COLUMBUS, Ohio — The names on the front of the jerseys are the same, yet the people wearing them may not be.
It's been 4 1/2 months since UCLA and Oklahoma last met on a basketball court. Both sides say what happened then has almost no bearing on their NCAA women's second-round showdown Monday night at Ohio State's St. John Arena.
“That was the second game of the season,” Bruins power forward Alyssia Brewer said. “There's been a lot of games in between for both of the teams.”
Circumstances have dictated change for both the sixth-seeded Sooners (23-10) and third-seeded UCLA (26-7).
“We've grown exponentially since that game,” Sooners coach Sherri Coale said of the 86-80 home loss to the Bruins back on Nov. 14. “I can go down a litany of areas in which we've improved. The biggest difference is the identity of our team, though. We weren't hard-fired at that time. We hadn't been through all that we've now been through.”
The Bruins have undergone change, but a lot of it may have stemmed from that night in Norman, Okla.
“I do think it was a major turning point for us as a program,” said second-year UCLA coach Cori Close, who had seven new players on the court in that game. “I remember walking behind the players out to the bus after that game and listening to them talk. I leaned over to one of my assistants and I said, `This is a formidable day.' Because I could hear how they were processing the experience: `That was fun.' `That meant something.' `We were so together.' They were reliving not only the win but the way it happened.”
The differences for Oklahoma, ranked No. 11 at the time, were more tangible. Less than a month later, the Sooners lost perhaps their best player, versatile guard Ashley Hand, to a season-ending knee injury. Top freshman sub Maddie Manning also went down with a torn ACL.