Strong start propels Sooners past Frogs

OU guard Gabbi Ortiz drives down the court Saturday against TCU at Lloyd Noble Center.

Did Oklahoma get well?

For at least 20 minutes, quite.

For a half, other than some careless passing, the Sooners could do little wrong, taking their first 20-point advantage just 11:21 into the game on the way to a 77–54 victory over TCU.

After that, well …

“I thought we competed, we played together and we played with joy, I liked everything about it,” Sooner coach Sherri Coale said. “The second half we were affected by the zone and we’re going to work on that.”

OU shot 58.8 percent (20 of 34) in the first half, assisted on 12 of 20 field goals and outrebounded the Horned Frogs 24 to 10.

Meanwhile, some combination of strong defense and their own offensive effectiveness that served to rattle TCU had the Frogs shooting less than 40 percent from the field.

“It was about having the right mindset and that’s the next thing that this young team is trying to build,” Coale said. “We’re trying to build that hard mindset offensively. It’s that ‘You can’t guard me’ mentality from all five players on the floor.”

TCU coach Reagan Pebley thought her squad did itself no favors.

“We have not been taking care of the beginning of games very well,” she said. “We just got done challenging our starting five very strongly, talking about productivity and producing.”

After the half, OU didn’t score — and therefore, the fans didn’t sit down in their seats — until 15:45 remained, when Peyton Little knocked down a 3-pointer that built the lead back to 45-29.

Little was very nearly the only thing working offensively for OU in the second half.

While the team scored 32 post-intermission points, she had 14 of them on the way to a game-high 21. Her ice-breaking post-intermission trifecta was one of a career-high-tying five 3-pointers she hit in nine tries, identically matching her long-distance accuracy against Baylor three days earlier.

“She was shooting lights out … I told her she was picking up my misses,” freshman point guard Gabbi Ortiz said. “We were confident in her and she was shooting the ball.”

After Little came Kaylon Williams, who scored just four points after the half, but still finished with 14 and 11 rebounds. She added two assists and two steals against four turnovers, but the statistic that pleased her most was a single personal foul, a moving pick whistle in the first half.

“I think the biggest thing and the most important thing (Coale) has told me is to not focus on not fouling, because when you do that, you kind of put yourself in position to commit a foul,” she said. “Taking it possession by possession was really important.”

The Frogs were led by Natalie Ventress’ 14 points and Chelsea Prince’s nine points and seven rebounds.

The victory moved OU to 16-8 overall and 10-3 in the conference. TCU fell to 6-7 and 14-10.

The Sooners, who appear to have second place in the conference locked up, will seek another victory at Iowa State Tuesday, hoping to approach a complete game in Ames.

“We didn’t have a snarl on our face (in the second half) like we did when the game started,” Coale said. “And now we gotta figure out how to do that.”

Need to know

The Oklahoma women are going to finish second in the Big 12 Conference regular-season standings. Now 16-8 overall and 10-3 in the league, no team chasing the Sooners is any closer than three games back. Also, OU could well win four of its five remaining games, though the second toughest on the slate comes Tuesday, at Iowa State. The rest of the schedule is as follows: at Kansas State, Baylor, Kansas and at Oklahoma State.

Notable

Little playing big: Peyton Little led the Sooners with 21 points, including 14 of OU’s 32 second-half points. Little’s 3-pointer more than four minutes into the second half was OU’s first post-intermission basket. Three more 3-pointers followed before the game was over and each seemed to come at times the Sooners were struggling to score. All of it marks the continuation of an offensive surge from Little, who has now scored 16, 15, 18, 19, 22 and 21 points in her last six outings.

From weakness to strength: Entering conference play, the Sooners were one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the nation, hitting 61.7 percent (137 of 222). Now 13 games into the conference season, the Sooners have hit 75.3 percent (198 of 263) against Big 12 opponents, yet that’s only part of the story. Beginning with a double-overtime loss at Texas, a game in which free throws were not the problem, the Sooners have canned 80.5 percent (74 of 92) over their last six games. Saturday, they made 8 of 9.

Tip-ins

Sooner coach Sherri Coale played 12 players at least seven minutes. Each of those 12 players saw action in the first half … OU’s 42-33 rebounding advantage was built on a 24-10 first-half board advantage … Peyton Little and Kaylon Williams, scoring 21 and 14 points, were the only Sooners in double figures. The Sooners only had two in double figures three days earlier at Baylor when Little and Ortiz scored 22 and 16 … Williams’ 14 points and 11 rebounds represented her fourth double-double of the season … T’ona Edwards only played 13 minutes, but led OU with four assists. OU’s 22 assists were a conference-season high. The Sooners only registered more helpers against Lamar (28) and Bradley (25) the second and third games of the season.

— Clay Horning

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