By CLAY HORNING
NORMAN — The Oklahoma women believe the time has come to return to the Final Four, once again challenge for a Big 12 championship, even in the midst of the conference’s ongoing Brittney Griner era and, generally speaking, be a dominant team.
One part of that?
A year ago, the Sooners shot 34.7 percent from 3-point land. Not too bad, but not great, and certainly not great from too many sources.
Of the squad’s 582 attempts from long range, 463 belonged to only three players: Aaryn Ellenberg (75 of 204), Whitney Hand (39 of 123) and Morgan Hook (50 of 136).
The Sooners begin the 2011-12 season tonight, sort of, when Oklahoma Christian visits Lloyd Noble Center for an exhibition game.
It will be the first chance for OU to showcase newcomers Nicole Kornet, Maddie Manning and Portia Durrett in a Sooner uniform, the first chance for fans to see an entire roster that coach Sherri Coale believes offers no weak link and the first chance to see the Sooners’ new depth of 3-point shooters.
“Being a really good 3-point shooting team, you can’t really say that unless you have a number of weapons,” Coale said. “If you have two guys who can really shoot the 3, (opposing defenders) can follow those guys around. What makes us a really volatile 3-point shooting team is that we will almost always have four guys on the floor that can shoot the 3 at a clip of 40 to 45 percent, and that’s very, very dangerous.”
They’ve got Ellenberg, Hand and Hook, but who else?
Well, Cornet has not been bashful about taking (and making) the long shot. She did on the squad’s August trip to Australia and she did it in a scrimmage for booster club members last week, making 4 of 8 from 3-point land.
Also, there’s Sharane Campbell, the sophomore and reigning conference sixth man of the year. She made 11 of 33 from distance last season and appears more willing to take the shot this season. In that same scrimmage last week, Campbell made 5 of 7 3-point tries.
Post Joanna McFarland made 20 of 50 3-point tries last season, but just about all of them came before she missed several games with a broken jaw suffered early in the conference season.
Also, back from knee surgery, post Lyndsey Cloman and point guard and defensive specialist Jasmine Hartman, have also shown the long range in the past.
“Everybody’s going to have to guard everybody honestly,” Hand said, speaking of future Sooner opponents. “There’s not going to be that thing where you can just faceguard Aaryn the whole game. You’re going to have to give up something.”
The shots still have to go in. But, with more players willing and able to shoot it, any one of them is more likely to get open looks.
Beginning at 7 tonight, against the Eagles, the Sooners should get plenty of good looks.