The rebuilding project of Texas-Arlington coach Krista Gerlich isn't going as well as she might have hoped early in the season.
The Mavericks quickly fell behind 10-0 on Wednesday night at No. 10 Oklahoma and lost for the fifth time in as many games this season, never really challenging while losing 99-46 to the Sooners.
Gerlich enjoyed success at NCAA Division II West Texas A&M before moving to Texas-Arlington before this season, but it's been a tough slog so far with a team that has two starters back from a 7-23 squad. Two of the Mavericks' losses have come to ranked foes, as they fell 74-35 at Oklahoma State earlier this season.
The good news for Texas-Arlington is that there's not another ranked foe on the schedule and after opening the season on the road in four of their first five games, they're about to return home for three straight games, starting Sunday against VCU.
"It's one of those things where you are fighting some battles and you are trying to get them some positive encouragement and some confidence," Gerlich said. "In the second game of the year we played Oklahoma State and in our fifth game we play OU. So, that is pretty tough to take, but at the same time, we told our girls this is an opportunity to play a top-10 team in a great environment."
Gerlich hopes the Mavericks someday can be at the level of Oklahoma (4-1), which saw freshman Derica Wyatt come off the bench to score 23 points and hit 7-of-11 3-point attempts.
Aaryn Ellenberg scored 24 points for the Sooners and went 4-of-12 from 3-point range, with her first 3-pointer of the game giving her 300 for her career. But she was upstaged by Wyatt, who didn't even play in the Sooners' two most recent games, against Gonzaga and No. 5 Louisville.
Wyatt, who entered the game 1-of-5 this season from behind the arc, didn't miss on five 3-point attempts in the first half as Oklahoma built a 52-19 lead over Texas-Arlington. Oklahoma, which entered the game shooting 24 percent from 3-point range, finished 14-of-33 (42 percent) against the Mavericks. The Sooners shot 48 percent overall.
"Yesterday, coach Coale made a comment in practice that we just need to go out there and play basketball and not think about our threes, so that's what I did," Wyatt said. "I just went out there to shoot, because I knew that we needed that."
Briana Walker led Texas-Arlington with 13 points while Laila Suleiman and Desherra Nwanguma scored 12 each and Tahlia Pope had six points and 14 rebounds. The Mavericks, in their first season in the Sun Belt Conference, committed 34 turnovers.
Despite an overtime loss to No. 5 Louisville on Sunday in the Preseason WNIT title game, Oklahoma moved into the top 10 this week for the first time since the 2010-11 preseason poll. Wednesday's game figured to be a mere pit stop in between the Preseason WNIT and a date at UCLA on Sunday, which will be a rematch of a second-round NCAA tournament game from last season, won 85-72 by the Sooners.
"I think you find out a lot about your team in the 40 minutes that follow a loss," Coale said. "I think we found out that our team is pretty tough and pretty mature and the approach to things is pretty much on track."
The result never was in doubt. Oklahoma sprinted to a 10-0 lead over the Mavericks in the first 3½ minutes. Along the way, Morgan Hook scored her 1,000th career point, becoming the 28th Oklahoma player to do so. Ellenberg's landmark 3-pointer at the 16-minute mark made it 13-3.
Texas-Arlington was within 18-10 after seven straight points by Suleiman but Oklahoma went on a 25-2 run, which Wyatt capped with her five straight 3-pointers.
"We know they're a great 3-point shooting team," Gerlich said. "But in their first four games, Ellenberg's probably been the only one that's really shot it well. So we were picking that poison. And good for Wyatt. That was a great teaching moment for us, as far as Wyatt coming in and maybe that's the first time she's gotten some quality minutes and she took full advantage of it."