COLUMBUS, Ohio — Oklahoma guard Aaryn Ellenberg knew an opportunity when she saw one Monday night against UCLA in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament in St. John Arena.
After finding her stroke in the second half of the Sooners' first-round tournament win, Ellenberg's 3-pointer 14 seconds into the UCLA game was a sign of what was to come for her and her teammates.
Ellenberg finished with 27 points while making six 3-pointers as Oklahoma avenged an early season loss to the Bruins with an 85-72 win.
The victory sends the Sooners into a Sweet Sixteen matchup Sunday against Tennessee in Oklahoma City.
“Why not exploit (3-point shooting) if they're not guarding it very well?” Ellenberg said.
Ellenberg wasn't the only player to get hot from the outside as the Sooners improved to 24-10.
Joanna McFarland, who had only attempted 81 3-pointers during the regular season, made three from behind the arc during the first half to help Oklahoma build a 35-25 lead with 5:25 left in the first half.
Sharane Campbell and Nicole Kornet also made one 3-pointer apiece for Oklahoma, which finished 11 of 27 from 3-point range.
The Bruins, meanwhile, made just two of 12 from 3-point range.
“Aaryn's made more 3-pointer than their whole team,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “It helped us fine-tune our game plan and be real specific with how we were going to defend. I thought we were real dialed in and were in sync with the moment.”
UCLA, which was the third seed and beat the Sooners 86-80 on Nov. 14, finished 26-8.
The Bruins led 20-18 with 10:21 left in the first half when the Sooners found their stroke.
Oklahoma went on a 12-3 run that included a three-point play by Campbell and McFarland's three 3s.
Ellenberg scored the Sooners' final 10 points of the first half. Thea Lemberger hit a 3 with two seconds left in the first half to cut it 42-37, but the Bruins didn't take full advantage of the potential momentum booster.
The Bruins got to within 42-41 with 17:52 left but Oklahoma answered with a 12-4 run that included 3s from Campbell and Ellenberg.
“UCLA played very hard, was very athletic and gave us all we wanted, but tonight we were just a little bit better,” Coale said. “I'm not sure I've been more proud of a group of kids before. They were so determined and absolutely refused to lose this game.”
The Sooners were out-rebounded 50-37 overall, including 23-13 on the offensive end, but it was an improvement compared to the earlier meeting between the teams, when UCLA won the offensive rebounding battle 27-6.
McFarland finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds, and Campbell added 19 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
“Who wouldn't want someone on their team who has 16 rebounds?” Campbell said of McFarland. “There is no other post player I'd rather have than Joanna.”
The Bruins got 18 points and eight rebounds from Atonye Nyingifa and 14 points from Markel Walker.
“We did a better job of not letting them rebound the ball,” Ellenberg said.