Sooners cruise by Northwestern State

OU guard Aaryn Ellenberg

NORMAN, Okla. — The short-handed Sooners came together and sprinted past the Northwestern State Demons 96-35 Thursday evening at Lloyd Noble Center.

Now without a pair of players who tore their ACLs—freshman guard Maddie Manning became the latest when she did so in practice Wednesday—the Sooners were able to mount a balanced scoring attack which featured four of their five starters in double figures.

"I'm proud of our team," said OU head coach Sherri Coale. "Obviously, we shot the ball well and things look really pretty when the ball is going in the basket like that. I thought we shared it well, evidenced by our high number of assists. Fairly low number of turnovers and a lot of guys in on the action so I was pleased with our effort."

Guard Aaryn Ellenberg led the way with her 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting, including 5-for-7 from 3-point range.

Freshman guard Nicole Kornet, into the starting lineup in place of the injured Manning, poured in a career-high 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting. She nailed 4-for-6 tries from beyond the arc.

"I didn't feel any pressure," Kornet said. "You never know when something will happen in the blink of an eye and you have to be ready."

Meanwhile, center Nicole Griffin and guard Morgan Hook added 12 and 10, respectively.

OU led this one wire to wire, using a 10-0 spurt to start the game.

From there, the Sooners built up a 25 point lead by the 11:18 mark of the first half on Ellenberg's layup.

They led it 45-19 at intermission, and it only expanded after that.

OU used an 18-4 run after the break to seize its largest advantage of 40 at the time.

The final margin, 61, was the largest when guard Jasmine Hartman converted a layup inside the final minute.

As mentioned, the Sooners dished out 23 assists to only 12 turnovers, while they forced 24 turnovers and limited the Demons to only seven dimes.

They shot a blistering 57.4 percent from the floor, while Northwestern State managed to hit a miserable 26.4 of its attempts.

And that was with Sooner guard Whitney Hand operating at the four position.

"She's become our utility," Coale said. "In all honesty the four position on the floor is incredibly important. Caton Hill was probably the best forward we ever had and Phylesha [Whaley] probably would have been except we had to play her at five all the time. But that four, man, is the important cog in what is going on."

That's a role Hand is more than willing to handle.

"I'm good with it," Hand said. "I'm whatever they need me to be, even if that's guarding a 6-foot girl. It's doable. We have backside help and our defense is formed around that. I know that I'm capable and that's where I'm needed right now."

OU (6-1), winners of five straight following its lone loss of the season to UCLA, now moves on to a 2 p.m. Sunday contest against Marist at Lloyd Noble Center.

"They are very well coached," Coale said. "[Head coach] Brian [Giorgis] does an incredible job. They move well without the basketball as anyone we play against and that includes the big dogs. They understand angles and momentum and spacing and timing, all the fundamentals that make an offense click."

It's the second game of a seven-game home stand.

Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.

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