By Clay Horning
OKLAHOMA CITY —
The Oklahoma women’s visit to Texas’ Frank Erwin Arena today isn’t meant to be a recruiting jaunt, yet you never know.
The game tips off at 11 a.m. to accommodate a field trip of 6,000 Central Texas elementary students and, just maybe, the next Courtney Paris will be watching.
And, if she is, probably the best thing OU (10-5, 1-1 Big 12) could do is beat the Longhorns today.
Though Texas (10-4, 1-1) is not ranked, it nevertheless seems to be in resurgent mode. It’s getting votes in the coaches’ poll.
It played No. 4 Stanford within 11 points at the Paradise Jam, in The Bahamas, and the next day, still in The Bahamas, stopped then-No. 12 Texas A&M 69-58. It also played No. 8 Tennessee within 14 points in Knoxville.
Given all of that, one of the best ways to beat a resurgent Texas program, possibly in front of future top drawer women’s basketball talent, is to get senior shooting guard and leading scorer Aaryn Ellenberg going.
Last time out, against Iowa State, Ellenberg was taken out of her game, struggling to get touches and only even attempting a single 3-point shot.
It was also the continuation of a trend. In all five Sooner losses, Ellenberg has struggled.
Against Louisville and Duke, she got her points, 24 and 28, but was inefficient, hitting 17 of 45 shots and 8 of 28 3-pointers. Against UCLA, Marist and Iowa State, she has struggled to be a factor at all, hitting just 9 of 39 shots and 1 of 13 3-point attempts, combining for 33 points between all three outings.
She may be caught simultaneously between wanting to being aggressive, yet not wanting to force the action.
“I think it’s just really forcing it a little bit, not letting it come to me more,” Ellenberg said. “I guess it’s aggressiveness, too, but shot selection needs to be a little bit better. I think it’s gotten better the last couple of games … it’s just being patient.”
Her numbers in OU’s 10 wins are about what you’d expect from the All-Big 12 first-team preseason selection. In those games she’s hitting 47.6 percent of her shots and 45.8 percent from long distance.
Two years ago, Ellenberg suffered a mid-season shooting slump she eventually came out of. This season, though, has been different. The struggles have been sporadic and they’ve come, for the most part, against teams in which OU needs a best effort from its best player to win.
Before leaving for Austin on Tuesday, Ellenberg repeated her plan to take it “easy.”
“Just let the game come to me and play off my teammates,” she said, “and let the game come easy.”
The inconsistency she’s shown isn’t like her. Already, three times this season, Ellenberg has failed to convert a 3-point basket. That’s a stunning total from the most prolific 3-point shooter in program history.
Nonetheless, the Las Vegas product says she’s feeling all right and isn’t overly concerned about some tough outings.
“I’ve put the work in,” she said, “so it will straighten itself out the way it should.”
The Sooners should hope so. They were chosen by Big 12 coaches to win the conference, yet allowed the Cyclones to come into Lloyd Noble Center and get a victory.
Heading into this morning’s game, OU could probably use some confidence, but what it really needs is a win.
“Every conference game is huge,” senior point guard Morgan Hook said.
After a loss, they can seem even bigger.