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Longhorns Stifle Sooners In Second Half

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It's been awhile since the Oklahoma women's basketball has had to sweat out the NCAA tournament selection process. This year, it's likely the Sooners will be sweating buckets.

A Big 12 quarterfinal loss was not what the doctor ordered, but that's exactly what happened Saturday night at The Peake, as Texas shut the Sooners down in the second half to win going away, 82-72.

The loss moves the Sooners to 18-14 this year without the usual high number of quality wins. While it's still very possible the Sooners will make it into the tournament, it won't happen with the usual ease the Sooners have become accustomed to.

"It's just an unfamiliar feeling for us to be sitting there when the names are called and not know for absolutely sure," OU coach Sherri Coale said. "It will be a different sort of selection day for sure."

It looked for a time the Sooners would end up with a much-needed insurance win. OU shot just 38 percent in the first half, but went into the locker room with a 41-35 lead thanks to an 8-of-16 performance from 3-point range. Three of those came in the final two and a half minutes, the last a buzzer-beater from T'ona Edwards that brought the partisan OU crowd to its feet as the Sooners dashed off the floor.

Despite the momentum gained from the furious finish to the first half—especially Edwards' buzzer-beater—the Sooners came out of the locker room ice cold, scoring just five points in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

"I think we came out of the locker room just eager to get back on the floor and build a run, and we just let a missed 3 and then a missed layup just affect us," OU point guard Morgan Hook said.

Meanwhile Texas began the second half with a renewed sense of energy on defense and went on an immediate 7-0 run to claim a 42-41 lead and force the Sooners to call timeout.

"The only thing we talked about (at halftime) was winning the first four-minute game," Texas coach Karen Aston said. "We really didn't talk about anything other than this is one four-minute game and we need to win it. I thought they really focused on that and executed some things really well early in the second half."

Texas eventually built the lead to as many as 16 in the second half, and the cold-shooting Sooners were unable to overcome the deficit, in part because of their poor shooting, but also thanks to what Coale called, "tentative" defense.

"I think most of it was just us doing it to ourselves," OU guard Aaryn Ellenberg said. "Not knocking down easy shots and making plays, and then brain farting on defense and losing people who are shooters."

Ellenberg finished with 21 points to lead OU, but was just 7-of-19 from the field and scored nine of her points in the last two minutes after the game had been all but decided. Sharane Campbell scored 12 points while Morgan Hook and Nicole Kornet had 11 points each.

The Longhorns made key defensive adjustments in the second half, notably chasing OU shooters off the 3-point line, but it was the team huddle in the locker room during halftime that sparked Texas to a 21-5 run to start the second half.

"It was a refocusing for us," Texas forward Nneka Enemkpali said. "We've been in that position before when we played them at home. I believe we were down about 12, and we just needed to come together and realize if we play our game defensively, offense will come, and eventually things will be put together and we'll come out with the win."

Chassidy Fussell led the Longhorns with 16 points while Imani McGee-Stafford had 15 points. Enemkpali had a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds.

The Sooners are in an uncomfortable position, unsure of their tournament status, but Coale thinks the strength of the Big 12 conference will carry the Sooners to a bid.

"I think we've done enough to get in," Coale said. "When you go 9-9 in the No. 1 RPI league in the country, I think you're in. Kansas got in last year with 8-10 and they went to the Sweet 16. I think that speaks volumes of the strength of our league.

"I'm disappointed because I think a win tonight would have really helped us in terms of where we might end up."

The Sooners looked to be in control on Saturday. Then they lost the first, four-minute game of the second half. Then they lost the actual game, putting them in an unfamiliar position of uncertainty.

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