Last-place Kansas hands Oklahoma fifth consecutive loss

Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale watches from the sideline during the Sooners’ game against Kansas Wednesday at Lloyd Noble Center.

NORMAN — Sherri Coale finished her second of two postgame interviews, pulled a pair of headphones off her ears and placed them on a courtside table.

A few scattered claps popped from the stands as she walked off the court, her eyes ahead and her face in a scowl. It was a difficult night in what has turned into another difficult season for Oklahoma.

Kansas, sitting in last place in the Big 12, claimed its first conference road victory this season by beating OU 83-80 Wednesday at Lloyd Noble Center.

Although the Sooners regained Ana Llanusa, who scored 22 points after recovering from a lower-leg injury, they were handed their fifth consecutive loss.

There were no easy answers from Coale’s postgame press conference, which lasted just longer than three minutes.

“Had to have a rebound, couldn’t get one,” Coale said. “Needed to make free throws, couldn’t make them.

“Kind of the story.”

The Sooners (12-15, 5-10 Big 12) have surpassed last year’s eight-win total. But preseason aspirations within the program were much higher than that.

The injury to Llanusa and departure of junior-college transfer Kamryn Lemon hasn’t helped matters, but consistency has been a year-long issue.

Coale was asked if this group is getting better.

“Well, in certain spots, yeah,” she said. “We just need consistency. I thought Madi Williams (23 points) was really good tonight. Thought Tatum Veitenheimer (seven steals) probably had her best game tonight. But Gabbi didn’t play as well as she did this weekend, and Mandy didn’t play as well as she does usually. So it’s just trying to get some consistency where we’ve got five guys doing what they can when we take the floor.”

KU won the rebounding battle 44-28 and the Sooners missed four free throws under the three-minute mark.

The rebounding woes especially concerned Coale.

“They have a little bit of a size advantage, but we’ve been sort of digressing in that department,” Coale said. “We have so much improved in rebounding from last year, and the last two, three games, we’ve really lost our attention to detail in that facet of the game. We’ve got to get back to that.”

Zakiyah Franklin gave the Jayhawks the lead for good when she converted a traditional 3-point play out of a timeout, putting KU up 78-75.

OU had the ball down 80-77 but turned the ball over when Gabbi Gregory tried to force an entry pass to Madi Williams. With the ball while trailing 81-77, Gregory turned the ball over again on OU’s last meaningful possession.

“We didn’t execute it well, just didn’t execute. Tried a couple different things, just didn’t execute,” Coale said of those plays. “There were a couple of options.”

One was likely Taylor Robertson, the nation’s leading 3-point shooter who has scored below her average in six of the past eight games since a 31-point outburst against KU during the meeting in Lawrence.

She finished with nine points on 2-of-10 shooting and 1-of-5 from the 3-point line. Williams led the Sooners with 23 points with 9 of 12 made shots. Gregory added 10 points.

Aniya Thomas led KU with 21 points.

OU trailed 42-40 at the break despite forcing KU into 15 first-half turnovers. Tina Stephens stole the ball away on the final possession and converted the other way, giving the Jayhawks a lead and momentum at halftime.

KU (14-12, 3-12) made 5 of 7 shots in the final moments, reasserting itself after taking the initial lead back in the first quarter.

The Sooners were victimized by a few offensive droughts. They went 3:11 without a basket in the third quarter, allowing the Jayhawks to take a one-point lead with under six minutes left in the period.

After Llanusa scored five consecutive points to put OU back up, the Sooners went another three minutes without a field goal.

With one quarter left, on a night Baylor clinched its 10th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title, the league’s bottom two teams were knotted up and scrapping for pride as the season continued its decrescendo.

KU got the best of the Sooners from there.

NEED TO KNOW

Ana Llanusa returned after missing one game with a lower-leg injury.

She entered at the 4:04 mark in the first quarter and had eight points by halftime, on her way to 22 for the game.

Llanusa put extra tape on her foot but didn’t use a brace.

“In warm ups it hurt a little bit, but after that I felt really good,” Llanusa said.

• Still shy of the mark: Taylor Robertson went 1 of 5 from the 3-point line, getting one make shy of tying the Big 12 record for 122 treys in a season, a mark that has stood since 2002-03.

• Thief: Tatum Veitenheimer recorded a career-high with seven steals. She had six against Sam Houston State last season.

The total is a season-high for OU.

“I think after I got the first couple, I just got a feel for how I could guard them and how I was able to pick it from them,” Veitenheimer said. “I was just kind of baiting them into it and whenever I had the chance I’d just go for it.”

• Next: OU travels to Texas at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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