NORMAN — Maddie Manning walked with crutches to her seat Thursday evening, when Oklahoma easily rolled past Northwestern State (La.), 96-35.
Instead of making her fourth career start, the freshman guard sat on the Sooners' bench, watching her teammates celebrate a victory on the same Lloyd Noble Center floor where her season came to a premature end just one day earlier.
Whitney Hand can sympathize; the OU senior missed most of the 2009-10 season with the same injury — a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“She did a lot better than me,” Hand said. “I couldn't see the game because I was crying through the whole thing.
“I remember that first game; you're just miserable. All of our hearts just break for her.”
Coach Sherri Coale was lauded for her coaching performance last season, when she led OU to the NCAA Tournament's second round despite injuries continually biting her squads.
Seven games into this season, Coale's active roster is down to nine players.
Two players transferred in March; one veteran, Lyndsey Cloman, chose to end her career because of a lingering back injury in early November; and sophomore Kaylon Williams, who averaged 4.8 points and 5.2 rebounds a year ago, ruptured her Achilles tendon and will miss this entire season.
“It just happens,” Coale said. “It happens. Play the hand you're dealt.”
Thursday, Coale did just that; she played all nine Sooners available to her.
Junior guard Aaryn Ellenberg led the Sooners with 22 points; freshman Nicole Kornet, who made her first career start in Manning's place, scored 19 points on 7 of 10 shooting.
“Pretty pumped,” Kornet said of getting her first start. “It's not the way you want to start, with Maddie going down or anything, but you just take what you get.”
Manning had entered the starting lineup during the Sooners' swing through Hawaii, where she started all three of OU's Rainbow Wahine Showdown victories and, in each game, scored in double figures.
Then Wednesday, near the end of practice, she fell to the floor with a torn ACL in her right knee.
“Maddie Manning's gonna be a great player here,” Hand said. “Absolutely. One of the best. And I can say that with full confidence.
“I have every ounce of confidence that this injury is not gonna set her back, and she's gonna be even more of a warrior than she was before.”