OU Women's Basketball: Sooners' competition about to get better fast

Nov. 19—Are they ready?

That's the question for the Oklahoma women, who may be coming off a bad game, but are still off to a big start, unbeaten as they head for Paradise Island, Bahamas, where at 4 Saturday they'll meet ninth-ranked Oregon.

At the Battle 4 Atlantis, an eight-team event, depending upon how the Sooners fare, they could meet additional ranked opponents during the three-day event.

The winner of today's game against the Ducks meets the winner between No. 1 South Carolina and Buffalo at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

The four teams in the top half of the draw include No. 2 Connecticut and Minnesota in one game and No. 23 South Florida and Syracuse in the other.

If OU could get by Oregon, it could well find itself playing South Florida in the third-place game at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

To date, OU has played very well in a 73-71 victory at South Dakota, played very well offensively in a 101-89 victory over Arkansas State, and played sloppily, though victoriously, in a 78-54 victory over Central Arkansas.

Saturday will mark Oregon's first challenge from an apparently solid opponent. The Ducks have played twice this season, topping Idaho State 91-34 and Dixie State 84-35.

"The biggest thing for us is to not worry about who we're playing and to focus on ourselves," first-year Sooner coach Jennie Baranczyk said. "We've got to continue to get better at things that we need to get better at."

Players are still getting comfortable in Baranczyk's offensive system, one that asks them to space, move and pass while making their own reads to determine that movement.

Though sloppy the last time, they looked terrific in it the time before, putting six players in double figures against Arkansas State.

To date, OU's getting 17.3 points per game from Madi Williams, 17.0 from Ana Llanusa and 13.0 from Taylor Robertson. OU is shooting 44.1 percent from the field, 35.6 percent from 3-point land and 71 percent from the free-throw line.

If the Sooners can continue to score without turning the ball over so much — 18.3 per contest — they would appear to be equipped to challenge anybody.

Baranczyk was unwilling to level any expectations upon her new team before leaving for the Bahamas.

"We have so many things that we want to focus on as a team and as a program ... Maybe we'll see [where we are] after, but we're going to play our best basketball no matter who we play," Baranczyk said.

If it's a chance for the coach to assess her team, it's also a chance for the players to assess themselves.

"The teams that we get to play will help us find ourselves and become better and just keep growing," Llanusa said.

The Sooners last visited to the Bahamas was for the Junkanoo Jam in November of 2018.

Llanusa, injured, missed the trip. OU fell to Alabama-Birmingham and Clemson, foreshadowing a season in which the Sooners would win only eight games.

Given the season to date, OU should arrive with confidence.

"I'm excited to go there and play with this group of girls," Llanusa said. "I think we have a really good chance and I'm just excited to go out there and showcase what we have."

Clay Horning

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