OKLAHOMA CITY — Fans sitting behind Oklahoma’s bench had upraised arms and wide eyes as Maddie Manning’s long-distance shot reached the top of its arc.
The Sooner faithful in Chesapeake Arena’s section 117 were ready for a reason to explode in the third quarter.
Only, Manning’s shot, which would’ve given OU the lead and fully erased a 21-point deficit, didn’t go through.
She finished with a game-high 24 points, but OU’s comeback fell short in a 90-83 loss to TCU in the Big 12 women’s basketball tournament quarterfinals in Oklahoma City.
In the first half, TCU shot a scorching 62.5 percent from the field — including 9 of 15 from 3-point range — and built a mountainous lead that OU couldn't surpass.
“We started fouling and sending them to the line, and, you know, they hit a couple shots,” Manning said, describing where the comeback fizzled in the third.
TCU (19-11) slowly pulled away, but its early onslaught was fast and furious. Forward Amy Okonkwo scored 14 of her 21 points consecutively to end the first quarter, then the Horned Frogs outscored OU 29-16 in the second.
OU’s deficit reached 50-29 when Kianna Ray hit a 3-pointer with 2:01 until halftime. It resurrected haunting memories of last season, when the Sooners were blown out by West Virginia during the conference tourney quarterfinals on the same court.
OU coach Sherri Coale used all but one of her first-half timeouts trying to reemphasize the game plan, which specifically had been to limit 3-pointers. TCU was sending them in at will, making 6 of 7 in the second quarter.
“When we aren’t following [the game plan], we get kinda antsy and it seems like everybody is trying to save the world, and they keep getting more 3s,” Manning said.
Coale described the first half as a “shock,” one big enough to rattle a team that had won six of its last eight games coming into the tournament.
“That’s just kinda one of those things that pops you back for a minute, and as Maddie said, everybody tries to save everybody else and three guys run at one and the wheels kinda fall off,” Coale said. “But I thought gathering ourselves and coming back, that part was really, really good.”
OU’s 13-0 run in the third quarter was a mighty punch back at the Frogs, who made just one trey after halftime.
Manning and freshman guard Ana Llanusa (17 points) scored 13 of OU’s 20 points in the third, but the Sooners were playing with a lesser version of leading scorer and rebounder Vionise Pierre-Louis, who was saddled with foul trouble.
The senior center picked up her third foul just minutes into the second half and fouled out with 6:18 left, with eight points and 10 rebounds.
“We had to attack more and finish at the rim. We had a hard time doing that, but I think for the most part people stepped up and tried to make plays,” Llanusa said. “But it’s hard without Vivi in there.”
Freshman guard Shaina Pellington added 22 points for OU, which shot 38.4 percent and will experience a week of limbo wondering about its NCAA chances. The selection show is March 12.
The Sooners haven’t missed an NCAA tournament in 18 straight years under Coale, but now at 16-14 and with a No. 29 RPI ranking, must make a case they belong, following a game they were nearly swept away in early.
Manning provided insightful answers afterward, but did so through red and watery eyes. Coale credited TCU, but said OU had no one to blame but itself for another early Big 12 exit.
“That first half,” Coale lamented, “you just can’t advance in postseason play if you don’t put two halves together, and we were disconnected and we didn’t communicate well and we certainly didn’t adhere to the game plan.”