No. 14 Oklahoma 69, Missouri 47
Danielle Robinson, Aaryn Ellenberg and Whitney Hand give No. 14 Oklahoma as dynamic a trio as any other team in women's college basketball.
Yet Sherri Coale knows her Sooners need more to get where they want to be after back-to-back trips to the Final Four. So, she set out Saturday to make her guard-oriented team more than one-dimensional.
Joanna McFarland matched her career high with 14 points, Lyndsey Cloman scored 10 and Oklahoma relied on improved post play to beat Missouri 69-47.
''Our singular mission today was we're going to establish a game in the paint and we are going to believe in our post guys and we'll throw them the ball and we'll put them in a position to be successful, and we're going to watch it happen,'' Coale said.
McFarland had been relegated to the bench and Coale gave freshman Nicole Griffin her first career start while continuing to look for reliable play at center.
McFarland responded with a big second half as Oklahoma (18-6, 8-3 Big 12) put the game away with a 23-7 run after Missouri (11-13, 3-7) had cut a 14-point deficit to five. McFarland scored the final eight points at the foul line, pushing the Sooners' advantage to 59-38 with 6:06 to play.
''That's the way I can play basketball,'' said McFarland, who had gone without a basket in six of the Sooners' first 10 Big 12 games this season.
''I've been in kind of a slump lately, and I feel like today was just back to playing like I know how.''
Shakara Jones scored 12 points for the Tigers, and leading scorer RaeShara Brown was limited to a season-low eight on 3-for-15 shooting. Missouri tried a season-high 24 3-pointers and made only four.
Brown and Jasmyn Otote each missed five times as the Tigers went 1 for 17 from 3-point range in the first half, matching their season average for attempts in a game. They also turned the ball over 13 times while falling behind 31-20.
''We have to shoot it before we turn it over,'' said coach Robin Pingeton, whose Tigers came in shooting 28 percent on 3-pointers. ''Those are absolutely opportunities that we've got to take advantage of. I don't want us passing up open looks.
''So yes, we are going to keep shooting it and hopefully sooner or later they are going to fall for us.''
Ellenberg and Morgan Hook each added 10 points for the Sooners, who went away from their usual game plan and force fed the ball inside. Point guard Danielle Robinson, a preseason All-American, had five points and six turnovers and Hand scored only two points - both the lowest point totals of the season.
Robinson, Ellenberg and Hand had been averaging 51.9 of the Sooners' 70.5 points per game in Big 12 play. Oklahoma hasn't budged from the middle of the Top 25 but Coale decided to shake things up after blowout losses to top-ranked Baylor and No. 6 Texas A&M in the previous 10 days.
''We need to establish some balance,'' Coale said. ''We've got to figure out how to have more than just three guys carry us in Big 12 play.''
Griffin had played a total of 15 minutes in Oklahoma's first nine games during Big 12 play, then got on the court for 18 of the final 24 minutes in the 92-71 loss at Texas A&M on Wednesday. She had seven points and Cloman reached double figures for only the third time all season. McFarland and Cloman were both 8 for 8 on free throws.
''You have to have a singular focus sometimes to get a thing to grow,'' Coale said. ''I thought the collective effort to try to do what we know our team has to do to be able to go far in postseason, I thought it was just incredible. There was a lot of selflessness.''
Hook did all of her scoring, including two 3-pointers, during a 16-2 first-half run that put Oklahoma ahead to stay. Missouri made just one basket in that 10-minute span, and another big drought followed after the Trenee Thornton finished an 11-2 spurt that got the Tigers to 36-31 with 16:14 left.
Brown had two steals to move past Jodi Davis as Missouri's career leader. She came in tied with Davis with 248 steals. But it came in her worst offensive game of the season, after she had been averaging 19.4 points in conference play.
''Until we proved some consistency from the perimeter, they really took away our dribble penetration and inside game,'' Pingeton said. ''I thought we had some opportunities but just didn't knock down shots. ... We were finding a way to stay in there that was without our best player really having one of us best offensive nights and struggling offensively.''