NORMAN — Oklahoma had twice as many turnovers as assists, only one 3-pointer and off nights from all three of its stars. Still, the Sooners are going to the Sweet 16. OU defeated Arkansas-Little Rock 60-44 in the second round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament on Tuesday. Had the Trojans been able to hit a few more wide-open looks and capitalize on a couple more miscues, the Sooners might be checking in their uniforms instead of packing their bags for Kansas City. This team has been so-so so far in the tournament. Reason to sound the alarm? It might seem that way, since second-seeded Notre Dame awaits on Sunday, but the truth is, these Sooners have a way of elevating their performance against good opponents. "It’s funny how every team has its own identity and becomes what they become over the course of a long season,” Sooner coach Sherri Coale said. "We don’t blow anybody out.” The notable exception: a 33-point victory against Oklahoma State on Senior Day. "But this team has played great in every big game that we’ve had all year,” Coale said. "Connecticut. Nebraska. We haven’t always won them all, but we’ve played extremely well.” That, they have. And the Sooners will need to do the same against the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame is the only team, after all, to lead Connecticut at halftime this season during the Huskies’ historic winning streak. Play like they did Tuesday night at the Lloyd Noble Center, and the Sooners won’t be spending very long in Kansas City. "Notre Dame had a great win tonight,” Sooner point guard Danielle Robinson said of its 84-66 victory against Vermont. "Skylar played awesome.” Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins scored a season-high 31 points in the game, which finished right before OU’s tipped off. A few minutes after Robinson exited the postgame press conference, Coale recalled her comment. "What’re you doin’ watchin’ that game before we play?” Coale said. She raised an eyebrow. "Uh, oh. Busted. Perhaps looking ahead just a bit.” Maybe so. How else to explain 22 turnovers, most of them of the bumbling, stumbling variety? Players threw passes to no one, stepped out of bounds, dribbled off their foot. And how else to explain three stars gone south? Robinson had 13 points but six turnovers. Amanda Thompson had only six points and three rebounds. Nyeshia Stevenson had 10 points but three turnovers and missed all of her 3-point attempts. "I can’t remember the last time Danielle Robinson, Amanda Thompson and Nyeshia Stevenson were all subpar,” Coale said. "I just can’t remember it.” There have been times when one of the three has been off, but the others have picked up the slack. Not Tuesday. It took a 19-point, 11-rebound performance from Abi Olajuwon for the Sooners to survive. "A win is a win,” Olajuwon said. "We always strive to do our best, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to grind it out and get the W. "That’s what we had to do tonight.” What the Sooners will have to do Sunday night is play much better. Can’t have stars go missing. Can’t have twice as many turnovers as assists. But this team has played its best against the best. "The Sweet 16 is a big deal to these kids,” Coale said. "This is what our guys have been shooting for. "I think we’ll be really focused.”
Sweet 16: Kansas City RegionalNo. 3 OU vs. No. 2 Notre Dame →When: 6:30 Sunday →Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo. →TV: TBD →Radio: KOKC-AM 1520 →Tickets: All-session tickets are $48 adult, $20 youth at www.Ticketmaster.com or (800) 745-3000.