NORMAN, Okla. - In basketball, senior days/nights are like homecoming in football. You don't want to lose homecoming and you don't want to lose when honoring the seniors.
Oklahoma honored four seniors on its women's team following Saturday's game at Kansas. The Jayhawks play in Allen Fieldhouse, where the sign says "Beware The Phog." And beware senior night. The Sooners had all five starters score in double figures in an 85-77 Big 12 Conference victory.
The OU senior ceremony took nearly an hour and it started with a six-minute video. The songs played for Jasmine Hartman and Joanna McFarland were a perfect fit. Had the video been played before the game, it wouldn't have had the same impact.
For Hartman, it was Rihanna's "Shine Bright Like A Diamond." For McFarland, it was Alicia Keyes' "Girl On Fire." Whoever picked those songs should start buying lottery tickets. Hartman finished with a career high 18 points. McFarland had her 10th double-double - 13 points and 10 rebounds - plus two dagger 3-pointers.
"If there's one word for this senior class, it would be resilient," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said in her opening comments a many in the crowd 8,061 stuck around, with crimson and white balloons clustered on the Lloyd Noble Center floor.
Oklahoma (20-9, 10-7) had lost four of its last five and couldn't afford a home court loss. The Jayhawks (16-12, 7-10) have now lost six of their last eight. They defined a desperate team. When Kansas took a 35-29 lead with 5:11 left in the first half on an Angel Goodrich 3-pointer, it appeared the short-handed Sooners were running on empty.
But with Hartman scoring 11 first-half points - she had scored seven points in the previous 16 Big 12 teams - and with OU's defense converting to lock-down mode, the Sooners turned the tide. Using a trapping defense, Oklahoma blanked Kansas for over seven minutes, extending into the second half.
By the time Carolyn Davis netted two free throws with 17:44 to play in the second half, the Sooners had built a 44-37 lead.
"That seven minute stretch was huge," Coale said. "I told them at halftime, if you play with the effort and intensity in the second half the way you finished the first half, that's what we need to do to win."
In the second half, KU's Angel Goodrich committed all four of her turnovers and scored just five points - all coming in the final minute. Hartman, whose four seasons have been spent as a defensive stopper, helped slow Goodirch.
"In Kansas, she just blew past me and I decided that wasn't gonna happen tonight," Hartman said. "And all I was thinking about for senior night was to go out with a bang."
The Jayhawks will hold their senior night Tuesday when TCU visits. Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson is concerned with her team's defense. Oklahoma shot 51.8 percent, which helped overcome 20 turnovers.
"You score 77 on the road, that should be enough," she said. "We gave up 83 at Iowa State and 93 at Texas. Sure, that seven minutes or so when we didn't score was important, but when you can't stop the other team ..."
Twice Kansas let the Sooners convert 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. Both times it was McFarland combining with Aaryn Ellenberg, who scored a game-high 22.
The Sooners extended their lead to 73-62 on McFarland/Ellenberg threes with 5:27 remaining. The Jayhawks closed to 73-69 before McFarland got free for a three that just beat the shot clock and then Ellenberg answered a KU 3-pointer with her own triple to make it 79-72 with 1:42 remaining.
Hartman scored her last four points at the free throw line and when she drained two with 30.7 seconds remaining, she and McFarland were subbed for and received the appropriate ovations.
After the score went final, the carpet was rolled out, the four framed jerseys were placed on the court, the video played, tears were shed and speeches were made.
"These kids are so close and we really are a family," Coale said. "One of my favorite things ... they come in as freshmen and they won't make eye contact, will hardly speak. Tonight, we give 'em a microphone and they speak beautifully and emotionally in front of five or six thousand people. If that's not our job at this level, I don't know what is.
"But never, ever have a female senior night before the game. Bad move ... bad move."