By Michael Kinney
CNHI News Service
Oklahoma came into Wednesday night riding a four-game winning streak. That included an unblemished 3-0 record in the Big 12.
None of those teams carried the prestige of No. 4 Texas but it didn't seem to matter to the streaking Sooners, as they rolled through the Longhorns 70-59 at Lloyd Noble Center.
"Texas is a very talented basketball team," OU coach Sherri Coale said. "But a conference game on our home floor, we have to make sure we control our own destiny in that regard. I thought we competed with great toughness tonight. That's probably the thing I'm most proud of."
OU pushed its record to 9-5 on the season and 4-0 in conference action. They are a long way from the team that lost three straight games in December.
"I think trust is contagious," Coale said. "And as individuals start to trust themselves, then their teammates start to trust them more. I feel like we won this game because of what we did in November and December. We just had to do hard stuff and we kind of had to get broken into pieces so we could put ourselves back the way we wanted to be."
With 6:36 left in the game, UT's Nneka Enemkpali sank a pair of free throws to cut the Sooner lead down to 51-46.
Gioya Carter fouled out on the Longhorns' (13-2) next possession. The ensuing free throws got Texas to within in three points.
But Gabbi Ortiz slowed down the UT run with a driving layup and scoop shot over 6-foot-7 Imani McGee-Stafford.
Maddie Manning forced a turnover and was fouled. She hit both shots from the charity stripe and OU led 55-48.
The Longhorns had several chances to cut into the lead, but OU didn't allow any uncontested shots and the Texas offense seemed unprepared for the frenzied defensive attack by the home team.
The Sooners went on a 6-2 run to spread their advantage to 61-50 with 1:03 on the clock. They made their free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
Enemkpali tallied a game-high 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Brady Sanders added 12 in the loss.
"Credit to Oklahoma tonight," UT coach Karen Aston said. "They survived some foul trouble in the first half. I think this is the second game in a row that I really feel like our team let a game slip away in the first half. We had ample opportunity to take advantage of their foul trouble. And we had a lead and just didn't value the possessions down the stretch."
The Sooners had three players score in double figures. Manning led the charge with 14 points. That included going 12 for 14 from the free throw line. Peyton Little added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Carter scored 11 points in only nine minutes of action for OU.
Even though the Longhorns have the bigger and taller team, OU led in free throw attempts 36 to 27.
"I was surprised when they told me I had 10 rebounds," Little said. "We all had to fight together. We knew how big Texas was and they are obviously huge on the glass. We just fought our way through it and was the tougher team tonight."
After a quick start by OU, the Texas' post players asserted themselves in the paint. Enemkpali had five points and four rebounds in the first 10 minutes. She, along with Kelsey Lang and McGee-Stafford, turned the momentum toward the Longhorns bench.
Despite that, Oklahoma held a 31-28 halftime advantage.
The Sooners kept the pressure up to start the second half. Carter, Manning and Little helped push their lead to 10 points. But it was the all out hustle of the squad that seemed to be the spark. Every player was diving on the floor and fighting for loose balls.
"Defensively, we made them uncomfortable," Coale said. "We fought on the boards. We made toughness plays. We got 50/50 balls and we created some luck for ourselves."