NORMAN — Every fan in attendance rose to applaud Whitney Hand as she left the Lloyd Noble Center court for what will probably become the final time of her Oklahoma career.
Hand wept in pain while she was helped off the court; she left the arena for an MRI at halftime of the Sooners’ gritty 71-68 win over North Texas.
After the game, an OU spokesman confirmed that Hand had torn her anterior cruciate ligament.
“I’ve never met a kid who loves to compete and play this game more than Whitney,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “The fact that she is denied that, and has to endure again, is really hard for all of us to accept and understand.”
Hand has struggled with knee injuries before; she completed a 401-day rehabilitation after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee early in the 2009-10 season.
Senior Joanna McFarland recorded a double-double Thursday, with her 12 points and 11 rebounds; junior Nicole Griffin led all Sooner scorers with 15 points.
Oklahoma trailed North Texas 30-27 at halftime.
“I said a lot of things,” Coale said of her brief time with Hand during the break. “Told her I loved her.”
The Sooners took a lead they would not relinquish when Griffin hit two foul shots with 2:57 left.
Oklahoma (8-1) is now shockingly diminished to just eight healthy players on its roster. If Hand's injury is indeed season ending, it would be the team's fourth.
Freshman guard Maddie Manning tore the ACL in her right knee last week; veteran Lyndsey Cloman chose to end her career because of a lingering back injury in early November; and sophomore Kaylon Williams ruptured her Achilles tendon during the preseason.
OU is off until Sunday, Dec. 16, a home game against Vanderbilt.
“It should end better for this kid. It should just end better,” Coale said of Hand. “We don't know why; it's not our place to guess or even speculate. In the deepest part of your heart you just want it to end better for her.”