Nov. 26, 2002
Norman, Okla. - The Oklahoma women's basketball team gained a non-conference victory over Sam Houston, 79-52, Tuesday night but lost senior All-America candidate Caton Hill and freshman Erin Higgins to season ending knee injuries. Oklahoma improved to 3-1 in front of 4,360 fans inside the Lloyd Noble Center. Sam Houston fell to 1-1 on the season.
"I thought the team handled it extremely well," said OU Head Coach Sherri Coale. "It's such a difficult thing. It's just one of those deals-where you question, is this for real? When and where does this happen twice in one day. It is beyond a fluke. It is beyond strange. You've got to look at this and say there's a reason. We will find it (a reason) and turn it into something good."
Junior guard Maria Villarroel stepped up by scoring a career-high 31-points on 13-of-15 shooting from the floor.
"Maria was just fantastic," said Coale. "She has an uncanny way of both delivering and catching the basketball. She has great hands and stays patient and poised. She really stepped up when our team was facing adversity. It wasn't just scoring, she was rebounding and blocking out as well."
Picking up the slack for Hill at the post was freshman center Beky Preston, who dropped in 13 points and grabbed a game- and career-high nine boards. Sophomore guard Dionnah Jackson added nine points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals.
"I thought the team was really poised and Dionnah took over the game in terms of leading," said Coale. "She really set the tone for us."
Oklahoma dominated the game both offensively and defensively. The Sooners shot 46.8 percent from the field, despite only hitting 3-of-14 attempted three pointers. OU collected 16 steals and forced the Bearkats into 26 turnovers on the night.
Senior forward Alice Johnson led the Bearkats with 19 points and three blocked shots. Junior forward Lee Shea and freshman guard Stephanie Trachier pulled down seven rebounds apiece.
On the second play of the game, Hill drove for a steal and was noticeably injured. She was immediately escorted to the training room and was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee by halftime. Early in the day, during the Sooners pre-game shoot around Higgins tore her right ACL, opposite of the one she torn in January. Higgins suffered her first ACL injury in January 2002, as a high school senior. Hill was the third OU player to suffer the same ligament injury in the last five months. Incoming freshman Casey Walker tore her left ACL in July during the BCI Nationals in Texas.
"We saw Caton go down but we had to go on with the next play," said Jackson. "You do what you have to do and go on with the game."
Oklahoma returns to the court this weekend as one of eight teams competing in the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii. The three-day event will be host by the University of Hawaii inside the Stan Sheriff Center on Nov. 29 through Dec. 1. The Sooners will face Fordham on Friday, Nov. 29, at 6:40 p.m. CST. OU fans can tune to KOMA 1520-AM for play-by-play action.