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Board-Certified: Sooners Use Rebounding Edge To Beat Kansas

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

There are times in sports where the stat sheet sends a mixed message.

Take Saturday night's game between the Oklahoma and Kansas women for example. The Sooners shot 34.4 percent for the game, didn't make a 3-pointer for the first time since January 12, 2011, and once again had leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg sitting on the sideline in street clothes.

So it would surprise you that it was the Sooners who came out on top, 64-61, for their second straight victory in conference play. It wasn't the big things that won the game for Oklahoma, but rather, the little things.

The Sooners dominated the boards, out-rebounding Kansas 48-25 and picking up an incredible 24 offensive rebounds. The huge advantage helped the Sooners outscore the Jayhawks, 23-0 in second-chance points and put up 20 more shots.

"I thought we played gritty," OU coach Sherri Coale said. "I don't know how well we played, but we played tough and we played with great purpose and weren't going to be denied."

It was a performance unlike any other the Sooners have had this season in the hustle category, and the Sooners needed every bit of it to hold off a determined Kansas team.

"Nauseating," KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said of the rebound differential. "24 to 4 in offensive rebounds and it's a one-possession game with 30-some seconds left."

The Sooners never wavered in their aggression with the little things from the time the ball went up to the time the final buzzer sounded. Coale has said the Sooners are at their best when they are fully committed to the game plan and Saturday night was no exception.

"I felt like we were playing really hard and I felt like we were immersed in the game plan," Coale said. "There was only one timeout in which I challenged them about our attention to the scout (report) and that was in the first half."

Nicole Griffin led the charge on the glass, racking up 14 rebounds, eight of those on the offensive variety. Griffin also chipped in 13 points for her fourth double-double of the season.

Sharane Campbell led the Sooners with 22 points and scored her 1,000th career point in the second half, becoming the 30th player in OU history to accomplish that feat. Campbell also added nine boards.

Morgan Hook had 15 points, including a leaning fadeaway jumper with the shot clock running down to put the Sooners up 62-58 with just 26 seconds remaining.

Kansas was led by Markisha Hawkins' 22 points, while CeCe Harper had 14 points and Chelsea Gardner had 12 points. Gardner came in averaging 17 points, but scored just 10 in the teams' other matchup in Lawrence earlier this season. Coale praised Griffin for her defense on the KU post player.

"Nic was incredibly active and Nic has great length and if you don't have that, it's tough to get to her shots and keep her from catching the ball," Coale said. "I think the lion's share of the credit goes to Nic, but our weakside defenders did a great job."

Neither team led by more than five in the first half, and Kansas went into the locker room leading 31-28. However, the Sooners came out of the locker room fired up and charged out on a 17-5 run to take a 45-36 lead with 12:24 remaining.

Kansas battled back, however, mounting a 10-2 run of their own to cut the lead to 47-46 with 8:22 remaining. That's as close as the Jayhawks would get, as the Sooners had a response for every basket KU scored the rest of the way, the biggest being Hook's shot with less than a minute remaining.

The two straight wins come at a key time for the Sooners, as OU travels to Baylor on Monday night for a huge showdown with the Lady Bears. Momentum is a huge thing in college basketball and the Sooners are picking some up at exactly the right time.

"We've figured out we know how to play together and we know how to play hard together," Hook said. "Different people have stepped up at different times and I think everyone has seen what they can do and have developed a bit of confident mojo about themselves."

The Sooners are going to need to continue to lean on that confidence and take care of the little things. OU isn't out of the woods when it comes to the NCAA tournament, so it's too early to let up on the sense of urgency.

However, Saturday night, the Sooners won a game where they didn't play well but played hard, and made it easy to believe they could do it again.

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