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OU women's basketball: Looking to take the next step now that Ana Llanusa is back

OU's Ana Llanusa (22) scored 26 points in Tuesday's loss to Oklahoma State. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]
OU's Ana Llanusa (22) scored 26 points in Tuesday's loss to Oklahoma State. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

NORMAN — Ana Llanusa got sick of the big, inflatable ball.

When the Sooners’ junior guard was dealing with back spasms and disc issues for much of January, everywhere she went, the exercise ball went with her.

When she went to class, the ball went with her.

Instead of sitting on the bench during the six games she missed, she’d lay across the ball at one end of the bench.

“It was kind of annoying because I wasn’t able to look to my left and look to my right and talk to my teammates or give my input with what I saw,” Llanusa said. “But for me to get back faster that’s what I had to do.”

Llanusa’s back injury was aggravated by sitting so the ball helped relieve her pain and give her back time to heal.

Llanusa has spent the first half of February integrating back into the OU lineup, coming off the bench for two games before returning to the starting group at Iowa State on Feb. 8.

She’s expected to start when the Sooners host Kansas State at 2 p.m. Sunday at Lloyd Noble Center.

In Tuesday’s loss to Oklahoma State, Llanusa was one of the bright spots.

She had 26 points, her most since the third game of the season.

Now, Sooners coach Sherri Coale said, is the time for Llanusa to be fully integrated into the flow of the offense.

“I thought she played really well (in Bedlam),” Coale said. “I don’t know that we all played really well together. That’s not saying that anybody was selfish — that wasn’t it at all. It was just the feel that we would get from having had those reps (wasn’t there).”

There were times when Llanusa would drive to the basket and a teammate would cut across to cut her off.

“It’s just because they’re not accustomed to that so we’ve got to get back into that feel together,” Coale said.

The Sooners benefited from Llanusa’s absense, from Gabby Gregory’s continued evolution as a defender to Madi Williams’ taking over games at times on the offensive end.

At 12-12 and dancing on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble, now is the time for OU to put things together and turn that improvement into better results now that Llanusa is back.

Coale expects that flow to be better Sunday but says next week would be the key to getting Llanusa and her teammates on the same page once more.

The Sooners don’t have a midweek game next week, giving them plenty of time to practice.

“(That’s) when we have time to try to get back to that sense of timing that we had earlier,” Coale said.

Ryan Aber

Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›

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