Oklahoma’s Jennie Baranczyk Previews Texas Game
The 11th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners and 19th-ranked Texas Longhorns are set to duel it out this weekend in a game that could decide the Big 12 regular season title. Both teams are tied atop the standings with 12-3 records, two games ahead of the next suitor.
And in advance of the meeting, Sooners head coach Jennie Baranczyk met with the media to speak about everything. Heartland College Sports was on the scene and provides all the discussion.
If she’s noticed some of the incremental improvements during this winning streak: “Yeah, I think when you have the experience that we have, I love listening to the way that they’re talking because I think that’s exactly actually where we’re at, is we’re in the details right now, we’re in the moment right now. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We’re not chasing something. We’re literally focusing on getting better. And I think we’ve taken really hard looks in the mirror. And again, you talk so much about this generation, but these women are exactly what we want in this generation to look in the mirror, to learn how to get better, to be able to face the things that you’re really good at and value this, face the things that you’ve got to work on be able to humble yourself. And so I think in those last [few games], and probably since that point, I don’t know if there’s an actual point. But I feel like you’ve heard Madi say work. We’ve fallen in love with the effort. We’ve fallen in love with understanding that those games, they’re inches and the inches are on the defensive and the inches are on those loose balls and the inches are on staying together. And I think that’s what we’ve really been able to see. And whether or not it goes your way or the ball bounces your way or you mess up a defensive rotation or the ball doesn’t go in the hole or whatever, it hasn’t thrown us off. We’ve stayed really steady and hungry. But I think it’s because they understand that they’re not gonna look ahead with the time that they have. They’re going to be in the moment.”
What she’s seen in Ana Llanusa’s progression: “Yeah, and Ana said this earlier, so I’m gonna kind of paraphrase her. And you can jump in if you want to, Ana. But I feel like at the beginning of the season, it was like how do you really start to feel good physically, right, in your own body. How do I get my game back? How do I understand where I’m at? And then you progress to, ‘Okay, I’m feeling a little better, but now I’ve got to reintegrate back into a team that everyone talked about a year ago was so good and we’re hungry, we worked so hard, and we weren’t necessarily part of that in the way that maybe Madi was part of it.’ Right? And so it’s like so then you’ve got to reintegrate yourself into the team, and so it’s going from, you know, my body to now I gotta figure out how I fit into the team to I feel like probably about that same time where she just didn’t care about anything else about the team. And I think you’ve been able to see that that shift of, ‘Okay, I’m gonna do whatever I have to do for this team, with this team.’ And she’s so talented and does so many things really well. I mean, she gives up her body. She’s taking charges. She wants to be great on defense, wants to be a great team player. She doesn’t stop moving. She makes our offense really continue to go and flow. She’s playing multiple positions for us. So, I think from that standpoint, I think she’s gone less from ever worried about anything other than just being in the moment with our team. And I think that has really been able to show why we’ve had some of that success find us.”
More on Llanusa: “I mean, she’s kicked ass. Sorry, but she has. And I mean that in practice, like she doesn’t take a step back. She’s not careful. She’s not [cautious]. And I love that about her. She’s like, ‘I’m going for broke.’ And I feel like Madi’s the same way, and it’s not, we’re not getting stuck in the moment. We’re not getting stuck. And we used to do that. We used to come out and it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this environment.’ And we’ve had a lot of those moments. Right? You had those moments before I came, and you’ve had those moments since I’ve been here, and we have those moments. And now it’s like, ‘No, we’re in it.’ And I think when you have people that do that, it’s amazing what can freakin’ happen. And I think that’s exactly where she’s at. I think they’re both there. But I think that’s what really separates somebody that maybe has had the past. We’re not thinking about it. We don’t really talk about it. Sorry, she’s just kicking ass. I said it twice. But I love it.”
How having some time off in between games affects this matchup, given that they have been on such a roll: “You know, it’s funny. And I don’t know if you guys feel like we’re on a run. I just feel like we’ve just been itching the whole time. So, it doesn’t feel like we’re on this magical run right now. Like, you don’t even think about how many games we won or where we lost last. I don’t literally ever process that. I think this week we’re just literally trying to get better. I thought yesterday was one of the best practices that we’ve had, and today’s going to be no different. And so I think this time of year it feels like sometimes you start to over focus on your opponent instead of really focusing and honing in on getting better. And I feel like this team doesn’t really do that. I think we have respect for everybody, but we know that we’ve got to max out what we do every day. And I think that’s where at the end of the game at Kansas, I think that we kind of got into our groove. At the end of the game at Baylor I think we kind of got into our groove. And I think sometimes those experiences are really going to help us as this season goes because as little of time we have we actually do have a lot of time, too. And so I think we have a lot of room for improvement, and I think that’s where this week we get to practice. And I actually feel like we’re still hungry coming to practice, you know, and that doesn’t happen. That just doesn’t happen. And so whether or not that’s just my own world I’m living in, I don’t know. But it feels that way. It feels like we’re all pretty intense and competitive, and we just really do want to get better.”
What the potential of hosting in the NCAA Tournament adds to this matchup: “Yeah, you know, we haven’t really even talked about it. And I don’t know if you guys have talked about it as a team, and we just don’t dwell on it. You try to shut as much out as you possibly can because it can add fuel, but it’s not the kind of fuel that [we use]. ‘Oh, nobody believes in us,’ I don’t believe in that kind of motivation anyway, because I think we have a high belief in ourselves and I think we’re trying to get where we want to get. And so the rest of that takes care of itself. But it is [where] they don’t know any different, though. That’s what’s amazing, is they don’t know about going on the road in the NCAA Tournament. I mean, I know Ana, you did your freshman year. But other than that, we think, ‘Oh, we just host.’ So, that’s just what you do, but it’s not really what you do. Right? And so I think there’s also that element. But I feel like we’re less about ever worrying about the pressure of anything or the disrespect of whatever, or I don’t even know what you want to call it. But I think we’re not even about showing people how good we are. We’re literally about we’ve got to get better, and we’re going to be good, and we’re going to be as good as we possibly can in that moment. And we’ll fall down, but the only thing about falling down is you can still get up and go forward. And I think that’s still where we’re at right now.”
On the Big 12 being a pretty strong league despite not seeing a ton of teams in the Top 16: “Well, I think, I really do feel like the Big 12 is completely underrated. We talked about that with the Kansas media after that game as well. And I think there’s great teams. I think there’s great parity in our league, and you can see that this year. And I think sometimes that throws people off because maybe in the last however many years it hasn’t been like that. So, I feel like the teams are really good. I feel like the teams are very, very prepared to play in the postseason. My limited experience, this obviously is my second year in this league as a head coach. I’ve been in the Big 12 prior to that. But look at last year what everyone did in the first round of the tournament. No other league can say that. And so I think from that standpoint, I don’t know if we’re getting the national recognition that we should get.”
On eight teams from the conference potentially making the tournament: “Should. Yeah, and I would love for you to report that, to be honest, because I don’t know if enough people are talking about really how good this league is. And this league is very, very good.”
What kind of crowd she’s expecting and hoping for this weekend: “Okay, you’re gonna get me on my soapbox right now. Okay, so here’s the thing, is that we as a state, we as a community have to decide what we want for women’s basketball here. And, I mean, you’re talking about the matchup, you’re talking about a rivalry, you’re talking about this senior class, you’re talking about what they’ve been able to do. It’s a Saturday afternoon. And I know there’s high school playoffs. I understand that. And trust me, we’re following all those. But if you look at the top teams in the country and you look at the attendance for women’s basketball, we should have no less than 8,000 to 10,000 people here. So, do we have that many tickets out? No. Should we? You tell me. And that’s going to tell us. So, we’re going to do whatever we can to be able to pack this place. But these women get up in the stands. They’re incredible. They’re incredible people to come and watch. They point to each other. They laugh. They work hard. After the game they’re going to sit there and they’re going to give autographs to everybody. It takes a lot of time to be able to do that. And we want to be the best for this community that we possibly can, but we need everybody and we need a lot of people wearing crimson this weekend. You can wear white. I don’t care. You just can’t wear orange. Wear whatever color you want. And to be honest, that’s really the expectation. I feel like we’re really going to know what people think of women’s basketball in this state on Saturday afternoon at 1.”