NORMAN — Joanna McFarland smiled at Sharane Campbell and put her right arm around her back. McFarland comforted Campbell after she was pushed for another foul.
Both Oklahoma players had been shoved to the ground, pushed hard and fouled harder, but McFarland was still smiling. They each recorded a double-double Wednesday night as the Sooners trimmed West Virginia 71-68 in a Big 12 women's basketball game at Lloyd Noble Center. Campbell had 17 points and 12 rebounds. McFarland recorded 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The first in-conference game against West Virginia proved to be Oklahoma's most physical test since its first loss of the season against UCLA, when the Sooners were pushed and didn't push back. This time, OU was rough and tough, and the physicality paid off in the conference opener.
“Wow,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “That was a fight. That was a fight for 40 minutes, and I thought it was a great show of character by our team just grinding our way back and fighting back.”
The game, however, was won from the free-throw line, where Oklahoma went 31 for 39. West Virginia shot 13 total free throws.
Campbell added six points in less than 20 seconds. Campbell first went to the line after she was fouled. Then after she made her second shot, West Virginia's Crystal Leary received a technical foul for shoving Campbell.
Two more shots, and Campbell made both. Then 17 seconds later, Campbell got the ball off a bounce pass from Jasmine Hartman for a layup to tie the game at 14-all.
No serious momentum was built by the Sooners in the first half. They trailed or were tied the entire half but could not pull ahead. They were, however, physical — earning their spot at the free throw line.
The Sooners went 17 for 21 from the free throw line in the first half.
Early in the second half, McFarland helped revive the Sooners, who trailed by nine points. She had three layups from the right side of the basket in three consecutive possessions.
OU (11-2) continued to tie the game or fall behind by a basket over the next seven minutes. Then with 4:55 remaining in the game, Aaryn Ellenberg gave Oklahoma its first lead with a pair from the free throw line. A layup from Campbell and two more sets of free throws built Oklahoma's lead to six.
“We talked about it before the game that we had to go attack the pressure, and spacing exposes that,” Coale said about the Sooners' game plan to get to the line.
During the last five minutes of the game, three West Virginia starters — two guards and the center — fouled out.
“We were holding too much,” Mountaineers coach Mike Carey said. “We were pushing too much with two hands. ... I just thought the last five minutes we didn't play smart.”
OU's last five scoring chances of the game were off free throws. The game appeared decided with 4.7 seconds left until West Virginia's Brooke Hampton put up a 3-pointer. The referee called one last foul and five-tenths of a second were placed on the clock.
Hampton missed the first free throw, eliminating any chance of winning on a tip-in.
Taylor Palmer had 24 points for West Virginia (8-4).
Oklahoma next plays 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Texas.