NORMAN The University of Oklahoma women's basketball program has slowly burst onto the national scene.
The Sooner women cracked the Top 20 rankings for the first time last season and achieved their highest ranking ever earlier this week when they were listed 11th in the NCAA poll.
"Being ranked high nationally has been a goal of mine ever since I've been here," said OU coach Maura McHugh. "We're finally showing some progress. We're getting respect all across the nation, but we've worked hard to get here."
McHugh, though, said there are two major goals the 12-1 Sooners haven't attained yet a Big Eight championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
"I think we've got a good shot to do both. We knew we'd have a real good team this year and we've played pretty well. But we know the Big Eight Conference will be very tough. We're supposed to win it, but that doesn't mean anything. We've got to go out and do it."
OU returned all five starters off last year's 23-7 squad which finished as the Big Eight runner-up in both the regular season and post-season tournament.
The Sooners were the fifth highest scoring team in the nation last year, averaging 84.5 points. With four players averaging 12.8 or better they're among the top 10 once again this year, scoring 80.6.
Lisa Allison, a 6-3 junior from Carthage, Mo., leads the team (14.3) followed by 6-0 Lawton junior LaTrenda Phillips (13.7). Vickie Green, a 5-9 Dallas senior, is scoring 13.1. Senior Jacquetta Hurley, a 6-1 Fox product, chips in 12.8.
The Sooners may have all five starters in double figures before the season is over. Viki Streets, a 5-6 Bartlesville senior, is averaging 9.5.
"Our guards (Streets and Green) are the quickest backcourt you will see," McHugh said. "They both have great offensive moves and are great shooters."
Phillips has come into her own.
"She's really come on and she has so much athletic ability," McHugh said. "She and Lisa really give us a good inside game. We're real balanced."
Terry Willis, a 6-1 junior from Lawton, is the top reserve (7.2).
Jo Mosley, a 6-0 freshman from Oklahoma City (Star-Spencer); Erika Notzke, 6-2 Lawton freshman, and Julie Callan, 6-0 sophomore from Lombard, Ill., are the top inside reserves. Tami Rogers, 5-9 freshman from Mont Belvieu, Texas, sees a lot of action at guard.
"We've played a lot of people this year, sometimes because we have to due to foul trouble," McHugh said. "That should help us, though.
Since we lose three seniors many of them will be playing key roles next year. We want this tradition to continue."
But McHugh is concentrating on 1986. The Sooners have compiled a 112-54 record in her five-plus years at OU, but this is the first time they've been favored to win the Big Eight Conference. OU opens conference play tonight at Colorado.
"It's not unreasonable to think we could finish 14-0, but we can't look too far down the road. Our goal is to win all of our home games and win most of them on the road. I really don't think anyone will go undefeated.
"I felt we had one of the top conferences in the nation last year, but we only got our champion into the national tournament. We talked about that at the conference meeting that we needed more recognition. I think we could get two or three teams invited this year."
OU will earn the automatic berth if it wins the post-season tournament. The Sooners only loss thus far was a 79-66 setback at Arkansas.
"They're a good team, ranked No. 21 in USA Today, but it was right after exams and right before Christmas. We didn't play well at all. I don't want us to have any more Arkansas-type games. We just weren't ready."
The only thing really lacking this year is fan support.
"We'll have some double-headers with the men so that should help. A lot of schools are promoting their women's programs and it's helped," McHugh said.
"We expect to have our best season ever so we'd like to see more people come out. We play a fast paced, exciting brand of ball." BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 256066