Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale has a close relationship with former Texas Tech head coach Marsha Sharp, calling her a mentor and “one of the giants.”
“I say often that she’s one of the giants of women’s basketball, but even more she’s a giant in the human race,” Coale said. “She’s one of the finest individuals I know.
“The thing that I will always most respect Marsha for is that fact that when she went to battle, she went to battle for women’s basketball. Texas Tech was important, and she was winning championships and national championships and conference championships, but whenever she went to battle, it was for the good of women’s basketball. I really tried to remember that and tried to make her proud of the way I represent this sport.”
On Thursday, Coale showed again what she’s built, at the expense of the program Sharp used to lead. No. 25 Oklahoma, the preseason Big 12 favorite, defeated Tech 68-38 in a conference opener at United Spirit Arena. It was the Lady Raiders’ lowest point total since a 62-37 loss on Jan. 2, 2000, at Iowa State.
Tech started out with a 5-4 lead with buckets from junior point guard Amber Battle, and the Lady Raiders finished the first half down only eight points. Then they were outscored 37-15 in the second half.
“I really liked our energy to start the game,” said Tech coach Candi Whitaker, whose team dropped to 6-6. “I thought to start we really executed our game plan and how we were going to guard their actions that they run.”
However, Texas Tech shot just less than 17 percent in the second half and didn’t score its first point until a Minta Spears free throw with 14:17 left in the game.
“I thought we had a letdown in the second half, just the energy and intensity on the defensive end,” Whitaker said. “But we continued to battle and tried to make runs. ... We’ve got to shoot the ball well. We can’t win a Big 12 game scoring 38 points.”
The offensive struggles lasted all night for Tech, which shot 23 percent.
“Shots just weren’t falling,” said Battle, who led Tech with 11 points. “They were good shots. We had open looks. They just weren’t falling.”
The Lady Raiders took 31 of their 61 shots from 3-point range as they couldn’t seem to get the ball inside.
Oklahoma (10-4, 1-0) ran an extended zone in the half court and Tech couldn’t penetrate it.
“We played it spotty,” Coale said. “We played it in various games throughout the non-conference but the very first possession that we ran it, you could tell that they were very uncomfortable. So with every successive possession, you know, you just stay with what’s working and it continued to make them uncomfortable.
“It changed a couple of times and bumped out and trapped out of it and did different things, but for the most part we just felt like it broke their rhythm and made it hard for them to get to the rim.”
Oklahoma owned the paint on both ends for a full 40 minutes, outscoring Tech 32-10 down low.
The 3-point shot was there when the Sooners needed it, though. They made 5 of 7, led by senior guard Aaryn Ellenberg, who was 3-for-3 from downtown.
Overall, Oklahoma shot 61.9 percent from the field.
Ellenberg, back from a concussion, led the Sooners with 17 points, followed by senior center Nicole Griffin with 12 and senior guard Morgan Hook with 11.
“I think all around it was just a really good effort,” Ellenberg said. “In the first half, we didn’t play well. We came out in the second half and really responded and stuck to what our game plan was.”
Only Battle scored in double digits for Tech. Freshman point guard Marina Lizarazu chipped in eight.
Senior forward Haley Schneider finished with four blocked shots and challenged Griffin down low.
“I thought Haley did a great job on Nicole for the most part,” Whitaker said. “She made her really work for touches and protected the rim. She came off and blocked some shots when guards were coming to the rim. If she didn’t block it, she impeded it and made it a tougher shot to make.”
Oklahoma outrebounded Tech 35-33, but the Lady Raiders owned the offensive boards with 17.
“It was just hustle,” Whitaker said. “We did take a lot of 3s and had some long rebounds. I thought we chased a lot of those down and pursued the basketball. We tried to give ourselves second and third opportunities.”
Follow Krista on Twitter