NORMAN — Ever the optimist, Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said she believes “losses can be magical,” after her team's 97-92 overtime defeat Sunday to No. 5 Louisville in the Preseason WNIT Championship Game at Lloyd Noble Center.
“Maybe even a lifted ceiling that wouldn't have been there had we been able to hang on at the end,” Coale said. “Who knows what will come of it? But I know the opportunity for growth is tremendous.”
The Sooners jumped to a 17-2 lead on the Cardinals — a Final Four team last season — about six minutes into the game, but Louisville clawed back and took a 5-point advantage into halftime.
Louisville appeared to take firm control of the game in the second half, holding a nine-point lead with seven minutes remaining before Oklahoma went on a 15-4 run over the next four minutes to take the lead.
The Sooners led 85-82 with 27 seconds remaining before Louisville's Jude Schimmel went the length of the floor to make an easy layup and pull the Cardinals within one.
OU freshman Gioya Carter missed the first of two free-throw attempts, and Schimmel scored again to tie the game at 86 and send it to overtime.
After three minutes in overtime, Louisville had taken an 8-point lead, largely by limiting OU senior Aaryn Ellenberg's opportunities.
Ellenberg didn't get a shot off in overtime until there were 35 seconds remaining, when she drained a tough 3-pointer while being well defended.
“She's special,” said Louisville coach Jeff Walz. “After the game, I grabbed her and said, ‘You're as good as we've played against.'
“Our goal was: If we're gonna lose, she can't beat us.”
Ellenberg finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, leading the Sooners (3-1) in both categories.
Louisville senior Shoni Schimmel led the Cardinals (4-0) with 16 points, and senior Asia Taylor added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
As a team, the Sooners shot poorly from the field, successfully converting just 34.7 percent of their field-goal attempts and 24.1 percent of their 3-point attempts.
“For us to be in that position, with the way we shot the ball, speaks volumes about what our potential is,” Coale said.
Oklahoma returns to action Wednesday at home against UT-Arlington.