NORMAN, Okla. -- Imposing your will during an NCAA women’s tournament game is not easy.
Aaryn Ellenberg sure made it look that way.
The Oklahoma guard scored 28 points to lead the No. 6 Sooners to a 88-67 win over No. 11 Michigan in the first round of the NCAA women’s tournament at the Lloyd Noble Center on Sunday night. Oklahoma will face No. 3 St. John’s in the second round on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.
“She’s casual Sally,” OU head coach Sherri Coale said of Ellenberg. “She makes it look effortless. She makes you think she’s just along for the ride but she really cares, it really matters to her. And she came to play tonight.”
Ellenberg finished 10-of-18 from the field including 5-of-11 from the three-point line while adding five rebounds and four assists without a turnover in 26 minutes. The LNC crowd gave the sophomore a resounding ovation when she left the floor with 1:27 remaining.
“She can do everything,” Michigan guard Courtney Boylan said. “She can stroke it, she can shoot it, and she can drive it. We tried our best to defend her and stop her as best as we could, but sometimes she got away from us.”
The sophomore from Las Vegas was particularly deadly in the second half, scoring 21 points and hitting four three-pointers in the final 20 minutes.
“I don’t necessarily think I thought to take it upon myself [to take over],” Ellenberg said. “I was trying not turn down shots that I can make when we were in slumps and not scoring. That was my main goal. I have to shoot for us to be successful.”
The Sooners starting guards -- Ellenberg, Morgan Hook and Whitney Hand -- combined for 53 of OU’s 88 points and 14 assists as their backcourt controlled the game while forcing the Wolverines into 14 turnovers and just 11 assists.
“We just have not had much trouble when those three have been really good,” Coale said. “They have been through a lot of battles over the course of the year, very meaningful situations. That’s really the only way you get confidence. You earn it by doing something hard.
“What I thought you saw from all three of those guards is the confidence that comes through going through a rigorous Big 12 schedule.”
It was a disappointing end for a Michigan squad making its first NCAA appearance in 11 years but the loss didn’t take away from the pride of helping to rebuild the program for Boylan and the rest of UM’s seniors.
“That was one of the greatest feelings I have ever felt, seeing our name come up on the television screen that we made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 11 years,” Boylan said. “That was a huge point for us in our career. We would have loved to come here and get a win, but in no means does it make it less of an enjoyable experience for us playing at Michigan.”