'It was so fun': Sooners beat Arkansas State in coach Jennie Baranczyk's home debut

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NORMAN — Jennie Baranczyk kept her eyes focused forward, not breaking concentration even as there was a swirl of activity around her during the postgame press conference.

Baranczyk's Sooners had just earned a 101-89 win over Arkansas State on Friday afternoon in front of a crowd of mostly school children in the team’s annual field trip day.

But Baranczyk kept her game face on afterward, answering questions as her daughter, wearing an OU cheerleader’s outfit, danced around her and played to the camera.

It was another show of the focus Baranczyk has shown in putting her stamp on the Sooners’ program after taking over for legendary coach Sherri Coale in the offseason.

Friday’s win showcased what has been Baranczyk’s primary focus since arriving following nine seasons at Drake.

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OU coach Jennie Baranczyk instructs her team during a 101-89 win against Arkansas State on Friday at Lloyd Noble Center.
OU coach Jennie Baranczyk instructs her team during a 101-89 win against Arkansas State on Friday at Lloyd Noble Center.

The Sooners pushed the tempo from the start, creating points off the fastbreak with a big rebounding edge and with a diversity of offensive options.

Ana Llanusa and Madi Williams led OU with 18 points each while Taylor Robertson added 17 with five 3-pointers.

“I love the balance in our scoring,” Baranczyk said. “I love the energy that our women had in playing together. I liked the number of assists.”

The Sooners (2-0) had 18 assists, with five from freshman Kelbie Washington.

The Sooners came out blistering hot offensively, shooting 11 of 14 (78.6%) in the first quarter and 67.9% in the first half, building a first-half lead as big as 14 and leading by nine at the break.

OU scored 27 points in the opening quarter, pushing the pace and firing from all over the floor and though there were some lulls offensively, the Sooners continued moving the ball throughout.

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Ana Llanusa (22) scored 16 points for the Sooners.
Ana Llanusa (22) scored 16 points for the Sooners.

When the Sooners’ offense struggled at all early, it generally happened due to turnovers. OU finished with 15 after committing 21 in the season-opening win at South Dakota.

“Some of the turnovers are just some of the jitters I think and some of it is just we’ve got to get better and got to clean up,” Baranczyk said. “And some of it’s also we’re learning each other and we’re learning how to play together and a lot of the way that we play, you have to play together and some of that is going to happen. We do need to minimize a lot of those.”

With the game in hand in the final 30 seconds, Neveah Tot drove toward the basket and finished off a layup as she was fouled, putting OU over the century mark and causing the remaining crowd of schoolchildren to squeal.

“How about the environment with all the kids,” Baranczyk said. “It was so fun in terms of just the energy in the room.”

And though there was plenty of energy on the court as well, Baranczyk said there was plenty more in store from her team offensively, as they learn how to play together more and improve in their halfcourt offense.

“Honestly, we kind of want to get some more possessions in that game and up the tempo a little bit more with just our player and ball movement,” she said.

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This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU vs. Arkansas State: Sooners win Jennie Baranczyk's home debut