Struggling Oklahoma deals surprise blow to West Virginia’s tourney resume

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – What should have been a joyful day for West Virginia women’s basketball devolved into a potential disaster for the Mountaineers’ NCAA tournament hopes.

Senior guard Katrina Pardee returned from a seven-week injury absence, but those good vibes were lost in an 80-69 defeat to struggling Oklahoma. The Sooners came into the game rated No. 151 in the RPI – the worst in the conference and 100 spots behind WVU.

“Every timeout, Coach [Mike] Carey kept emphasizing how important this game was,” said West Virginia junior guard Tynice Martin. “This kind of ruined every game that we played early on, but that is what it is. I hope it wakes us up. I hope it puts us back into reality.”

Oklahoma (7-19, 3-12 Big 12) ranked 346th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 78.6 points per game. But the Sooners looked nowhere near that inept against the Mountaineers, who became the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. West Virginia (19-7, 10-5) was 35.4 percent (23-of-65) from the field and 63 percent (17-of-27) from the free-throw line.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma couldn’t miss.

The Sooners blistered the nets, shooting an otherworldly 63.2 percent in the second half, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range. Oklahoma shot 53 percent from the field overall.

“We knew what was on the line and we didn’t play hard,” Carey said. “We knew they were scorers. We just didn’t concentrate and talk. Then we had a lot of missed shots. Missed 10 foul shots and probably four-to-five layups. They had a lot more energy than we did. They played a lot harder than we did.”

Oklahoma guard Ana Llanusa led all scorers with 26 points before fouling out. She also pestered Martin, who led the Mountaineers with 22 points but was 7-of-19 from the field.

“Tynice is a pro,” said Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale. “It’s so difficult to defend her when she catches the ball. Ana made her work really, really hard to get catches. It’s not an easy thing to do with the athlete that Tynice is.”

Oklahoma guard Taylor Robertson was another thorn in West Virginia’s side, scoring 18 points on 6 of 8 shooting from three-point range.

“She hit some tough, contested threes,” Coale said. “She’s uncanny. I think she’s the best shooter I’ve ever been around, and we’ve had some dandies. It comes out of her hand the same way every time. She’s always ready.”

The final 1:30 best summed up an entire game’s worth of frustration for West Virginia.

Tynice Martin cut the deficit to 10 after hitting a pair of free throws, then stole the ball from Oklahoma’s Tatum Veitenheimer under the basket – and missed the open layup that followed.

Twice in the final minute, Oklahoma committed the cardinal sin of fouling with a late lead. West Virginia could not capitalize, missing all four free throws.

Pardee played 13 minutes off the bench in her first game since spraining an ankle against Oklahoma State on Jan. 9. She had two points on three shots.

“I’ve been trying to ease into it, but it felt good to be back out there,” Pardee said.

Naomi Davenport had 19 points and Kari Niblack added 14 off the bench for the Mountaineers.

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