Sooners Hold on for First Round Victory

The Sooners used a first half burst and overcame a late rush by the South Dakota State Jackrabbits to win their first round game 68-57 Sunday night in front of 5,368 at the Lloyd Noble Center.

"First, I would just like to congratulate South Dakota State," said OU head coach Sherri Coale. "They are just an excellent basketball team. They are an extremely well-coached basketball team, and I thought their kids came in here undaunted and competed for an entire 40 minutes. They pushed us and did what they needed to do, and fortunately we made the plays down the stretch."

Those plays were made by the four veterans, senior forwards Nyeshia Stevenson and Amanda Thompson, as well as senior center Abi Olajuwon and junior guard Danielle Robinson.

Stevenson led those four double figure scorers with 17.

"I just said this is a new week and know that it's not just all on you or anything," Stevenson said. "I have some good teammates, and I just played through them. Danielle just gives great passes. I mean, she had like eight assists, and when she gives me the ball off penetration, I know I am going to knock it down."

But it was SDSU that knocked down the shots early, as it jumped out to an early 8-4 lead thanks to a pair of threes by senior forward Maria Boever.

But that's when the Sooners used a 20-5 run to gain a double-digit lead midway through the first half.

And OU cruised into intermission from there, as they led 44-31 at the break, in large part because of the defensive intensity that forced 12 SDSU turnovers that amounted to nine points off turnovers for the Sooners.

"It was huge for us in the beginning," said junior guard Danielle Robinson. "We knew coming in we would have to use our athleticism to our advantage, and we caused some turnovers sometime and got some transitions that gave us a lead early."

The Sooners extended their margin to 48-33 early in the second half, and it looked like the rout might be on.

But the Jackrabbits had other plans.

Scores on back-to-back possessions brought the lead back to 10, and OU never led by 15 again.

In fact, the Jackrabbits cut it to single digits at the 9:52 mark when it was 56-47.

Later, a jumper by SDSU freshman forward Leah Dietel cut it to 62-55 with just less than four minutes remaining.

But that was as close as the Jackrabbits would get, as they turned it over when they had a chance to trim the lead to five.

Even though the Sooners hung on for the victory, there were some issues in the game, particularly the way OU poorly handled SDSU's zone defense.

"Yes, they broke our rhythm," Robinson said. "We stopped passing and cutting and moving like we were in man."

Coale said they just weren't playing loose in their zone offensive sets.

"We just got really tight," Coale said. "I said to them at one point, ‘Don't act like you're shocked we are missing shots. Haven't we done this all year?' I told them to just keep playing. Our movement against the zone was hideous. We just stood around, and we kind of locked up."

The Sooners will have to get that fixed if they hope to make a Final Four run.

Their next step along that path is against Arkansas-Little Rock at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Lloyd Noble Center.

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories