Oklahoma 78, Cent. Michigan 73
Joanna McFarland stepped in when no one else would for Oklahoma,
then Aaryn Ellenberg waited until the right moment to take
McFarland had 18 points and a career-high 17 rebounds and
Ellenberg scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half Saturday to
lead the Sooners to a 78-73 victory over Central Michigan in the
first round of the NCAA tournament.
They made for quite a lethal tandem.
”She’s just a beast,” CMU coach Sue Guevara said of 6-foot-3
Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said of Ellenberg, her 3-point
specialist: ”That’s how she plays. The points come in fits and
starts. She calmed down, let the game come to her and found her
Sixth-seeded Oklahoma (23-10) advances to Monday night’s
second-round game against the winner of Stetson and UCLA at Ohio
State’s St. John Arena.
It was clear who the Sooners wanted to play.
”We’d definitely like to see UCLA advance,” McFarland
The Bruins came to Norman, Okla., on Nov. 14 and thoroughly
outplayed the home team in an 86-80 victory. The Sooners have not
As if that weren’t enough motivation, the Sooners know that if
the survive the two rounds in Columbus, they would return to nearby
Oklahoma City to play in the regional next week.
Despite 24 turnovers, the Sooners had just enough to hold off
the Chippewas (21-12), who were making their third trip to the NCAA
and first since 1984. Crystal Bradford had a sensational game for
CMU with a career-high 36 points (on 14 of 31 shooting from the
field) plus 14 rebounds and seven steals.
”I was playing with everything I’ve got,” said the sophomore,
who averaged 15.5 points during the season. ”It hurt more to give
it all and come up short.”
Ellenberg, who held Oklahoma’s season (103) and career (272)
records for 3-pointers made, hit 4 of 5 in the second half to rally
her team, which was struggling to hold onto the lead. She hit three
in a row during one span for the Sooners. With 3:11 left and late
in the shot clock, she hit another to extend the lead to 71-60.
”When they got close, we knew we had to gather ourselves,”
Ellenberg said. ”We were not going to give up the lead.”
Every time CMU would draw close, it seemed, the Sooners would
get a key bucket from either McFarland or Ellenberg. The lead
waffled between nine points but as few as two for most of the
second half, with the teams trading runs.
Ellenberg’s three 3s in the middle of the second half allowed
Oklahoma to hold off CMU, which had drawn to 49-47 on a three-point
play by Bradford. When her third 3 caught nothing but net, it gave
the Sooners a 58-49 lead.
Still, the Chippewas fought back to 73-68 with just over a
minute left on a floater by Brandie Baker, who had 12 points, but
they could get no closer.
”We kept coming back,” Guevara said. ”We had wide-open shots,
but they just didn’t go.”
Amazingly, Central Michigan had 31 more shots from the field
(84-53) but made only 31 percent to the Sooners’ 47 percent.
Oklahoma put the game away on two foul shots apiece by Morgan
Hook and Sharane Campbell and one by Ellenberg in the final 25
Oklahoma, making its 16th trip to the NCAA and 14th in a row,
has won its first-round games eight years in a row. The Sooners
suffered a blow that might have crippled many teams when they lost
their top player, senior guard Whitney Hand, to a knee injury on
”Central Michigan gave us all we could handle and then some,”
Coale said. ”Crystal Bradford was unbelievable all day long. But
our kids took their best shot and weathered it. We just find a way
to win. That’s been the identity of this squad all season long and
we did it again today.”
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