NORMAN — And then there were eight.
The Oklahoma women's basketball team sustained its biggest, most gut-wrenching blow yet in Thursday's 71-68 win over North Texas, when senior guard Whitney Hand tore the ACL in her left knee.
Sherri Coale's team now consists of eight healthy players.
“I don't know that I've ever been prouder of a team,” Coale said. “Seventeen years of doing this. ... I think revealed their mettle. Their character.”
The Sooners (8-1) earned a tough, gritty win Thursday, but the games are going to get substantially harder over the next month.
For now, though, Coale said she was floored by her team's maturity after their leader and friend suffered the second major knee injury of her college career.
“I have no words,” she said. “I don't even know how they could think, much less change defenses and run sets and change matchups.”
How did she manage to coach, given her close relationship with Hand?
“It was hard,” she said. “Hard to concentrate.”
How can this team carry on with so few healthy players? Are there options to add another body to the roster?
“Last time I checked, you can make it with five,” Coale said. “That's all that have to be on the floor at a time.”
It was 10 seasons ago when Coale last had a team with this much attrition.
The 2002-03 Sooners lost Erin Higgins and Caton Hill on the same November day, both with torn ACLs.
That team still earned an NCAA Tournament berth; Coale's Sooners have gone 13 straight seasons.
“I would not doubt the character of these kids,” Coale said. “They will find a way. We will piece it together.
“People of Oklahoma are gonna be really proud of our basketball team. If I was just Susie Q on the street, and wanted to feel better about everything in my world, I'd buy a ticket to go watch the women's basketball team play.”