NORMAN, Okla. -- The University of Oklahoma women’s basketball team kicked off its 2013-14 season with its annual media day and preseason intrasquad scrimmage at the “Friday Night Tailgate” at the Lloyd Noble Center.
Officially, Crimson beat Cream 82-63 after four, eight-minute quarters were played. However, with the two squads interchanging players, it was really a test for the coaches to play their 14-member team in several different personnel groups under the lights.
“I love this team. I’ve loved working with them every single day thus far,” OU head coach Sherri Coale said. “We have a really, really nice blend of some older guys, who need to win a Big 12 Championship and feel an intense desire to do that, and a bunch of younger guys who really want to do it. It’s a nice mix.
The Sooners were chosen as the Preseason Big 12 favorites and returned four starters from a team that last season advanced to the Sweet 16.
“They understand the expectation and they embrace it. I think this senior class had the disadvantage of playing their entire careers in the league with Britney Griner, truthfully. They understand that they have a bit of a window, maybe. It does make (the league) a little bit different.”
Those four -- seniors Morgan Hook, Aaryn Ellenberg and Nicole Griffin and junior Sharane Campbell -- joined sophomore Nicole Kornet as starters on the Crimson squad with the remaining senior, Portia Durrett, on their bench.
After trailing 6-1 to their less experienced counterparts, Team Crimson scored 9 unanswered and won the first period 19-18. Periods 2 and 4 were just as competitive with Crimson winning 21-17 and 20-17, respectively. Crimson ran away in the third quarter, 22-11, behind several 3-pointers from Ellenberg.
Ellenberg led the Sooners with 25 total points, yet most came from inside the arc as the senior took advantage of new rules enforced by the NCAA this season limiting contact. Ellenberg was 10-for-17 from the field and 3-of-7 from 3-point range.
“Vegas is a unique kid and a unique talent, obviously,” Coale said. “Watching her grow over the last six to nine months has been really special. I felt like last year, when Whitney (Hand) went down…Vegas sort of surrendered to the whole deal. It allowed her to go to another level. Then I watched her this summer, having the opportunity to coach her in USA Basketball. I watched her explore the possibilities that maybe she had not considered for herself before.”
Sophomore Peyton Little littered the box score with 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists in 21 minutes played. Little, who played at Texas A&M last year, will sit out this season due to transfer eligibility rules.
In addition to Little, the Sooners debuted five true freshmen.
“I think there are several of them that might play significantly and have an impact,” Coale said. “As a whole, they may be the most prepared class we’ve ever had in terms of physical maturation and understanding the game. They’ve been learners.”
Point guard T’ona Edwards racked up a team-high eight assists to go with three points and five rebounds after Hook and Maddie Manning exited the court with injuries.
Forward Shaya Kellogg had nine points and seven rebounds.
“The freshmen have figured out right away what it takes to play hard,” Hook said. “They’ve all had to be pushed out of their comfort zone so many times and they’ve all stepped up to the challenge.”
Kaylon Williams, returning to competition for the first time since suffering a torn Achilles’ tendon in last year’s preseason, made six of nine field goal attempts for 13 points and grabbed a scrimmage-high eight rebounds.
And while the rookies stole the show in the early minutes, it was the veterans who made the most of the night.
“Coach Coale put it on us seniors that we’ll be the only class to not cut down a net, if we don’t cut one down this year.” Hook said. “I think for us four seniors, there’s more determination.”
Griffin added 18 points and seven rebounds. Kornet totaled 16 points. Campbell and Durrett each scored 15 points.
“There’s history here and you want to be a part of it,” Ellenberg said. “We don’t want to be the only class to not cut down a net.”