By Wendell Barnhouse
DALLAS – Perhaps it wasn’t attractive, but it was effective.
Second-seeded Oklahoma’s game plan to beat West Virginia involved offensive rebounding and taking care of the basketball. Basic hoops. Not exactly the stuff that makes the season-ending highlight reel.
What the Sooners did, though, was keep the Mountaineers at bay for almost the entire 40 minutes on the way to a 67-55 victory Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Championship. OU will face No. 6 seed Texas, a 67-61 winner over No. 3 seed TCU in the last quarterfinal of the day. Oklahoma last reached the Big 12 Championship semifinals in 2013.
“Low turnovers, high rebounds - that's how you beat that team,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. “I thought we did a terrific job of being secure with the basketball and going getting it off the glass on both ends of the floor. I'm not sure where the offensive rebound number ranks but it was one of our best performances of the year.”
The Sooners (20-10) managed 15 offensive rebounds that produced 22 second-chance points – 18 in the first half when OU took control with a 10-0 run that came during a 4:33 scoreless streak for WVU.
“We were a step slow, we weren't ready to play,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “Oklahoma was. But I thought the second half, we cut it to seven and then couldn't cut it any deeper than that.”
The Sooners’ 34-20 halftime lead was threatened early in the second half as the Mountaineers scored five quick points. But freshman point guard Gabbi Ortiz scored all six of her points in a three-minute span to restore the lead to 42-30.
West Virginia cut the Sooners’ lead to single digits four times but each time OU answered with a score. Bria Holmes’ 3-pointer with 4:56 made it 57-50 but WVU could get no closer.
“I just felt like we had a lot of breakdowns that we didn't need,” Holmes said. “Like Coach Carey was telling us, when one breaks down, we all break down together, all five of us. So we just need everybody to communicate and talk, which didn't really happen so we broke down a lot.”
Kaylon Williams had 14 points and 10 rebounds – seven on the offensive end – for the Sooners.
“KK was tremendous … those (offensive rebounds) just change the complexion of the game,” Coale said.
“We had to emphasize rebounding for this game, trying to get the free throw line more than them, those aggression kind of stats,” Williams said. “When we get second-chance shots, usually something good happens, it kind of generates some good offense for us.”
West Virginia (18-14) was befuddled by OU’s morphing defenses. The Mountaineers shot just 28 percent in the first half against the Sooners, who switched between zone and man-to-man alignments. WVU finished at 38.4 percent for the game.
According to ESPN’s bracket projections, as of noon Saturday West Virginia was listed as one of the first four teams out. Going 1-1 here did not help that status.
“I feel like we're definitely an NCAA-quality team,” WVU’s Averee Fields said. “We’re just going to have to wait and see where we end up.”