She got one more big performance Wednesday night before finding out whether her youngsters are ready for prime time with a weekend showdown at No. 6 Ohio State.
Morgan Hook scored 25 points and set an Oklahoma freshman record with seven 3-pointers, leading the 11th-ranked Sooners to a 94-45 victory against Sam Houston State in their final tuneup before facing the Buckeyes on Sunday.
So far, Oklahoma has relied heavily on a group of freshmen to replace departed starters Nyeshia Stevenson, Amanda Thompson and Abi Olajuwon, who all got selected in the WNBA draft. Aaryn Ellenberg had been the standout of the class through the first six games, starting her career with the most double-digit scoring outings of any Oklahoma player except 2007 national player of the year Courtney Paris.
Ellenberg got there for a seventh straight time with 12 points, but started out 1 for 11 from the field before hitting a fast-break layup and a 3-pointer to open the Sooners' second-half surge.
Hook picked up the slack with her best performance so far, easily surpassing her previous career high of 13 points in her debut against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Fellow freshman Nicole Griffin scored 10 points off the bench.
"I'm really proud of the freshman class. All of them have a strong sense of individual confidence, and it's sort of been magnified because they're together," Coale said. "All five of them are in the dorm and go to eat their meals together, they come to the gym together.
"That individual confidence that each one of them has sort of infused one another and collectively they're playing like they're experienced even though they're not."
Hook came off the bench and scored seven straight points to put Oklahoma (7-0) ahead 11-6 after the briefest of struggles early on, and the Sooners never trailed again. She made her first five shots, including three 3-pointers, as Oklahoma charged out to a 28-point halftime lead.
She added two more 3s as the Sooners scored the first 13 points of the second half, and Sam Houston State (5-3) was never closer than 40 points after that.
"I knew we had to have a spark somehow because we weren't really performing very well," Hook said. "I just went in and shot it."
Hook went 7 for 9 from 3-point range and played only 22 minutes. She came out after hitting her seventh 3-pointer with 14:26 left to make it 70-23.
"Had I left her in, she might have made 10 or 15," Coale said. "I've seen her in practice make after make after make after make. I just was really pleased."
Sequeena Thomas led the Bearkats with 15 points and Chanice Smith scored 13. Sam Houston State was off to its best start in 17 seasons but has now lost back-to-back games at Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
"I just think we didn't defend them, so that has a big thing to do with it," Bearkats coach Brenda Welch-Nichols said. "Our kids got mentally down when they weren't shooting and it wasn't going in. You don't want to play a game like that, but our kids just mentally got out of their game and didn't play a good game at all."
It was the Sooners' 37th straight home win against an unranked, non-conference opponent.
The competition gets tougher Sunday when preseason All-America point guard Danielle Robinson leads the Sooners against Ohio State and Jantel Lavender, a 6-foot-4 center who was an All-America pick last season. Robinson had 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals against Sam Houston State.
"We haven't faced anyone really in pre-conference play who has a dominant inside presence," Coale said. "We've faced some really good guards. We've faced guys who can break you down off the dribble. We've faced some really good shooters. We just haven't seen that size in the middle."