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COLUMN: Turnovers, Cold Shooting, Hot Irish Knock Oklahoma Out of NCAA Tournament

With a Sweet Sixteen berth on the line, the 4-seeded Sooners were taken down Monday night at Lloyd Noble Center.

NORMAN — No close game this time. No overtime. And certainly no buzzer beater.

No. 21-ranked Oklahoma hit the Lloyd Noble Center floor on Monday with a thud, run out of their own gym by a talented, focused and red-hot Notre Dame squad.

The ugly final — 108-64 — ends what was already an unlikely good season for the Sooners: a 25-9 record, an NCAA Tournament berth, a 4-seed and a first- and second-round host. OU women’s basketball is back under Jennie Baranczyk.

But even with former coach Sherri Coale watching from the south baseline, the Sooners were as cold as the Irish were hot.

"I thought Notre Dame was phenomenal," Baranczyk said. "If they can continue to do that, watch out everybody. And, we had to be better."

It was, for Oklahoma, a worst-case scenario.

Notre Dame shot 54 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range, dropping in 10-of-25 from deep, including 7-of-12 from Dara Mabrey, who led all scorers with 29 points. Sonia Citron finished with 25 and Maya Dodson had 20.

The Sooners, meanwhile, struggled to score against the longer, faster Irish. OU, a top-five offensive team nationally this season, connected on just 32 percent from the field and just 29 percent (6-of-21) from deep.

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"You have to give credit where credit's due," Baranczyk said, "and the picked us apart."

Notre Dame jumped to a 35-12 edge in the first quarter and stretched it to 60-25 at halftime.

'Sometimes when we do get down that much, we do try to get it all back at once," said Robertson. " ... One bad thing happens and it kind of snowballed a little bit."

In addition to a disparity in shooting, the Sooners — just two days after committing a season-low 10 turnovers in a first-round victory over IUPUI — committed a season-high 28 turnovers.

"They were red-hot shooting, we were missing some uncharacteristic shots," Baranczyk said, " ... and then we were passing to them.

"Had obviously way too many live-ball turnovers. ... Those are some things we're gonna have to work on in the offseason."

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There was no magic formula. No Notre Dame mystique. No unforeseen ball screens or unexpected defensive switches. The 5th-seeded Irish were better across the board, raining terror on OU with early haymakers and refusing to let the Sooners up. Notre Dame just hit shots — make that, shot after shot — especially in the first half.

Mabrey couldn’t miss early, pouring in 17 points in the first quarter alone on 5-of-6 shooting.

The Sooners got 19 points from Robertson, who hit 3-of-10 from deep. But the rest of the team only shot 3-of-11 from outside the arc.

“I was super proud of the way we really locked in the beginning,” said UND coach Niele Ivey. “They played four guards, and I kind of adjusted my lineup to that.”

Oklahoma lived this season by the 3, and Monday night the Sooners died by the 3.

"As a team," said senior Madi Williams, "we couldn't figure out how to get connected enough to pull out a few runs in this game."

But OU would have needed something beyond just more deadeye shooting to beat the Irish on this night.

A team afflicted so badly all season by turnovers — the Sooners rank 307th in the nation at 18.5 giveaways per game — needed to have a clean game against an opponent this tall, this quick, this athletic.

Playing with that many turnovers was anything but clean.

Sprinkle in Notre Dame’s height and length — the Irish outscored OU 50-28 in the paint — and it was just too tall a task for Baranczyk’s underdog squad.

"We were rocked a little bit," Baranczyk said. "A lot bit."

The Sooners were just 12-12 last year in Coale’s final season, a feisty, competitive bunch that often played with just six players and overcame numerous roster challenges.

Baranczyk said this year’s squad embraced that mindset and developed it into an ability to win close games this season — 10 of them in all, another good sign that the program is on its way up once again.

"It's gonna take some time," Baranczyk said. "We're not gonna write it off. We're gonna look in the mirror, we're gonna put our boots on and roll up our sleeves and figure out how we're gonna be ready for those big moments next season.

"Part of it's being ready in the moment, and we didn't have us ready in the moment. That's something as a coaching staff that we'll look at and we'll continue to get us ready for those moments."