It’s a funny thing.
Bedlam has never been bigger for the Oklahoma women. Also, Bedlam has almost nothing to do with it at 2 p.m. today inside Lloyd Noble Center.
“It always adds a little interest and a little flavor when it’s Oklahoma State,” Sooner coach Sherri Coale said after practice Friday.
It has that much to do with it. No more.
Once again, OU’s season appears to be on the brink after Wednesday night’s loss at Big 12 also-ran Kansas State dropped the Sooners to 13-8 overall and 4-4 in the conference.
If OU could somehow win its next four games, its world will have changed in a very big way for the better.
Also, the way the season has gone, losing their next four would also seem to be a possibility. And, were that to happen, OU could be in grave danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 years.
“This game is more than just Bedlam because we have to go win this game for our season,” senior Sooner point guard Morgan Hook said. “We’re trying to get better each and every day.”
The Sooners’ NCAA RPI was No. 42 even before losing at Kansas State. And, after facing the 11th-ranked Cowgirls (18-2, 7-2 Big 12) today, they’ll meet No. 9 Baylor Monday night back at Lloyd Noble Center, then travel to meet Kansas a week from Sunday, then meet No. 20 West Virginia back in Norman.
If Kansas looks like the breather in that stretch, think again. The Jayhawks will be playing at historic Allen Fieldhouse, the same place they topped Baylor 76-60 back on Jan. 19.
Really, today’s Bedlam game is only the beginning of a gauntlet. Also, even if it wasn’t, today would still be the biggest day of OU’s season to date simply because the Sooners so badly need a win.
Coale was asked Friday what the root of her team’s inconsistency has been.
“If I knew the answer to that you wouldn’t have to ask the question,” she said. “That’s why consistency is so important. If there was a magic recipe for (inconsistency), nobody in the country would have it and it wouldn’t be an issue.”
If the Sooners weren’t in such dire straits, Bedlam would be big for Bedlam’s sake in the same way the Bedlam football game seemed so big heading into a frigid day at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Though OU has owned the series pretty much since Coale first took the squad to the NCAA tournament in 2000, the two in-state rivals have split the last four meetings, the home team winning all four. However, what the late Kurt Budke began in Stillwater before his tragic death has been elevated to another level by coach Jim Littell.
“He’s a great tactician, he does a great job with strategy and his kids play really hard for him,” Coale said. “It’s a pretty lethal combination.”
OU thought it was on to something with consecutive wins over Iowa State and TCU, but appeared to have things rolling at Kansas State, up 40-35 at the half, before giving up 51 second-half points.
“Playing with energy” had been the battle cry in the wins over the Cyclones and Horned Frogs, yet Coale reminded Friday that it’s also about what you do with that energy.
“We have to play well and finish games,” she said.
Against a veteran group like the Cowgirls, even playing at home, OU may have little margin for error.
“We have to go out and play every possession,” Hook said.
Feb. 7, 1998, was the last time that Oklahoma State went to Norman and came away with a win.
The No. 11 ranked Cowgirls will storm Norman with an 18-2 record and a 7-2 record against conference opponents. Oklahoma is 13-8 and 4-4 in Big 12 play. In this rivalry game records and rankings cannot be trusted.
“Anytime you get Bedlam it’s an exciting time. You can throw all the records out. It’s going to be a highly competitive game and both teams are going to be excited about playing,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said.
Oklahoma will host Bedlam at 2 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Network.
The Cowgirls will look to end what is a 16-year streak of losing in Norman. Oklahoma State has lost the last 15 games at Norman.
“We hope this is the year that changes,” Littell said. “It’s been a difficult place to play. But this is a new year and a new opportunity and we are looking forward to that.”
Littell knows how tough Lloyd Noble Center is to play on a normal basis. Saturday will not be a normal game. Oklahoma will be celebrating its football team’s Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama during Bedlam’s halftime.
“It’s just going to be a big time environment. If you can’t get excited about playing in a Bedlam game there’s something wrong with you,” Littell said.
The Sooners will depend on balance against the Cowgirls. Oklahoma State’s defense will need to defend a multitude of players. Four of five Oklahoma starters average double figure scoring. Aaryn Ellenberg leads Oklahoma with 19.6 points per contest as Sharane Campbell scores 12.3, Nicole Griffin puts in 11.3 and Morgan Hook chips in 11 points a game.
For the last two seasons the Cowgirls and the Sooners have split — both teams won on their home court.
Oklahoma is coming off an 86-78 loss at Kansas State on Wednesday.
The Sooners are 10-3 in Norman this year. Oklahoma State is 4-0 on the road and 3-0 on neutral courts this season.
The Cowgirls are coming off of a close 49-48 win at Texas Christian University on Wednesday night.
“Our practices have been good,” Littell said. “We try to make sure we let them recovery against TCU and a long road trip.”