Coale says Sooners peaking at the right time

OU women's head basketball coach Sherri Coale talks about her Sooners' Big 12 Tournament title run and their draw in the NCAA Tournament. Pictured left: Dionnah Jackson, Coale and Maria Villarroel watch as the final seconds tick off the clock in the Big 12 title game Saturday in Dallas. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)

The OU women's basketball let the collegiate basketball world know that they will be dealt with by rolling through the Big 12 postseason tournament to claim the championship. Along the way, the Sooners beat 13th-ranked Colorado, 7th-ranked Kansas State and 2nd-ranked Texas all by a combined score of 12.3 points per game.

The Sooners will go into the tournament this weekend as a No. 3 seed and will open play against Marist College Saturday March, 20th. The game time has yet to be announced.

OU is playing very well and feel they can make a great run in the tournament. OU Head Women's head coach Sherri Coale sat down with us today for the OUInsider Two Minute Drill.

JH: What is your reaction to being a No. 3 seed?

SC: "We are very excited about it. We thought we had earned that with the performance that we had in Dallas for sure. It really doesn't matter, because we are just excited and ready to go play."

JH: What do you think of Tempe, Ariz., and your draw?

SC: "I think it is lovely this time of year. It is a lot better than going to Minneapolis this time of year or some place like that. At least the weather should be nice."

JH: What did you think about your draw?

SC: "I don't know anything about Marist College. I don't know much about them and that is so bad. I know that it is in New York, but we will get on the computer and get after some film and figure it out."

JH: Wasn't it a surprise that Stanford was only a No. 6 seed, which means you will play a major conference champion in the second round if both of you can win your first round games?

SC: "I am a little surprised that there was another Big 12 team in there in Missouri (Stanford's first round opponent) with the potential to meet them in the second round. Stanford is a tough draw, but it is a team that we know a lot about and a team that we have beaten in the past. We have great teams as well that we would face deeper in the NCAA Tournament, so it doesn't matter. I really don't care who comes our way right now, we just want to play."

JH: What did you think about the No. 1 seeds? Were there any surprises there?

SC: "I am a little bit surprised that Penn State was a No. 1 seed with the amount of losses (5) they had. However, they are very good team and very dangerous. Sometimes UConn has been a No. 1 team enough and they are just looking for a reason to not give them the No. 1 seed. I am not sure Penn State gains much by earning the No. 1 seed and going to Hartford and possibly playing UConn."

JH: Are you happy with how the Big12 was represented?

SC: "I am very pleased and I think it is great that Missouri got in. I was happy that Texas maintained the No. 1 seed despite the fact they lost to us in the tournament championship. Kansas State got a nice seed and Baylor entered as a four. So, I think we were very well represented."

JH: Could your team be playing any better at this point?

SC: "We are playing very well right now, with a great deal of confidence and energy. This is the time of year that you want to do that. I am not sure that anybody in America can play that way for three months. The whole idea is to try to figure out how to do that right now. I don't have any idea how we did it, but we did and we are playing very well right now. We need to get back on the practice floor and get after it and keep things going before we get down to Tempe."

JH: You have several girls playing on a high note at the same time. Maria Villarroel, Caton Hill and Dionnah Jackson. If all going well at the same time that makes you very tough, doesn't it?

SC: "We had a number of different kids step up and play last week in Dallas. I think the key to our consistency was the play of our big three. I have been saying that to you guys for about a month now. When Dionnah, Maria and Caton are really good then we are really, really hard to beat. Look at just the Texas game and that is exactly what happened. Maria, Dionnah and Caton were outstanding. Then you go back into the tournament and Dionnah carried us against Texas A&M, Caton comes up big in the Colorado game and Maria was amazing against Kansas State. Then in-between there you have Erin Higgins making shots, you have Leah Rush being amazing, you have quality minutes from Beky Preston and Antoinette Wadsworth buys us a huge block of time against Texas when we were in foul trouble. Britney Brown comes in gave us some quality minutes, but we got contributions from every player on our team. However, it was the consistent great play from the big three that really carried us."

JH: Your depth has been a key for you this year hasn't it?

SC: "We have a great deal of confidence in our bench and we have been getting some consistent minutes from them throughout the year. If we need to go for Erin Higgins with Laura Andrews we don't feel that we drop off very much. If we need to come in and spell Dionnah we have confidence that Britney Brown can get us into our offense, can guard somebody and do what we need to get done. We need to rotate those post players and keep them fresh and here come Beky and Antoinette. At every position on the floor we have somebody to go to that can come in, and whether it is to just buy time or to make a decided difference in the outcome of the game, we have guys who can do that. And we are not afraid to call on them."

JH: It seems that all of those knee injuries last year turned out to be a blessing for you this season?

SC: "They did get a lot of experience and maybe the biggest blessing from last years adversity was the toughness that developed. If you survive it you come out on the other side a whole lot different than you were before it happened. This team has a collective resiliency about them that I don't know if you get it any other way than just going through something that is really, really hard. I will tell you what, it flashed through my mind late in that game against Texas when I was standing down on the end hugging Chelsi Welch (starter out with ACL injury) and I thought man how good might we be. I guess you make the best of the way things are. Chelsi gets to go through this experience and she will get a chance to experience this next year."

JH: Can you compare your season last year to what the OU men are going through this year?

SC: "Oh, absolutely. Injuries are so devastating, because of the obvious contribution that you take off the floor. The greater thing to overcome is not the points and rebounds, but the emotional damage that it does to your team. Every single player's role changes when one player leaves. When Kevin (Bookout) went out it wasn't just the post players that it effected. Every single player on the team was effected emotionally, mentally and tangibly from what was expected form them on the floor. It is a hard thing to recover from. And I will tell you what, the way those guys fought in Dallas against Texas was unbelievable. Everybody should be just as proud of that team just as if they had won the National Championship, because what they did with the squad they were left with was a little less than amazing."

JH: Your team seems to have a good time, and the better time they have on the court the better off they seem to play. Is that right?

SC: "I think that was the key to running the tables in Dallas — was the fact that we were loose. In our opening game with Texas A&M we were very tight, but we found a way to get through that game and survive it. From that point on we were loose, relaxed and enjoyed one another. This is a fun bunch of kids on the floor and off the floor, who I have thoroughly enjoyed coaching. Even in that stretch in January when we dropped four in as row, they were great kids who were earnest and sincere in trying to get better everyday. That is one of the great rewards of winning the tournament championship and earning a No. 3 seed, because these kids earned it and deserved their good fortune. That has followed them here and that is a good thing to be excited about."

JH: You have to like the fact that your team has a great chance to come back to Norman to play in the tournament?

SC: "We knew when we made a bid for this that it would be a very, very special thing to get an opportunity to come back and play in Norman. You can play all your life and not get a chance to play on your home floor with an opportunity to go to the final four. That is one of those once-in-a-lifetime type of things. We knew that we had to play well enough to get ourselves into a position to be able to go and play two games that we should have a good opportunity to win. In other words, for us to not to face a high seed before we get back to Norman. I think we have done that to do something special and that is all that you can ask a team to do."

JH: What did you think winning the Big 12 Tournament do for your seeding in the NCAA Tournament?"

SC: "I think we went into the tournament a six and come out of it a three. How all that pans out once all those brackets are set when people start playing games I really don't know. don't put too much into that, but I do know that when you go into the NCAA Tournament you have to get on a roll and get hot. You never know, because there are always situations and surprises, but we have been positioned about as well as we could hope for, I think."

JH: Do you think your schedule has gotten you ready to play in the NCAA Tournament?

SC: "I think just playing in the Big 12 Conference, and then I think our players understood just playing in relevance to our non-conference schedule how difficult the task was every game night. I don't think they ever underestimated the competition throughout our season. When we did lose, we weren't blown off the floor. We weren't unable to finish, we weren't able to make free throws down the stretch or whatever the case might be. It was little things that were correctable and there wasn't anything that we had to do that we were incapable of doing. With that in mind, we told our guys that we control our own destiny and that there wasn't anything here that we can't handle."

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