Team of the Week: Oklahoma off to strongest conference start in six years

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An underachiever in November and December, Oklahoma is unbeaten in Big 12 Conference play after victories during the past week against No. 4 Texas, TCU and Oklahoma State. The Sooners (12-5 and 6-0) are tied with Baylor atop the conference standings. The most recent time the Sooners started Big 12 play with six wins was the 2008-09 season, when they won 13 consecutive league games, claimed the regular-season title with a 15-1 conference record and eventually advanced to the Women’s Final Four.

Despite Oklahoma’s long-term success — 15 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, six regular-season Big 12 titles and four conference tournament titles, little was expected from the Sooners this season after a sub-standard non-conference record that included losses to South Florida, Kentucky, UALR, Duke and Arkansas.

Instead, Sherri Coale’s Sooners have flipped the switch to reel off seven consecutive wins behind a balanced and deep attack. In the 70-59 win on Jan. 14 at home over Texas, Maddie Manning scored a career-high 14 points and Peyton Little added 13 points and a career-best 10 rebounds for the Sooners. In the 97-81 win at TCU on Jan. 17, Kaylon Williams (25/12) and Gioya Carter (24/5) combined for 49 points and 17 rebounds. Carter continued her hot shooting in the 73-54 home win against Oklahoma State on Jan. 19, with 18 points as the Sooners beat their rivals for the 17th consecutive time in Norman.

Carter has epitomized Oklahoma’s rise from pretender to contender, averaging better than 17 points per game in Big 12 games compared to 6.3 points per game in non-conference play. Carter hit 6 of 8 3-point shots against TCU and is now 15 of 26 (57.7 percent) from behind the arc this season.

The Sooners will next play host to Texas Tech on Jan. 24. Circled upcoming games on the Oklahoma schedule include a rematch on Jan. 29 at Texas and a pair of games against Baylor, Feb. 11 in Waco and Feb. 25 at home.

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