NORMAN — It's been a rough Christmas for the Oklahoma women's basketball team.
A 76-69 loss at Marist on Dec. 21 gave No. 25 OU (8-4) its fourth setback before January for the first time since 1998.
After falling to the Red Foxes, the Sooners had four days off before returning to practice on Thursday, leaving a lot of time over the holiday to think about their latest defeat and difficult start to the season.
The Sooners will finally have the chance to get the losses off their minds when they take on Samford at 2 p.m. Sunday inside Lloyd Noble Center.
“It's about that identification process,” said OU coach Sherri Coale said. “They have to learn what their trump card is. They have to learn what that thing is that they have to be able to hang their hat on, that they can do better than anybody else in the world.
“I think it's always a reflection of leadership issues when you play a third of the season and you don't have an identity yet. I take as much responsibility as the supposed leaders of our team do.”
The Sooners have been potent on the offensive end with regular starters Aaryn Ellenberg, Morgan Hook, Nicole Griffin, and Sharane Campbell all averaging double figures scoring per game.
But the defensive end hasn't been as effective. In its four losses, OU has surrendered an average of 87 points per game.
“We've not been consistent in any phase of the game,” Coale said. “We have to guard people together. It sounds like an easy answer, and it is very simple, but we're not guarding people together. We're not committed to the mission of keeping the ball out of the paint. We have to show a consistent commitment to that.”
The Sooners are expected to be without Ellenberg on Sunday. The senior guard, who is the team's leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, suffered a concussion in practice this week.
Freshman T'ona Edwards, who was named The Oklahoman's 2013 Little All-City Player of the Year as a Northeast senior, will get her first start in Ellenberg's place.
It hasn't been all negative lately for OU, though. None of the team's losses have come by more than nine points, and with the exception of a road loss to now 5-6 UCLA, all have come against quality competition.
Marist opened the season in the top 25 and is the favorite to win the MAAC. Louisville and Duke, both of which beat the Sooners in Norman, are both ranked in the top 10.
“We're all really good players and I know we can win those type of games,” said freshman guard Gioya Carter. “We've had a couple defensive mistakes in those games that would give them momentum and take it away from us. If we guard those simple plays well, those games would've turned out differently. I know we're capable of doing that, so there's some positive things.”