By MICHAEL KINNEY
NORMAN — In the early part of the season, No. 18 Oklahoma has shown it knows how to rebound from tough losses. After falling to UCLA last month, it won by 35 points its next time out.
So with Tuesday’s defeat to Vanderbilt loss still fresh on their minds, the Sooners handled business Thursday when they took on UC Riverside, coming away with a 70-46 victory at Lloyd Noble Center.
“I thought we settled down a little bit today,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “We found a little bit more rhythm about us. Got our legs under us, got a little confidence, made some shots in the second half. Really adhered to the game plan. I thought we were focused and ready to go.”
Junior Aaryn Ellenberg led the charge as she scored a season-high 27 points on 9- for-17 shooting. That included a blistering 6-for-8 from 3-point range.
But as much as Ellenberg likes to put the ball through the net, she was more impressed with another stat line of hers.
“No turnovers,” Ellenberg said. “I think it’s probably a focal point all the time because being one of the people who has the ball the most, I probably shouldn’t be turning it over that much. Tonight, I was better at not doing that.”
It was the Ellenberg show to start the game. She scored a quick eight points as the Sooners jumped out to a 10-2 advantage. That included knocking down a pair of 3-pointers.
Oklahoma (9-2) led by as much as 12 points before UC Riverside (6-4) got its act going.
Despite holding the Highlanders to under 35 percent shooting, the Sooners saw their lead slip to 22-18 with 4:30 left in the first half. UCR was able to score off cuts into the paint and offensive rebounds.
But OU responded with a 10-4 run to close out the half and took a 32-22 lead into halftime.
In the start of the second half, Ellenberg drained consecutive jumpers from behind the arc. This sparked a run of 3-pointers as Joanna McFarland and Morgan Hook each connected from long distance to key a 12-2 run and put the Sooners up by 20.
Nicole Griffin took over for OU from that point on. She scored 10 of her 18 points in the second half. She also collected three blocked shots to go along with three rebounds.
“The first half, I was really rushed,” Griffin said. “In the second half, I was more patient and I got the ball deep in the post, so I had a better chance of making my shot.”
McFarland hauled in 12 rebounds while Hook dished out six assists.
Since the loss of Whitney Hand to a season-ending knee injury, the Sooners have worked to build a consistent rotation. Coale admits that she will continue to tinker with the lineups as they try and find a way to make up for losing their best player.
“It’s all an adjustment,” Coale said. “It’s grand adventure that we are on here. Over the weekend Morgan missed three practices because she had a death in the family. So we had seven (players). We just tried to utilize our time the best we could.”