By CLAY HORNING
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma women may have suffered their worst two offensive stretches of the season in the same game in their 74-59 season-ending NCAA tournament Sweet 16 loss to Tennessee Sunday afternoon at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
In both halves, the Sooners suffered 1-for-17 streaks of futile offensive trips down the court. The first one led to a 16-13 Tennessee lead becoming a 36-16 Tennessee lead. The second one led to a 44-31 Tennessee lead becoming a 59-34 Tennessee lead.
Still, the Sooners closed the game two points closer to the Lady Vols than they were at the half despite those stretches.
Reserve guard Nicole Kornet took pride in the way her team fought, while also allowing the world in on one of the messages offered to the Sooners coming out of a late-in-the-game timeout.
“Coach, after a timeout, just told us, ‘Don’t give up; there are all these awesome people behind you, we just have to give them something.”
OU coach Sherri Coale was at least partially referring to the large crowd composed mostly of Sooner fans. Here team was completely out of the game, but there was still time to reward the partisans who paid their way into the building hoping to see the Sooners reach the Elite Eight.
Sooner senior forward Joanna McFarland, who averaged 17.3 points and 16.3 rebounds over her three NCAA tournament games, was able to enjoy the atmosphere provided by coming home for the Sweet 16, even on a day the season ended.
“It was amazing, just running out on the court and hearing people scream and yell for us. That was really awesome,” she said. “I think just coming home and playing my last game, our last game, of the season at home was really special and it’s something to cherish.”
OU had to come on strong just to finish the game shooting 30.7 percent (23 of 75) from the field, while Tennessee shot near 80 percent the first 10 minutes and finished shooting 43.3 percent (29 of 67). Otherwise, the numbers were a reversal from OU’s previous NCAA tournament games. The Sooners outrebounded Tennessee 50 to 47 and led 22 to 14 on the offensive glass. Still, there was no making up for poor shooting, like OU’s 5-of-29 clip from 3-point land. Not one Sooner made half of her shots. Sharane Campbell was closest, making 7 of 17.
Hartman goes long
With Morgan Hook out with concussion-like symptoms after taking a knee to the head 9 minutes into the game, reserve senior guard Jasmine Hartman logged 36 minutes of court time. She finished 1 for 3 from the field, grabbed eight rebounds and dished two assists against three turnovers. Her low assist total could be attributed to OU’s poor shooting and three turnovers is plenty reasonable against Tennessee’s pressure.
“I thought she handled herself really well,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “I was really proud of her.”
OU’s all-time record in the NCAA tournament is 30-16. The Sooners are 3-7 in the regional semifinal round, having reached the Final Four after each of those three victories … OU’s 59 points were a season low and its fewest points since falling 73-55 to Connecticut Feb. 13 2012 … Aaryn Ellenberg closed the season with a program record 115 made 3-pointers, pushing her career program-record mark to 284 … Hartman played in her record 143rd and final game with the program … With 14 points and 16 rebounds, Joanna McFarland registered her 13th double-double of the season; her 910 career rebounds rank sixth in program history.