Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale met with the media Friday in Columbus, Ohio, a day before the Sooners opened the NCAA Tournament against Central Michigan. Coale has the Sooners in the tournament for the 14th consecutive season.
Is there a danger in looking past the first game?
Our team understands if we don't show up and present the best version of ourselves, we are in trouble no matter who we face. Central Michigan can score. They are a tough matchup for us. They're big on the perimeter and there are mismatches all over the place. There is nobody who is looking beyond Saturday morning at 11 a.m.
What is it about Central Michigan that most impresses you?
They're very good in transition. I'm impressed how they move from transition to their early offense. They have capable scorers and confident scorers. They think their ball is going into the basket. They are better defensively than people give them credit and get points in transition off steals.
How big of a loss was Whitney Hand?
I'm not sure if there's a basketball player and individual on the planet as complete as Whitney Hand. For her to go down, it was a blow on every level. It was a tangible blow in terms of she is our leading rebounder and one of our leading 3-point scorers. She guards out opponents' best player every time. We lost just as much, if not more, intangibly. She has been a captain since the beginning of her career that led us to a Final Four as a freshman.
How much has Aaryn Ellenberg's improvement fueled this team?
When Whitney goes down, she is clearly the most talented player on the floor for out team. We have pushed her out of her comfort zone and it is happening on a daily basis to get her to be more vocal and to show more energy and emotion toward her teammates because that is an integral part of being the best player. I've reminded her repeatedly that the line between good and great is the way you impact the people around you. You're not great unless you make the other four people on the floor with you better players, too. Sometimes it's not always giving them the ball where they need it to score, but it's also emotionally lifting them to be the best version of themselves.