After Bedlam blowout, OU women are just one win away from Big 12 title

On3 imageby:George Stoia02/24/24

GeorgeStoia

Sahara Williams was not going to be denied in the second half of Bedlam.

The true freshman forward scored 10 straight points to start the third quarter, sparking an OU Bedlam beat down in the second half as Oklahoma routed Oklahoma State 91-56. Williams finished with a career-high 20 points, leading all scorers. Skylar Vann added 17 points and 11 rebounds and Payton Verhulst scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the win.

“I felt like Skylar really set the tone,” OU coach Jennie Baranczyk said. “And I thought Sahara Williams did a really great job of being able to adjust. I think there was a major turning point — they guarded her a certain way and she did a really nice job at halftime in Stillwater a few weeks ago and then again today she came out that way and established the paint for us in a different way.”

Williams has been a big part of OU’s success this season, averaging 10 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. The former McDonald’s All-American has lived up to the hype so far in her first season.

“I think what she did today was she took (her shot) when she needed to. She passed it when she needed to. And she just played basketball,” Baranczyk said. “Sahara has a presence. And she’s a freshman, so she doesn’t even know sometimes that that can be good and it cannot be good … But when she’s in that space, she elevates everybody. And not a lot of people have that strong of a presence. But Sahara has a presence.”

With the win, OU now needs just one more victory to clinch at least a share of the regular season Big 12 championship. Oklahoma currently sits in first place, one game ahead of Texas and Kansas State. The Sooners will get two shots at it, first at home against No. 5 Texas on Wednesday and second at Kansas next Saturday.

But for Baranczyk’s Sooners, they haven’t looked ahead just yet.

“We haven’t even talked about it, to be honest,” Baranczyk said. “I think you get so consumed in our world and it’s easy when you’re on the outside and you can look at that then when you’re on the inside and you’re like, ‘ OK, we’ve got to get better here. Let’s keep enhancing this.’ I don’t think there’s a lot of time… I think I’ll be able to answer that question at the end.”

If OU is to win the regular season championship, it would be the first time the program has done so in back-to-back years since 2006-2007. But that won’t be on their mind come Wednesday against Texas.

“I haven’t really been thinking about that, or trying not to. It’s really exciting,” Vann said. “But I think it’s about just focusing on the next game. We’re just going to keep working hard and doing what we’ve been doing for three years now. And then we hope everything will work out the way we want it to.”

OU has been red hot during conference play, boasting a league-best 14-2 record. It struggled through its nonconference schedule, but has since been one of the hottest teams in the country. And Sooner Nation has taken notice, with its best crowd of the season on Saturday with 8,059 fans at the Lloyd Noble Center.

Baranczyk is hopeful the fans who watched her Sooners blowout the Cowgirls Saturday come back again Wednesday. And in the future.

“I think the biggest thing is thank you for coming today,” Baranczyk said. “And I’ve gotten up here and I’ve gone on rants about how people need to show up. And I did that a year ago and then everybody came and we didn’t win. So I’m going to focus on making sure we show up. And everybody else can come if they want to on Wednesday. But today was awesome for our state. So that’s what we’re going to be really happy for.

“I don’t want them to come out for the championship. I don’t want them to come out because it’s OU-Texas. I want them to come out because today they watched this team and they fell in love with this team the way that they played. That’s what you want. Because guess what’s going to happen next year? They’re going to come back.”

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