KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Oklahoma's youth explains the inconsistency. But when OU's freshmen play like they did Thursday night at Municipal Auditorium, the Sooners' ceiling is much higher as women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale likes to say.
Led by freshmen Sharane Campbell and Kaylon Williams, the Sooners stormed back with one of their best halves of the season to defeat Missouri 70-59 in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals.
Campbell scored a game-high 22 points, her most productive outing in more than a month. Williams recorded her second career double-double with 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“When me and Sharane score like that, it takes some of the pressure off our veterans like Whitney (Hand) and Aaryn (Ellenberg),” Williams said. “When that happens, we have so many weapons, it's hard to guard all of us.”
After averaging 10 points the first three months, Campbell, selected the conference's Sixth Man of the Year, averaged only 3.2 points the final six games of the regular season.
“You sometimes think postseason awards don't mean much, but you tell a kid you're the Sixth Man of the Year and suddenly they go, ‘OK, here we go,’” Coale said. “I think the validation helped her see she's done a lot of really, really good things.”
Freshmen sometimes hit a wall due to a longer, more intense season compared to high school.
“Most definitely,” Campbell said. “I don't want to say I lost myself. It was more of getting my confidence back. It's hard to explain.”
Coale stressed part of the reason her two freshmen accounted for nearly half of the Sooners’ offense Thursday night is Hand and Ellenberg are almost always the opponent’s defensive focus.