Ellenberg's Flurry Keys Sooners to Victory

NORMAN, Okla. — Trailing by nine with about nine minutes to play, the Sooners needed a spark, and they got it from an unlikely hero, one that lost her spot in the starting lineup prior to the game.

Guard Aaryn Ellenberg, coming off the bench for the first time this season due to her recent slump, ignited a Sooner rally with 11 second half points, six on two crucial threes and added three pivotal steals down the stretch to lead them to a 68-62 victory.

"I think everyone goes through those struggles sometimes and I have had mine over the last couple of games," Ellenberg said. "But, I think my teammates have just did a really good job of finding me when I was open and giving me some really good looks, so I just had to make them."

That she did.

Ellenberg's effort helped erase what was once a 48-39 deficit and still stood at 61-55 with less than five minutes to play.

It helped OU overcome 22 turnovers, including a ridiculous 14 in the first half.

And it gave OU a crucial victory that solidifies it into the top three in the Big 12 Conference race heading into the final five games of the regular season.

"Well, it's huge obviously," said head coach Sherri Coale. "And we talk about it now and when I wake up in the morning, the game at Iowa State will be the biggest game on our schedule, and every one of them is so important when there's such a log jam in the middle. Baylor has a distinct advantage and the rest of us our fighting, scratching, clawing for second, third, fourth and down the road even a little bit.

"But we did give ourselves a little bit of room if we can control our home floor from here on out. Then we're in a great position, so you just take them one at a time."

Taking away the fact that OU didn't value the basketball, the Sooners were really quite efficient offensively in this one when they took care of it.

They shot it 47.9 percent when they actually got shots up.

A lot of took place down the stretch.

"I feel like, for some reason, this team has fight," said guard Whitney Hand. It is a special thing to look into everyone's eyes and see how they all want to win really badly. I am really proud of our finish. I think our goal is to not be put in that position, but to play like that the entire game."

They out-rebounded the Wildcats 37-29 and won the paint battle 28-24 on this night.

On the other end, they defended quite well, forcing 20 K-State turnovers and limiting them to just 38.3 percent from the field.

The Sooners several times in the contest trailed by seven, eight or nine points.

First, K-State leaped out to a 28-21 advantage under the two-minute mark in the first half.

OU closed the first half on an 8-0 run to seize the one-point halftime lead.

K-State responded and went up 43-36 with 12:28 to play.

They maintained that to the 8:08 mark, when it was still seven at 53-36.

And was still a six-point lead with 4:58 on the clock, but that's when OU closed strong on a 13-1 run.

"Well, once again, I'm really proud of our kids' resilience and we find ways to win games," Coale said. "That's pretty important down the stretch and in the months of February and March. It's pretty important to find ways to grind them out."

Ellenberg finished with 12 points, but Hand actually led the Sooners with 16.

Guards Sharane Campbell and Morgan Hook also finished in double figures with 11 and 10, respectively.

For K-State, guard Brittany Chambers led the way and all scorers with 17.

"She had a spurt," said K-State head coach Deb Patterson. "She was sick in the hotel, so I wasn't sure if she was going to play. I probably played her too long, needed to give her some more blows. She did, down the stretch, hit some big 3's that gave us an opportunity to stay in the game. Fought extremely hard."

Forwards Tasha Dickey and Jalana Childs added 15 and 13, respectively.

The Sooners move to 17-8 overall and 9-4 in the Big 12, tied for second with Texas A&M.

They'll head to Iowa State this weekend for a 7 p.m. Saturday contest in Ames, Iowa.

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