WHoops: Sooners Are Set for Rematch

After winning their first two NCAA Tournament games last week in Norman, the Sooners have traveled north and are now set to square off at 6:30 p.m. tonight in the Sweet 16.

And it's against a familiar opponent in a familiar location.

That familiar opponent is one the Sooners lost to earlier this year in their tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The location is the same city the Sooners lost at in the Big 12 Tournament just two weeks ago, Kansas City.

But this time it'll be played at the Sprint Center.

As for the matchup, it features a different storyline than when the two previously met back in November.

The first time around, OU had just lost sharpshooting guard Whitney Hand to a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

"Whitney [Hand] had really become our heartbeat," said OU head coach Sherri Coale. "She had become our identity. Even last year I thought down the stretch in the NCAA Tournament that we played in her likeness as a team, took on her personality and her demeanor. So to lose her and have basically less than 24 hours to recover and play, I'm not sure we had any idea who we were when we played Notre Dame in the Virgin Islands."

This time around, the Sooners are much more prepared, and they've really came together as a team with everyone assuming their role since Hand's exit from the lineup.

"[It's] completely different," Coale said. "You know, I think every team progresses and changes throughout the course of a season and grows their own identity, but particularly a team that changes personnel as emphatically as we did at that point, because Whitney was our—she and Danielle are really our returning leaders who had had such experience in the previous season in the Final Four run."

For it to be a different result, OU must do a couple of things, the first of which is to limit big runs that are stimulated from the Irish transition game and other factors, something that devastated the Sooners in the previous matchup.

"Notre Dame does a very nice job with the ball in transition," Coale said. "They take opportunities and take full advantage of them. But what [also] happened in the second half in the Virgin Islands is Danielle got into foul trouble and we didn't have any idea how to play without her on the floor at that time. So I don't necessarily—I just think that situation is completely different than what we're seeing now. I hope so, anyway."

The Sooners must also avoid scoring droughts, which can be caused by foul trouble as in the first contest between OU and Notre Dame, when OU failed to hit a field goal for about seven minutes.

"I had no idea we did that," Coale said. "I'm not really surprised. A big reason why would be Danielle not being on the floor."

If the Sooners can avoid Notre Dame's big runs and have offensive consistency, they will have a great chance to advance to Tuesday night's Elite Eight.

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