COLUMBUS, Ohio — The numbers in at least two statistical categories flew directly in the face of what Oklahoma wanted to do during its first-round NCAA women's tournament game Saturday.
Committing 24 turnovers and allowing 84 shots while shooting the ball 53 times didn't cost the Sooners the game, but it did cause some alarm during a 78-73 win over 11th-seeded Central Michigan in Ohio State's St. John Arena.
“I'm not really sure how you win when you have 17 more turnovers and allow 30 more shots,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “They gave us all they wanted and then some. I thought they took their best shot and we weathered it. We turned it over and gave up a jillion offensive rebounds but found a way to win.”
With the win, Oklahoma improves to 23-10 and moves on to a second-round matchup at 7 p.m. Monday against third-seeded UCLA, a team that beat the Sooners 86-80 on Nov. 14.
The Chippewas, who won the Mid-American Conference tournament and finished 21-12, had just seven turnovers and got 36 points and 14 rebounds from Crystal Bradford but were held to 31 percent from the floor.
They also out-rebounded OU 23-11, which helped keep them in a game that the Sooners seemed on the verge of breaking open at various times.
A memorable rebounding performance by Joanna McFarland and hot second-half shooting by Aaryn Ellenberg helped Oklahoma overcome its flaws.
McFarland finished with 18 points and had 13 of a career-high 17 rebounds on the defensive glass.
During the first half, she had 16 points and nine rebounds as Oklahoma built a 43-34 lead.
The Sooners led 20-10 with 11:09 to go in the first half and never trailed again, although Central Michigan sliced the advantage to 29-25 with 5:32 left before halftime and continued to battle throughout the second half.
McFarland disputed the idea that Central Michigan's defensive quickness caused the biggest problems for the Sooners.
“We've had two weeks off and we were fresh,” McFarland said. “It felt good. It was an up-and-down game but it wasn't a detriment to us.
“When Aaryn is hot, it's really exciting. She can hit 30 in about five minutes.”
Ellenberg had just four points in the first half but found her stroke shortly after halftime, going 4-for-5 from 3-point range. She finished 8-for-13 from the floor and with a team-high 22 points, also adding three steals.
Central Michigan got to within 49-47 on a three-point play by Bradford but got three consecutive 3s from Ellenberg to increase the lead to 58-49 with 11:27 to go.
“I honestly was just open,” Ellenberg said. “It was just a matter of waiting for my time.”
The Chippewas were making just their third NCAA Tournament appearance; it was their first since 1984.
Oklahoma led 73-64 with 1:56 left when Central Michigan made one last rally, coming to within 73-68 with 1:04 to go. Niki DiGuilio then missed a 3 that would have cut it to two, and Sharane Campbell and Morgan Hook each hit two free throws to seal the win.
Campbell had 15 points. Hook scored nine points but committed seven turnovers.
“We had wide-open shots that just didn't go in,” Chippewas coach Sue Guevara said. “McFarland is just a beast out there.”