NORMAN — Still, by the 15-minute mark of the second half, after the Mean Green had taken its biggest lead, 38-32, it was clear OU and its crowd felt inspired by Hand’s absence.
The game didn’t get a whole lot cleaner. And, if anything, North Texas raised its game, too, consistently putting the brakes on Sooner rallies.
In the end, OU won the game at the free-throw line, getting points on each of its last 10 possessions, every single one of them at the charity stripe, where the Sooners canned 16 of 20 over the last four minutes.
Nicole Griffin led OU with 15 points, including eight straight to take OU from 57-53 down to 61-59 up with 2:58 remaining.
Senior post Joanna McFarland, who lost her starting job when the Sooners went to Hawaii for the Rainbow Wahine Classic five games ago, responded with her first double-double of the season, netting 12 points and 11 rebounds.
North Texas was led by Alexis Hyder’s 15 points and 12 rebounds. Loryn Goodwin added 14 points and Hanna Christian 13.
The story was Hand.
North Texas coach Mike Peterson was the first person to get to Hand’s side, as she fell directly across from the Mean Green’s bench.
“I just told her to hang in there, her trainer was on the way … She’s not my player but I have so much respect for her,” he said.
Though the result was secondary, or “immaterial,” as Coale put it, she believes it said plenty about her players.
“I don’t even know how they could think, much less change defenses and run sets and change matchups,” she said. “They revealed their strength.”
Without their leader, at least on the court, the Sooners will be calling upon that strength the rest of the season.
“They’ll fight with Whitney’s spirit and do everything they can,” Coale said. “We’re going to find a way to win basketball games.”