NORMAN, Oklahoma — Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said her team played as hard as it had all season. Yet too many early mistakes doomed No. 17 Sooners against No. 2 Duke.
The Sooners managed to trim a 21-point first-half deficit to seven points in the final seconds but ran out of time in a 94-85 loss Sunday, the second time this season they've fallen to a Top 5 opponent at home.
Oklahoma (6-3) committed 15 of its 21 turnovers in the first half, allowing Duke (10-0) to build a lead that the Blue Devils rode the rest of the way, giving coach Joanne P. McCallie her 500th career win.
It wasn't hard to pinpoint the difference in the game. During the last 9½ minutes of the first half, Duke outscored the Sooners 28-10, taking advantage of all those Sooner miscues.
"We kicked it off our foot, threw it directly to them, sailed it out of bounds," Coale said. "It was just contagious."
Despite a 58-point second half fueled by guards Aaryn Ellenberg and Morgan Hook, Oklahoma couldn't catch up.
Ellenberg scored a season-high 28 points. Hook shot 8-for-9 and had a season-best 24.
"I was as proud of our second half as I was disappointed in our first half," Coale said. "We just did not start the game emphatically. We did not start it with confidence. We did not play with bravado. It's hard to say why that happened."
"With all that being said, tremendous grit in the second half. There are some good things to take away and Duke is No. 2 in the country for a reason. They're very good, very athletic, they make plays and they make big shots."
Duke, the nation's fourth-best 3-point shooting team at 43.6 percent, didn't hit a 3-pointer during the first 12 minutes of the game, allowing the Sooners to hang close. After a basket by Hook with 9:40 left in the half, the Sooners trailed only 18-17.
The Blue Devils then went on a 14-2 run, led by a pair of 3-pointers by Tricia Liston and another by Chloe Wells. Wells' basket put Duke ahead 32-19.
"I think we were really focused on defense, especially transition defense, and we were matching up with the shooters a lot better than we were in the second half," said Liston, who scored a season-high 23 points. "We were making them work for all of their first-half-points and I think that kind of frustrated them a little bit."
The Blue Devils had an 11-0 spurt just before halftime to extend their lead to 46-27.
The Sooners scored 11 straight points and pulled within 49-40 on a basket by Nicole Griffin with 17:03 left. Oklahoma stayed within nine as late as the 12-minute mark, when Ellenberg scored to make it 59-50, but the Blue Devils scored the next eight points, capped by a 3-pointer by Haley Peters, who scored 18 points.
"It was a terrific first half for us," McCallie said. "We really dictated things in the first half. In the second half, I felt like we did some other things. But we're still working toward 40 minutes. It's hard to get it. Oklahoma is a great team."
Sharane Campbell added 16 points and Nicole Griffin scored 15 for Oklahoma, which lost to No. 5 Louisville in overtime on Nov. 17.