OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s women’s basketball team enters the weekend with new life.

Forget the Sooners’ 8-21 record and that they are destined for their first losing season since 1997-98, which was Sherri Coale’s second year as coach.

All of the focus is on OU’s Big 12 Tournament first-round game against No. 9 seed Texas Tech at 6 p.m. Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“Conference tournaments are fun,” Coale said Wednesday after practice. “It’s an opportunity for us to continue to grow and get better. And for at least a little bit here, the slate is wiped clean. Obviously some people are in a better position than others, but we have an opportunity to go win four games and that’s exactly what we’re thinking.”

The eighth-seeded Sooners will lean on sophomore Ana Llanusa and freshman Taylor Robertson.

Llanusa, a former Choctaw standout who was named an All-Big 12 second-team selection this week, is averaging 25.4 points over the past eight games.

Robertson is a sharp-shooter with 100 3-pointers, which is a record for OU freshmen.

Coale said Llanusa’s confidence and rhythm has improved as the season has progressed.

“This year, especially as of late in the last three or four weeks, she’s figured out how to gear down and get to a pace where she can see what’s happening,” Coale said. “When she can do that, I don’t know how you can defend her. When she slows down enough to see if the defense is going under the screen or over the screen, where’s the help coming from when I drive, when she slows down to a speed where she can see all of that, she’s next to impossible to defend. That’s been a big part of her growth and efficiency.”

Llanusa has scored 20-plus points in seven of OU’s past eight games. She said she’s looking forward to this weekend.

“We’re really excited. We’re trying to look at it as a huge opportunity in front of us,” Llanusa said. “In the past we’ve had a team do this very thing. I’m thinking of it as an opportunity and trying to stay excited and stay focused. “

Robertson is one of the nation’s top 3-point shooters. She leads the Big 12 in 3-point percentage (.461) and 3-pointers per game (3.45). She has connected on 13 3-pointers over her past two games.

Coale said Robertson has had to adjust to drawing the attention of opposing defenses.

“A lot of times it’s hard for freshmen to understand that when juniors or seniors are anchoring or running the show. She has weathered all of that and shouldered all of that and hasn’t changed anything,” Coale said. “She doesn’t change her expression, she doesn’t get emotional with things. She hit a little slump in the middle there where she got frustrated with it, but you could never see it. She flipped the switch and decided, I’ve got to be a little more urgent here, I’ve got to move a little bit more, I’ve got to watch so much. So for her to grow in the way she has especially with the situation that’s been around her, it’s pretty unbelievable.”

The Sooners lost 88-82 at Texas Tech on Tuesday. On Friday, both teams will be fighting to extend their respective seasons.

It’ll be a quick turnaround.

“I think there are a lot of positives because you have the game film to immediately go back to and it’s fresh and they remember what it felt like to be both successful with the game plan and not follow the game plan and get burned by it,” Coale said. “I think that’s really good for both teams. And then at the same time, it’s that familiarity and who is going to be able to counter that the best.

“The nod for that usually goes to experienced teams but I’m banking on our ability to focus and look at what we did and didn’t do and win that battle.”

Eric Bailey



Twitter: @ericbaileyTW

Sports Writer

Eric covers the University of Oklahoma football and men’s basketball teams. A Haskell Indian Nations University graduate, he has been a member of the Tulsa World sports staff for 12 years. Phone: 918-581-8391