Tahlequah Daily Press

February 19, 2014

OU to host Texas without Ellenberg


— The Oklahoma women may not be out of excuses, but they are quickly running out of time.

At 6:30 tonight, when Texas visits Lloyd Noble Center, the Sooners may be without leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg, who suffered a concussion running into Kendra Suttles Sunday during OU’s loss at Oklahoma State.

Ellenberg must pass a battery of tests to be allowed back on the court, something that had yet to happen prior to practice Tuesday.

If the Las Vegas senior, who recently became the second leading scorer in program history, cannot play, perhaps adversity will bring the best out of her teammates. Because if OU is to reach a 15th straight NCAA tournament, today’s Red River Rivalry contest is looking like a game the Sooners must win.

Charlie Creme is ESPN’s women’s college basketball bracketologist. He last updated his potential 2014 NCAA bracket Monday, still with OU (15-11, 6-7) in the field as the No. 9 seed in the Lincoln Regional, with a first-round appointment in Seattle to face Dayton.

In the past, ESPN’s men’s and women’s bracketology projections haven’t been perfect in terms of seed and location, but in matters of “who’s in” and “who’s out” they have been alarmingly accurate.

Creme also had a recommendation for the Sooners.

“(They) have a favorable schedule to finish and really need to win four of the five remaining games in the regular season,” he wrote.

Because OU is at No. 6 Baylor on Monday, where winning would be an absolute shocker, that makes tonight and games coming up against Kansas, at TCU and against Texas Tech all must-haves.

It would be be better if the Sooners were coming into the game playing well. Instead, it is just the opposite after four losses in their last six games, including a 73-57 Bedlam setback that left OU coach Sherri Coale at her wits’ end trying to understand her team.

“It’s been the same story all year. We play well one night, play lousy the next,” she said. “We win one game, play lousy the next. So who knows? I have no idea. You’d have to ask the players.”

That she said with two of her players, Nicole Kornet and Nicole Griffin, at her right and left made it all the more poignant.

“Every game you come in with the mentality that this is going to be the one that moves us forward,” Kornet said. “Unfortunately, every game … we’re like that team (that won at) Iowa State or we’re like this.”

The Sooners can’t be “like this” against Texas (17-8, 8-5).

In one of those games that might have gotten OU over the hump, the Sooners led Texas 38-26 in Austin Jan. 8 before falling in overtime, 79-74, despite 37 points from Ellenberg.

While the Sooners have gone 5-5 in 10 games since, the Longhorns have gone 6-4 with three of their losses to Baylor and No. 13 West Virginia. The Longhorns also have a victory over West Virginia since beating OU.

A victory tonight could do wonders for OU. In the official NCAA RPI list, Texas is a very high No. 24. In Creme’s ESPN bracket, the Longhorns are the No. 6 seed in the South Bend Regional. Winning would not only restore some Sooner confidence, but move OU forward on the RPI list, especially if it could come back to Lloyd Noble Center Saturday and beat Kansas.

But if OU can’t win tonight, nor cash in its longshot at Baylor, it will be out of chances to win a game over a March Madness bound opponent, very likely needing a strong run at the Big 12 tournament to keep its season going.

“We’ll keep plugging at it, I’ll keep trying, that’s for sure,” Coale said. “It’s a conundrum.”

It’s a conundrum OU needs to resolve tonight.