The Stetson University women's basketball team fell 78-60 to 11th-ranked Oklahoma in the Preseason WNIT Friday night at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.
The Hatters (0-1) trailed by just nine at halftime still only trailed 49-39 with 14:22 to play, but a 9-0 Oklahoma run midway through the second half helped the Sooners (1-0) pull away for good.
"I thought overall for about 30 minutes we played a heck of a game," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. "It is not the result that I wanted, but I am completely encouraged. We rebounded very well, and I thought overall we presented some match-up problems for (Oklahoma). I'm pleased with our effort. We made some freshmen mistakes, but overall I liked what I saw today."
Senior Sasha Sims led three Hatters in double figures with 16 points. Junior Jama Sharp registered 11 points and six assists while freshman Brianti Saunders added 10 points in her collegiate debut. She also grabbed three offensive rebounds and played 38 minutes.
"I don't think (Brianti) played like a freshman," Bria said. "She played a '40-minute' game, she sustained the game, and she was not intimidated. It didn't matter what it said on the front of (Oklahoma's) jersey. She was ready to play and I thought she played a great game."
Three other Hatter freshmen made their debuts as well. Amber Porter collected eight points, five rebounds, and two blocks in 14 minutes, DeAsia Beal played 18 minutes and scored two points on a nice drive to the basket, and Stacia Allen played seven minutes.
"DeAsia gave us some solid minutes, and this is a kid who has been hurt and she came in and really gave us some good minutes," Bria said. "I thought Amber played a great second half, she was much more aggressive, she did a lot of things defensively and then started looking to score."
Statistically the Hatters shot just 23 percent from the floor in the first half but improved to 31 percent in the second half. For the game, Stetson hit on six of 26 three-point attempts and went 18-for-21 at the free throw line. The Hatters pulled in 43 rebounds and held the Sooners to 20 points fewer than their scoring average in two exhibition games.
What did the Stetson coach learn about her squad?
"Defensively we can be pretty good," Bria said. "We can be a better rebounding team than I thought. Offensively we had some good looks, we just didn't make some shots. We did a great job of driving to the basket and getting (Oklahoma) in foul trouble. I saw a lot of good things and I saw some areas where we just need to get better.
"I thought Sasha played like a major Division I player," Bria added. "She can put this team on her back, which I am very encouraged by. I thought Jama Sharp had a really good game, she quarterbacked the team. She's verbal, she's putting them in the right spots, and I like that we have a point guard that I can trust and rely on."
Aaryn Ellenberg hit six three-pointers for Oklahoma and led all scorers with 24 points.
Stetson will continue Preseason WNIT action in a four-team consolation regional next Friday and Saturday. The site and opponents will be announced by the WNIT on Sunday.
Notes: Dating back to last year, Sasha Sims has scored 13+ points in eight straight games ... The contest was Stetson's second consecutive game against a team ranked 11th in the nation (UCLA, Mar. 23) ... The Hatters went 12-for-12 from the free throw line in the second half ... Cherisse Burris went over 600 points in her career and tied a career-high with five steals.