The 6-foot-1 redshirt senior had to be helped off the court with tears in her eyes, as husband and Sooner football quarterback Landry Jones greeted her at the tunnel on her way to the locker room.
Hand left the arena for an MRI, which came back as a torn ACL.
“I’ve watched them fall,” said OU head coach Sherri Coale upon immediate reaction. “I’ve watched them fall. There’s a way they fall. There’s a way they scream. I’m not a doctor. I can’t give you any diagnosis. I just know what I saw.”
What she saw was one of the most beloved women’s basketball players in Sooner history end her career in an awful way.
“I think what makes this so difficult right now is just it’s Whit’s fifth year and all that she has been through as a player and all that she has meant to our program,” Coale said. “You just look at them and think, ‘It should end better for this kid. It should just end better.’ We don’t know why and it’s not our place to guess or to even speculate, but you just in the deepest part of your heart, you just want it to end better for her. And I think that’s what makes this incredibly difficult.”
Before Hand left for the hospital, the two had a moment during a halftime that was undoubtedly somber.
“I said a lot of things and told her I loved her,” Coale said.
The team then regrouped as well as it could and muscled out a spirited victory in honor of their captain.
Hand becomes the fourth Sooner to suffer a season-ending injury this year.
Center Lyndsey Cloman, forward Kaylon Williams and guard Maddie Manning are already on the sidelines for all of 2012-13.
But this is the biggest blow yet.
“As tough as it is for our basketball team, it’s tougher because we’re devastated for Whitney,” Coale said. “Nobody loves to play basketball any more than Whitney Hand. I’ve never met a kid who loves to compete and play this game more than Whitney. And so the fact that she is denied that and has to endure again is really, really hard for all of us to accept and understand. But I will promise you this: that group of warriors that finished the game are gonna show up and fight their tails off every time we play. I’ll guarantee you they will.
“They’re gonna fight with Whitney’s spirit, and they’re gonna do everything they can and together we’re gonna find a way to piece it together and win basketball games. You’ll see more of what you saw, the grit in the final few minutes of the game tonight, the entire second half really. You’ll see more of that grit every time we take the floor. I can promise you that.”
As for now, they’ll get nine full days off to cope and work things out with their even thinner lineup before their next contest.
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