CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Oklahoma women's basketball coach Sherri Coale was asked if winning tonight's second round NCAA Tournament game is as simple as handling Miami's pressure.
"If we don't turn the basketball over we win," Coale said. "If we keep it to around 10 or 12 turnovers we'll win the game. But doing that is another thing entirely."
One of the more athletic teams in the country, the Hurricanes thrive on forcing turnovers.
Miami ranks second nationally in steals, averaging nearly 14 a game.
The Hurricanes force nearly 25 turnovers a game to rank third nationally in turnover margin.
In a first round win over James Madison on Sunday, OU committed 22 turnovers, 15 in the second half.
Trailing by 19 points, the Dukes fought back in part because of their full-court press.
"Hopefully they'll see how bad we played it, they'll press us and we'll shoot a lot of layups," said OU guard Whitney Hand. "Normally we play well against the press if we attack it. The other day we let it come to us. We were playing not to lose. We can't do that."
But it's uncertain how much the Hurricanes (28-4) will use their full-court press.
Miami coach Katie Meier said it varies game to game, depending on the other team's personnel, philosophy and how their guards handle pressure. Sometimes she sprinkles in the full-court press to change the tempo.
"There have been games we haven't pressed at all," Meier said. "One thing you don't get as much credit for is when you have an athletic team, 'Oh, look at Miami's athletes. They cover so much ground.' But we're pretty smart. Our pressure isn't the same. We make a lot of adjustments."
Coale said that's the challenge. Players must be prepared for traps and double-teams anywhere on the court.
"They're chaotic in their defensive pressure," Coale said. "You don't necessarily know where it's coming from. In that vein it reminds me a little of Ole Miss from a couple of years ago, just the random nature of the chaotic trap. They live and die by it."
The chaos continues when the Hurricanes are on offense.
All five Miami players will crash the boards.
Guards Riquna Williams and Shenise Johnson average a combined 41 points a game but also average nearly 14 rebounds.
"They're very athletic," said OU senior Carless Roethlisberger. "Even their point guard averages six rebounds... Boxing out is going to be very necessary because we're not going to win the jumping battles."
Meier said the Sooners pose a different type of challenge with four players capable of draining 3-pointers. She said the Hurricanes' biggest mental challenge is to not leave shooters.
"When they get hot from 3, they're as good as any team in the country," Meier said. "They spread the floor and have everything you want. It's going to be a big challenge to defend the entire court."
Williams, one of the nation's leading scorers, said the key to the Hurricanes making their second Sweet 16 trip in school history is to apply pressure and disrupt OU's rhythm.
"We have to contain their guards and keep them out of their comfort zone," Williams said. "We can't give them open looks. We can't let them get comfortable and do what they do. There is no room for mistakes."
Both teams like to play up tempo. Both teams are ranked among the top offenses in the country.
Miami averages 79.8 points, Oklahoma 76.1.
"We're going to run regardless," said OU senior guard Danielle Robinson. "That's part of our identity. We can't stop just because they are a running team, too."
Coming off back-to-back Final Four seasons, the Sooners feel they're playing their best basketball of the season. How they handle Miami's pressure could determine whether OU makes its eighth Sweet 16 appearance under Coale.
"We just have to attack it," Hand said. "We've seen it before against teams like (Texas) A&M. We can't let their pressure suck energy out of us like what happened the second half (against James Madison). I think we learned a lot from that."