By CLAY HORNING
NORMAN - On election Tuesday, it was a landslide at Lloyd Noble Center. Playing their second and last exhibition game, the Oklahoma women ran past Henderson (Ark.) State 98-33.
Early, the returns came in fast. Later, they came in faster. Throughout, the Sooners, attempting to make their new running game second nature, played very fast.
“You could tell in the first three to five minutes of the second half that what we talked about at halftime, (the players) were really trying to do,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “We got out in transition, we fed the post, we blocked out, our help defense was better, and recovery was better and more urgent.”
At their very best, the Sooners went on a 37-0 run from the end of the first half to the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Because OU didn’t get quite so many turnovers as in their first exhibition victory over Oklahoma Christian, and weren’t quite so accurate from 3-point land, they came short of the century mark.
Still, it was a good enough showing for the veterans, but a showcase for two of the newcomers: Portia Durrett and Maddie Manning.
“You don’t lose anything (when the reserves are) in the game,” team captain and senior guard Whitney Hand said. “In the past, maybe, the end of these kinds of games were just really ugly … You see Maddie and Portia and it’s just really cool, because it’s not about the score, it’s just about us getting better.”
Durrett is the junior college transfer forward, who’s bound to spend some of the season in the post due to the loss of Lyndsey Cloman and Kaylon Williams to injury. Manning is the 6-2 point guard freshman who appears born to run.
Durrett finished with a game-high 26 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Manning added 11 points, five assists and four steals. Frequently, it was Durrett beating everybody down court and Manning, leading the break and finding her for an easy basket.
“Coming from the point guard position to getting the ball to me and going down and posting up, it’s kind of different from junior college … Here, if you want to have it, you have to work to get it,” said Durrett, who got it against the Lady Reddies.
“They were all good shots,” Coale said of Durrett’s 17 attempts. “They were tough shots. She’s one of the strongest finishers in the lane that I’ve ever had.”
Coale was pleased to give her veterans an easy night; not that they failed to rack up numbers.
In 20 minutes, Hand added 11 points, nine rebounds and seven assists without a turnover. Aaryn Ellenberg hit half her 14 shots and finished with 17 points in 17 minutes. Post Joanna McFarland finished with a double-double — 10 points, 13 rebounds — in 19 minutes.
The only bright spot HSU enjoyed was the play of Destiny Smith. Only 5-10, the senior forward finished with a team-high eight points and a game-high 16 rebounds. Trying to do so much, she also committed seven of the Lady Reddies’ 24 turnovers.
What’s left for the Sooners is the regular season. Heading into it, they appear to be in a good place.
“Every time we step out on the floor, practice or a game,” Coale said, “I walk away feeling a little better than I did before.”