For the second time this season, Sherri Coale's OU women's basketball team will travel to The Pit in Albuquerque, NM to take on the New Mexico Lobos. The Sooners, 9-3 and ranked 20th after an 80-60 home pounding at the hands of 12th rated Michigan State, will be trying to get back on track and beat the Lobos again. They scored a 74-63 victory over New Mexico back in mid-November in the semifinals of the Women's NIT.
Coach Coale talked about the Sooners practices since the loss to the Spartans and preparations for the return trip to New Mexico for tonight's game.
TS - What kind of schedule did you put the team through during the holidays after the loss to Michigan State?
SC: You know, we took some much needed time off. We came back the 27th for our first workout back, we didn't even come in the day after Christmas. We gave them an extra day. Of course, that's something you decide way before the season gets going. You never know how you're gonna feel at the time.
In retrospect, it was probably a really good thing that we had that time away. We've had really good workouts since we got back and I think everybody is intent upon trying to get this ship righted.
TS – Any changes for Friday night?
SC - We've got to play harder. That's been our deal. We have allowed poor shooting to affect how hard we compete. It can work in reverse order, too. You can play your way into making shots. You can play hard enough that eventually luck goes on your side. With this group of kids, we just have to keep fighting through that. We have to see it, it has to happen for us and then it will really accelerate the belief. But practice has been very, very intense and we have focused on facing challenges and fighting that mental barrier we sometimes get in when the ball doesn't go in the basket.
TS - It's unusual to play a team on their home court twice, especially twice within a month.
SC - It's dumb.
TS – Of course, you didn't know you'd be matched up with them in the NIT, so you're excused. Is the mindset different in this game? You went in with a lot of confidence the last time.
SC – Yeah, I think in some ways maybe it could be a blessing in disguise to go back to that spot, a very tough place to play. We picked up confidence by winning in that spot and I think we can pick it up again. I expect New Mexico to be improved.
It's been refreshing and eye opening to go back an watch that game- in preparation obviously for New Mexico, but to see all the things that we're so much better at. We were horrendous post defenders, horrendous post defenders in that game. We let Dion Marsh catch it wherever she wanted to catch it. Our guys are much better at preventing post players from getting the spot that they want on the floor. There are little things that across the board we're a lot better at.
I expect they will be too. It should be a battle similar to the one we had before, each of us being better versions of ourselves.
TS - And The Pit is a hostile place, too. If you want to get people road ready, that's the place to do it.
SC – Oh, my God. And hostile enough without already have beaten them there. I mean, that's all they've been talking about. Every press release I've seen, every post game interview since our game has been something about ‘We can't wait to play Oklahoma again'. They go down to Texas and beat them, ‘Yeah, it was a big win, but we can't wait to get Oklahoma again'. So they've been thinking about us for a long time.
TS- There was a lot of hype early about your team. People were ready to move you up into the top echelon nationally. You've been knocked down a couple of pegs. Is the team now re-focused on the Big 12 race rather than looking at national rankings?
SC - For our team, honestly - and I know this sounds so like coach speak and I'm so against that - but really, it's not about this game or even the start of Big 12 or even really anything other than the next possession for us. It's about staying in the moment and being where we are and competing that possession. And if our focus can be that finite, then all kinds of things might happen on the other end.
We're just very much a work in progress. We take three steps forward and two steps back, three steps forward and two steps back, and eventually, that gets you down the road and things will start to fall into place. So we've got to create our own luck and that's the thing that I'm most concerned with right now – making things happen for ourselves.
TS – How close are you to figuring out who the eight people or so are that you can depend on night in and night out?
SC - I wish I was closer than I am, but in all fairness, all 11 guys have really competed in these holiday practices and I feel much more like I did at the start of the season in that everybody's trying to play toward their strengths and trying to bring what they can to the table. And hopefully, that sort of works itself out in the next week. I would really like to go into Big 12 play knowing who I can depend on. But I know we've got this one at New Mexico, then we go to Ames and we have Colorado here, then we go to Columbus (Ohio State) - that's two conference games in the middle there. At the end of all that, I would like to have this thing figured out.
These are important games, we're not giving them away by any stretch, but hopefully, throughout those four games, we can work that out and get some sort of a rotation. I think it helps everyone perform better if we can do that, go into the middle of January and then February really knowing what we have.
TS – Is everybody healthy?
SC - Beky Preston sprained her ankle pretty good on Tuesday. I'm not sure what her status will be on Friday, but we're hopeful, because that's the reason we scheduled this game was to take her home. So that would be unjust to say the least if she was unable to participate. But she's walking around now and looking a little bit better.
Coale on OU's preparations for New Mexico
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