NORMAN, Okla. — The Sooner women went up and down the court, shot the ball well, hit a lot of 3-pointers and were plain fun to watch.
Also, they didn’t play much defense, gave up a bunch of offensive rebounds, didn’t grab many themselves and ultimately lost a game they appeared to have no business losing.
The 96-90 decision, won by Missouri State — which counts Sooner assistant coach Jackie Stiles as its most famous alumnus — means Oklahoma has Sunday off. Had the Sooners won, they would have met Oregon State for the Preseason WNIT championship.
The Sooners, who led 37-20 after the first quarter eventually pushed their advantage to 20 points early in the second, nonetheless found themselves down nine points when native Oklahoman Brice Calip ripped a 3-pointer with 4:41 remaining.
A whale of a game for roller coaster aficionados, the Sooners came back from there, finally putting enough stops together to trail 89-86 with the ball out of bounds with 1:15 remaining.
What happened after that, however, was what had already happened way too often in the second half.
Center Mandy Simpson traveled near the baseline to give up one opportunity and after two free throws from Mya Bhinhar made it a five-point game, the Sooners turned it over again when Gabby Gregory threw the ball away.
For OU coach Sherri Coale, the game began to get away in the second quarter and then really got away in the third.
OU led 46-26 following a transition layup from Ana Llanusa — the game’s high-scorer with 30 points — 5:39 before the half.
However, during that frame, three Sooner starters — Llanusa, Madi Williams, Kamryn Lemon — all picked up their second foul and all had to spend significant time watching from the bench. By the time the quarter was over, OU’s lead had been trimmed to 51-39 and, surprising to their coach, the Sooners' confidence had been punctured.
“We could never really recover from the break in rhythm,” Coale said.
What it led to disgusted her.
“Our first six or eight possessions in the third quarter were just hideous,” she said.
The Bears won the game in that frame, outscoring the Sooners 34-18.
During one stretch, Missouri State scored eight of nine times down the court, and in the middle of it, OU turned the ball over five straight possessions.
“We got a little frazzled,” Sooner sharpshooter Taylor Robertson said.
Llanusa thought “it just came to our defense.”
Neither team played a lot of that, with the Bears shooting 53.6 percent (37 of 69) overall and 8 of 15 from 3-point land, while OU knocked down 52.5 percent (32 of 61) from the floor and 12 of 22 3-pointers.
The Sooners were destroyed on the boards, getting outrebounded 39 to 26 and 13 to 6 on the offensive glass.
“Rebounding is just discipline,” said Coale.
Robertson hit 6 of 10 3-pointers and finished with 22 points in support of Llanusa. Junior point guard Kamryn Lemon, in her first season at OU, added 17 points and Madi Williams 12.
Alexa Willard hit 12 of 21 shots from all over the court, leading Missouri State with 29 points. Calip and Bhinhar both finished with 19.
The Sooners don’t return to the court until a rare 11 a.m. Wednesday tip against Stephen F. Austin.
“We've got to build our discipline,” said Coale. “We've got to build our confidence”
Need to know
Though the Sooners pushed their lead to 20 points in the second quarter of a game they eventually lost, Missouri State can play. The Bears entered the game 3-0 and their opening-day victory was an eight-point decision over then-No. 23 Minnesota. They’re also coming off a trip to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 last, winning 24 of their last 27 games last season.
• Could have been more: Sooner junior guard Ana Llanusa finished with 30 points, a season-high but not a career high. The career number is 35, turned in against Iowa State last January. She could have had 35, however, finishing 6 of 11 at the free-throw line, accounting for five of the Sooners’ seven misses in 21 attempts. Missouri State went 14 of 19 from the charity stripe, though its top three scorers — Alexa Willard (29 points), Brice Calip (19) and May Bhinhar (19) — combined to go 12 of 12 from the line.
• Sooners miss Taylor: Taylor Robertson spent a game-high 37:17 on the court and the Sooners outscored the Bears by four points when she was on the court. That means in the mere 2:43 she spent getting a breather, OU was outscored by 10 points and it was more than the difference in the game.
OU would have played host to Oregon State in the Preseason WNIT title game on Sunday had it won … The Bears victory evens the career series between the two programs at 4-4 … Three Oklahomans play for the Bears: Calip (Sapulpa), Bhinhar (Owasso) and Sydney Manning (Cashion).
Horning is senior sports columnist for The Norman Transcript, a CNHI News Service publication.