Women's basketball: Sooners to try to toughen up against Billikens
The Oklahoma women’s basketball team will try to step up its toughness when it takes on the St. Louis University Billikens.
The No. 11 Sooners (1-1) enter the game against the Billikens after a hard-fought 86-80 loss to UCLA on Wednesday in Norman.
Although the Sooners only lost by six points, the game wasn’t close until the end, and the Bruins dominated the gals, outrebounding the Sooners by 16 on the offensive glass and 22 overall.
Junior center Nicole Griffin said that where the Sooners failed against UCLA in the battle of the boards and they will need to improve to succeed going forward is keeping their opponents out of the paint.
Senior guard Whitney Hand said that rebounds would be a big key in winning any game this season.
“I know that we have to rebound a lot better to beat anybody,” Hand said. “Honestly, that’s my thing, that’s what I’m looking for.”
After the game, coach Sherri Coale said that she was disappointed in the amount of effort shown by her team and how her players responded to the physicality shown by UCLA.
Coale said that she didn’t think her team decided not to play, but was shocked and greatly affected by the physical play they saw.
“I don’t think [my players] came out and thought ‘I’m not going to play hard’ or even subconsciously decided to go through the motions,” Coale said. “I think the nature of the game, the physical nature and the pace of it, shocked them, and they weren’t able to slow their minds down.”
The Sooners will look to improve their level of preparedness and response to physical play against St. Louis going forward, but Hand said that is something the Sooners will have to make a conscious effort to improve.
“It’s something that we have to recognize and change,” Hand said. “It’s one of those things where you can’t just hope it fixes itself, you have to actively fix it.”
Although the Sooners have the size — all but one of the Sooners are 5-foot-10 or taller — Coale said that the physical play comes down to the mental play of her team.
“When they play [the way they did against UCLA], it’s always a sign to me that there is something going on in their heads, there’s too much stuff, they’re trying to process too much information and deal with things that aren’t in the moment,” Coale said. “I felt like that was the malaise that we carried with us throughout the whole game. We couldn’t ever get over one possession and get into another one. We sort of stuck them on our back and carried them around with us.”
Hand agreed with her coach and said that OU is working to toughen up mentally.
“That’s what we are in the midst of right now,” Hand said. “It’s just the mentality, the toughness mentality, that we’re trying to develop.”
St. Louis will combat the Sooners with a brand new coach in former Wisconsin skipper Lisa Stone. Stone has a 503-237 record in 26 years as a college head coach. Coale said a new coach of Stone’s caliber will breathe new life into a relatively obscure program like St. Louis.
“I know Lisa [Stone] is a fantastic basketball coach, and she’ll do a great job there,” Coale said. “They’ll have new energy because that’s the kind of coach she is. There will be some life and they will play hard and they’ll compete for her.”
The Sooners take on the Billikens at 2 p.m. Sunday at Lloyd Noble Center.