Enemkpali grows as Longhorns’ road woes continue


The Associated Press

Forwards Ashley Gayle, 22, and Cokie Reed collide with Oklahoma’s Jelena Cerina in the first half. Gayle grabbed eight rebounds and Reed scored nine points in the loss.

Nick Cremona

 Following an exciting, buzzer-beating win over Iowa State, head coach Gail Goestenkors knew the Longhorns were in for a physical game when they traveled to Oklahoma to take on the Sooners.

“We talked about the fact that the Big 12 is such a war and we’re so evenly balanced throughout the conference,” Goestenkors said. “Many of the games are going to come down to the wire. There are going to be a lot of games that are going to be decided by six points or less.”

Interestingly enough, six points is exactly the margin of victory the Sooners (12-5, 4-2 Big 12) enjoyed over the Longhorns (12-6, 2-4 Big 12) Saturday afternoon.

Oklahoma topped the Longhorns, 73-67, moving its home record to an impressive 10-1. The Longhorns, on the other hand, have struggled on the road. Texas is 1-3 in true road games this year.

The Sooners started the game on a 7-0 run and never looked back. As a team, the Sooners shot over 60 percent from three-point range, connecting on eight of 13 shots from deep. In addition to shooting exceptionally well, the Sooners also distributed the ball well, recording assists on 14 of their 23 made shots. Maybe the most impressive stat from the game was Nicole Griffin’s nine blocks. To go with her mini-block party, Griffin added nine points and seven rebounds as well, nearly recording a triple-double.

However, there are some positives to take away from this game. Well, maybe just one positive: Although the Longhorns shot a lowly 30 percent from the field, freshman Nneka Enemkpali had a coming out party in Norman. She recorded a career-high 11 points on five of 10 shooting and also pulled down eight rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end.

“Usually when you start second semester and you’ve had a couple of Big 12 games under your belt, that’s when we tell the freshman that they’re no longer freshman, so they need to act like sophomores,” said senior forward Cokie Reed. “I think Nneka is just ready to turn the corner. I think she has on the defensive end. Now I’m expecting more from her offensively as well.”

Enemkpali’s contributions are needed with Reed still nursing a foot injury. Reed did appear for 18 minutes against the Sooners, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds in limited action. The other regular Longhorn post players, Ashley Gayle and Anne Marie Hartung, have not been the most productive or reliable scoring options. So Enemkpali’s maturation could go a long way in helping out the Longhorns. Having a sure-handed offensive option on the low block does wonders for opening up the offense and getting everyone involved.

“Nneka is doing great,” said sophomore guard Chassidy Fussell. “She’s still got to gain more confidence. I was in the same situation last year, so I can’t look down on it. As long as she gains confidence throughout the season, she can help us out a lot.”