CNHI News Services
A year ago, the longest space the Oklahoma women had between two games after conference play began was five days, Jan. 21 to Jan. 26.
If that wasn’t enough, the situation was made worse by OU’s agreement to squeeze in a game with Connecticut, leading to a stretch in which the Sooners played Missouri Feb. 11, Connecticut Feb. 13, Kansas State Feb. 15, Iowa State Feb. 18 and Texas A&M Feb. 21.
Five games in 11 days.
Nobody’s facing such a slate this season. For OU, Connecticut is off the schedule. Also, Big 12 schedule-makers didn’t have to scramble (as they did a year ago) to fit an 18-game conference schedule into what used to be space for a 16-game conference schedule.
Long story short?
The 20th-ranked Sooners are off this week until meeting No. 1 Baylor at 11 a.m. Saturday at Ferrell Center in Waco.
The coach likes it.
“You settle down, let your body settle down, let your mind settle down for a little bit,” Sooner skipper Sherri Coale said. “You just kind of get a chance to breathe. These games come so fast. Now, there’s a little sense of familiarity and we sort of have an idea what this grind is about. I think this break comes at a really good time.”
The Sooners are in a good spot.
Though they’ve fallen a few notches in the polls thanks to last week’s 82-61 loss at Iowa State, they’re still 14-4 overall and 5-1 in Big 12 play after Saturday’s 69-56 triumph over Texas.
The Sooners are all alone in second place behind Baylor in the conference standings.
Baylor will be a bear, and two of OU’s next three games following Saturday are on the road at West Virginia and Kansas State. Nonetheless, given a chance to catch their breath, Coale believes the Sooners will soon be ready to take off again.
One reason, she likes her team. Another, she really believes in the opportunity presented by getting a few extra days off the game court.
As fast as the games come, OU has spent more time working on its opponents than itself lately. That’s going to change this week.
“I think we’re going to develop a better rhythm and play more like we were at the beginning of the year,” point guard Morgan Hook said.
Hook is talking about getting the Sooner transition game going, something Coale admits the team has hardly worked on in recent practices, because that’s just the way it is when games arrive every three or four days and you’re trying not to tax your starting five too much between them after playing them so many minutes.
“It’s good to have a couple of days where you can go, ‘OK, let’s just go play,’” Coale said. “And we actually get a little bit of time to polish the rebound, the outlet (pass), the lane runner, the first post.”
Fans might remember how rejuvenated the Sooners have appeared the last few seasons when the NCAA tournament has rolled around. A big part of that is finally getting a few days off after a long conference season and the Big 12 tournament.
Now, OU has a similar break.
“We’ve positioned ourselves really well, so we can step back and take a very realistic look at what we’ve done and what’s ahead and take a deep breath and then go attack it,” she said. “We’re going to be on an ascension from here on out. This is an opportunity to gather ourselves and then try to finish this off the right way.”