Women's Basketball: Youth shines in Billikens beatdown
Blowout victories are often a time for new or young players to get some playing time and prove whether they should get more or less moving forward.
That was the situation presented to Sooner freshman guards Nicole Kornet and Maddie Manning in OU’s 68-33 win against St. Louis University on Sunday.
When Manning checked in for the Sooners for the first time in the game, there was 13:07 left in the first half, OU led the Billikens, 17-0, and Kornet had already hit two 3s – which ended up being all of her scoring.
Kornet and Manning were being handed an opportunity, and the look on their faces said they knew it, and they were ready for it.
Coach Sherri Coale said the freshmen knew what they had to do if they wanted to earn more minutes on the court.
“[Manning and Kornet] know that more minutes for them come the better they defend and block out,” Coale said. “Those are the parts of the game where they have to show the most progression to be able to stay on the floor.”
The two freshmen finished with modest numbers: Kornet scored six points on 2-of-4 shooting, pulled down four boards, dished one assist and coughed up two turnovers while Manning scored four points, going 2-for-3 from the field, grabbing one assist, losing two turnovers and grabbing one steal.
But, as is often said of good players who sit behind great players, the freshmen’s impact was in their intangibles.
Coale said she was impressed by Kornet’s play all around, especially the parts that don’t end up on the stat sheet.
“I thought Nicole Kornet was really good,” Coale said. “And I’m talking about in the finer points of things that don’t show up (in a box score). Obviously, she hit two quick 3s and everyone goes ‘Oh, the freshman played really great tonight,’ but that’s not what I’m talking about.”
“I’m talking about jumping the ball and being in the hoop on the weak side and defending ball screens appropriately, adhering to the scout. She was really, really dialed in defensively … I was really pleased with her.”
Coale also said that Manning played well but could have been even more impressive if she took a few jump shots that Coale said she could make.
“I think Maddie (Manning) did well, too,” Coale said. “She looked like she got more comfortable than she has been in the first two games. I still think she passes up a lot of shots she could make. Part of that is she knows how good she is getting to the rim, and in her own brain, that trumps the open jumper.”
Earlier this week, senior guard Whitney Hand said that she was going to be all about rebounding – she finished the game with a team-high six – and, after the game, she said she challenged her teammates to do the same.
“[Blocking out and rebounding] was the one thing that we all said we were going to do,” Hand said. “I think I even challenged a couple of [the other players] to carry my bags if any of them beats me. It was obvious that that was why we lost (to UCLA on) Wednesday, so that was a big emphasis.”
Kornet answered Hand’s challenge, tying her career high with four boards.
The freshmen will continue trying to earn playing time when the Sooners head to Honolulu for the Rainbow Wahine Showdown, kicking the tournament off with a game against Arkansas at 6 p.m. Friday.