OU Rides Efficient Offense to First Round Win

NORMAN, Okla. — In basketball, sometimes it's just about getting back to the basics.

A harder screen here or there. A crisper pass. Finding open targets. Better shot selection and capitalizing when good looks are there.

The Sooners did all of those en route to defeating Michigan 88-67 in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday evening at Lloyd Noble Center.

And sometimes accomplishing that is a product of simply cleaning the slate and starting fresh after a rough stretch.

That proved to be the case.

"I think Whitney [Hand] alluded to it when she said that it's nice to play an unfamiliar opponent for a bit," said head coach Sherri Coale. "I really thought Morgan Hook at the point position set the tempo for the game. We were really checked in transition. We got some easy looks in transition. She did a nice job of going back and getting the basketball. Particularly sets when we were trying to pick on particular defenders and (setup) things we thought would be difficult for them to guard. They do a lot of switching so we ran some multiple screens to try to confuse the defenders to where the shooters are coming from.

"When you've got two shooters like Hand and [Aaryn] Ellenberg, it's fairly easy to do some of that misdirection stuff. I think a lot of credit goes to Morgan for getting us where we needed to be at. I think a lot of times the point guards are the unsung heroes."

Because of that fluency, OU was able to distribute 22 assists to just eight turnovers, while shooting 49.3 percent.

Hand had a team-high six assists, while Ellenberg and Hand each added four to combine for 14 assists among the starting backcourt.

"We just have not had much trouble when those three are really good," Coale said. "That's a lot to put on two sophomores and a junior. Particularly with Morgan playing at the point [this season for the first time in her career]. They have been through a lot of battles over the course of the year. Very meaningful situations."

But not many more meaningful than this night.

And they all delivered.

Ellenberg finished with a game-high 28 points.

She shot a sizzling 55.6 percent from the floor, converting 5-of-11 threes.

"I think most of it is due to my teammates," Ellenberg said. "All of them were so involved. It was really a team effort. It made it easier for me to just relax. Not force anything. To take the shots I am open to."

Hook and Hand also scored in double figures, with 13 and 12, respectively.

In fact, all five Sooner starters ended in doubles, as forward Kaylon Williams and center Nicole Griffin both managed 10.

Because of that, OU also won the points in the paint battle 32-28, as center Jelena Cerina even came off the bench with three points.

"Twenty-three points from our guys in the five position – Kaylon Williams, Jelena Cerina and Nicole Griffin," Coale said. "We have won some games getting five or six from that position combined. That's a big part of this, too. When your guards are shooting the way they are that creates some one-on-one coverage in the post. That's an advantage. I thought contributions from all three and particularly Nicole in all facets of the game. Effecting shots and getting shots that's important. For us to be able to continue we have to have that."

OU will, indeed, continue on with their next test coming against No. 3 seed St. John's in the Second Round at 6:30 p.m. CT Tuesday.

Until then, though, it can soak in a very satisfying victory over a Michigan team that turned in a 20-12 season.

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