By CLAY HORNING
NORMAN — The surprise team in the Big 12 Conference is the Texas women and for Longhorn fans there’s nothing pleasant about it.
Oklahoma’s job Saturday afternoon at Lloyd Noble Center was making certain Texas didn’t find itself in time to land an upset.
The Sooners sputtered for a while but locked up a 69-56 victory with a strong second half that kept the Longhorns winless in league play.
Coming off its worst shooting night of the season OU hit 9 of 14 from the floor to begin the second half, including 4 of 5 3-point attempts, pushing its lead out to 19 points. Texas was never any closer than the final margin.
Though OU didn’t shoot very well most of the game — 23 of 58; 39.7 percent — that flurry was the difference.
“It was all about tempo,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “The first half we had eight opportunities to run. Eight … The start of the second half we had some opportunities and we found our rhythm and gained our confidence.”
The Sooners scored on seven of eight possessions to begin the second half, getting 3-pointers from Aaryn Ellenberg and Morgan Hook along the way. That turned a six-point game into a 48-34 advantage.
Another stretch saw the Sooners convert on three of four trips, including 3-pointers from Sharane Campbell and Joanna McFarland, making the score 56-37.
“In transition it was easy to confuse them and run,” Hook said. “(Joanna), I think, outran their post every time … It was transition and tempo that got us going.”
Style aside, what the Sooners got four days after falling by 21 points at Iowa State, Tuesday, was three solid games from their three most important players.
Ellenberg hit 8 of 13 from the field and 3 of 6 from 3-point land to finish with 22 points. Hook only made of 1 of 8 shots but led the Sooners with seven rebounds and nine assists. McFarland stayed out of foul trouble, played 36 minutes and canned 5 of 7 shots, two of them 3-pointers, on the way to 15 points.
“We had to have some sort of resolve,” Ellenberg said. “Getting beat at Iowa State and getting killed on the boards was not the ideal situation. We really had to make a statement for ourselves.”
Texas’ terrible struggles continued.
The Longhorns turned the ball over 23 times to OU’s 17 and got almost nothing on the inside from their frontcourt of Nneka Ememkpali and Imani McGee-Stafford.
The duo had a size and athleticism advantage over Sooner center Nicole Griffin and McFarland, yet combined to make just 3 of 11 shots, score nine points and grab 10 rebounds.
A few late garbage-time rebounds gave Texas a 41-39 edge on the boards, but that was a figure Coale, who had focused on rebounding in practice, could handle.
“We had to change the tide and I thought we did,” she said.
Texas’ Chassidy Fussell led both teams with 21 points and nine rebounds, but OU made sure she had little help.
Texas finished shooting 38.6 percent (22 of 57), but nobody joined Fussell in double figures. Gigi Mazionyte was closest, adding nine points.
Coale said the victory might not have been pretty, but the Sooners would take it.
“The only way we wanted to respond,” McFarland said, “was having a lot of energy and fight.”