Oklahoma jumped to an early 11-point lead Sunday at West Virginia and appeared well on its way to securing an important Big 12 Conference win.
But after senior forward Joanna McFarland collected her second personal foul midway through the first half, the Mountaineers went into halftime on a 23-9 run, eventually beating the Sooners, 83-62.
Despite only playing 27 minutes because of foul trouble, McFarland recorded her fifth double-double in conference play, totaling 14 points and 16 rebounds.
No. 23 Oklahoma (16-5 overall, 6-3 Big 12) has struggled all season when McFarland is forced to the bench because of foul trouble, highlighting just how valuable the 6-foot-3 senior is to this team, but also shining a light on the inexperienced Sooner bench's need for continued improvement.
The Sooners return to action Wednesday at 7 p.m. inside Kansas State's Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats (12-9, 3-6 Big 12) bring a two-game losing streak into the contest.
West Virginia's bench outscored OU's by a staggering 40-5 margin, although that number is a bit skewed by Oklahoma's injury problems, which have left it with only three reserves.
Sooners coach Sherri Coale spoke with The Oklahoman about McFarland's value, her foul troubles, junior guard Aaryn Ellenberg's health and the Sooners bench's need for improvement.
Aaryn Ellenberg had to leave Sunday's game without another ankle injury. Is her health a major concern for this team moving forward?
“She is doing better. She practiced two days this week, and she didn't practice any last week. Ironically, she's got two of them that are banged up now. But I think the original one, the right one, is much improved. The left one wasn't as bad.”
When Joanna is forced out of games, her productivity has been hard to replicate. Is that because of her value, or the bench's inexperience?
“I think it's a combination of both. I think you get dependent of a guy running all those rebounds down, and then suddenly when that's not there, what you were doing that might've been good enough with her, isn't good enough anymore. Our bench guys don't have enough solid sense of confidence yet, but he capability is there. There's no doubt.”
How have you seen Joanna improve from last year to this year?
“She has a soaring sense of confidence, which I saw early last year. I thought she was gonna have this kind of year last year before she had the broken jaw. It was a very traumatic injury, even though she handled it beautifully.”
“Now she's in that place where she really believes she can make plays.”
Obviously so much of Joanna's value comes from her physical play. Can you simultaneously limit her fouls and allow her to do the things that make her so good?
“Sunday, she just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes it's sort of a team effort. She's really not gone out and fouled haphazardly. I don't really talk to her about it too much. If she gets three in a game, though, there's a certain amount of caution you have to play with.”
Are you seeing signs of improvement from your bench players?
“I do think it's getting better. But it's gotta get better faster. All three of them have really focused the last two days of practice.”