Sooners rally to defeat Mean Green 71-68

OU center Nicole Griffin

NORMAN, Okla. — On a night that will certainly be remembered more for an incident that took place on the court than the actual outcome, center Nicole Griffin spearheaded a hard-fought Sooner comeback with 15 points and OU overcame a nine-point second half deficit to beat the North Texas Mean Green 71-68.

Her effort allowed the Sooners to win in honor of senior guard Whitney Hand, who went down with a serious left knee injury, most likely a career-ending torn ACL, late in the first half and exited Lloyd Noble Center for an MRI.

"I don't know that I've ever been prouder of a team," said OU head coach Sherri Coale. "Honestly. Seventeen years of doing this, just unbelievable determination and I think revealed their metal, their character. I talk about their character all the time. It's one thing to talk about, and it's another for however many people got to witness that tonight. I have no words. I don't even know how they could think, much less change defenses and run sets and change matchups. And they revealed their strength. Those are a bunch of great kids."

Perhaps no shot was bigger in helping accomplish that spirited feat than Griffin's turnaround hook shot with just less than five minutes to play and the Sooners trailing by four.

OU quickly tied it up on the next possession when Griffin converted a pair of free throws.

Four more free throws by the 6-foot-6 center over the next couple minutes enabled OU to capture the lead for good.

The Sooners used solid free throw shooting and a strong defensive stand the close it out down the stretch.

Leading by two and needing a stop in the final moments, they forced a pair of misses under the bucket to hold on.

"I will promise you this: that group of warriors that finished the game are gonna show up and fight their tails off every time we play," Coale said. "I'll guarantee you they will. They're gonna fight with Whitney's spirit, and they're gonna do everything they can and together we're gonna find a way to piece it together and win basketball games."

North Texas actually outshot OU 36.8 percent to 35.3 percent and turned it over four fewer times, but the margin on the boards proved to be the difference.

OU won that battle 47-39, led by forward Joanna McFarland's 11 and Griffin's nine.

There were 10 ties and 10 lead changes in a game that North Texas led 30-27 at intermission.

Along with Griffin, McFarland and guard Morgan Hook each finished in double figures with 12, as did guard Sharane Campbell, who had 11.

For the Mean Green, forward Alexis Hyder led the way with 15 points, while guards Loryn Goodwin and Hannah Christian added 14 and 13, respectively.

The victory, OU's seventh in a row, moves it to 8-1 on the season heading into a 10-day break for finals week.

"I don't know," Coale said about how the layoff will be. "That's as honest as I can be. I don't know. I know we'll get together as a staff and we'll figure it out and we'll hug these guys and spend a lot of time with them because every time a player goes down with an injury, there's a grieving period."

OU gets back to action with a home game against Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. December 16.

Follow me at twitter.com/joeyhelmer10 or facebook.com/joeyhelmer.

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