayhorning

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