COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Joanna McFarland had 18 points and a career-high 17 rebounds and Aaryn Ellenberg scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half Saturday to lead sixth-seeded Oklahoma to a 78-73 victory over Central Michigan in a first-round NCAA women's tournament game.
The sixth-seeded Sooners (23-10) advance to Monday night's second-round game against the winner of Stetson and UCLA at Ohio State's St. John Arena.
Despite 24 turnovers, the Sooners had just enough to hold off the Chippewas (21-12), who were making their third trip to the NCAA and first since 1984. Crystal Bradford had a sensational game for CMU with a career-high 36 points (on 14 of 31 shooting from the field) with 14 rebounds and seven steals.
Ellenberg, who held Oklahoma's season (103) and career (272) records for 3-pointers made, hit 4 of 5 in the second half to rally her team, which was struggling to hold onto the lead. None was bigger than her shot behind the arc with 3:11 left and late in the shot clock to extend the lead to 71-60.
Still, the Chippewas fought back to pull within 73-68 with just over a minute left on a floater by Brandie Baker, who had 12 points, but they could get no closer.
Oklahoma put the game away on two foul shots apiece by Morgan Hook and Sharane Campbell and one by Ellenberg in the final 25 seconds.
Oklahoma, making its 16th trip to the NCAA and 14th in a row, has won its first-round games eight years in a row. The Sooners suffered a blow that might have crippled many teams when they lost their top player, senior guard Whitney Hand, to a knee injury on Dec. 6.
Even while preparing for the Chippewas, the Sooners also were thinking about gaining a possible rematch against UCLA. The Bruins came to Norman, Okla., on Nov. 14 and thoroughly outplayed the home team in an 86-80 victory.
On top of a potential grudge match with the Bruins, the Sooners also were aware that if they survived the two rounds in Columbus, they would return to nearby Oklahoma City to play in the regional next week.
Down by nine at the half, CMU cut into the lead largely on the defense of Bradford. She had four steals in the opening 4:07, bouncing an assist pass to Jessica Schroll for a fastbreak layup to make it 47-43.
McFarland had carried the Sooners for much of the first half. But after a series of turnovers, Ellenberg lifted them by hitting three 3-pointers when they were having difficulty even getting off a shot.
Those baskets behind the arc allowed the Sooners to retain the lead.
Bradford scored the first seven points for the Chippewas as they broke out to an early one-point lead.
Oklahoma started asserting itself by beating Central Michigan back in transition, frequently with long passes. The Sooners used a 12-0 run to turn a 10-8 deficit into a 20-10 lead. McFarland, who would end up with 16 points and nine rebounds by halftime, started the surge by scoring the first six points on a follow, a shot in side and two foul shots. Ellenberg capped it with two baskets, both on coast-to-coast drives in transition.
But the Chippewas didn't back down. They cut the lead to four points before a late 3 by Nicole Kornet, who had eight big points off the bench in the half, put the Sooners up 43-34 at intermission.
Central was making its third appearance in the NCAA tournament, but first since making back-to-back trips in 1983 and '84.
Coach Sue Guevara's team — she began her career as a graduate assistant coaching on the same Ohio State court under Tara VanDerveer in 1984 — was 12th in the nation in scoring, averaging 74.4 points a game. The Chippewas scored 70 or more points in 23 games.
They also played a bulked-up schedule which included games against NCAA contestants Green Bay, Notre Dame, Purdue, Saint Joseph's and South Dakota State. A No. 4 seed in the Mid-American Conference tournament, they rolled through three top teams to capture the championship.
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