MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

March 3, 2013

Cowgirls begin slow, take care of Texas; OU women roll

STILLWATER – On a day typically reserved for seniors, it was a pair of juniors that helped the Oklahoma State women overcome a slow start to beat Texas 64-58 during Senior Day on Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Tiffany Bias scored 13 points – all in the second half – and Kendra Suttles led the Cowgirls (20-8, 9-8 in Big 12) with 18 as Oklahoma State kept its hopes for a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament and an NCAA berth alive.

“It wasn’t pretty but I thought we continued to fight, claw, scratch and stay in the basketball game,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “We didn’t play very well for 32 minutes but the last eight minutes I thought we played extremely hard and competed. People stepped up and made key plays with the game on the line and this is a big, big win for our team.”

Suttles scored 11 of her 18 points in the span of about five minutes, capped off by going right at Texas’ 6-foot-7 center Imani McGee-Stafford to provide a much-needed spark for an Oklahoma State offense that was rather pedestrian in the first half.

“Kendra Suttles just kind of put us on her back and willed us to win,” Littell said. “She hit a 3. She had a nice drive to the lane. I was waiting for her to give it back up and she kept going and had a nice take to the hole. I thought she played extremely well and stepped up with the game on the line.”

Even when Texas (11-17, 4-13 in Big 12) turned what was a five-point lead into a two-point game on Chassidy Fussell’s 3-pointer with 36 seconds left, the Cowgirls didn’t panic. Bias knocked down two free throws before getting a steal and layup to end the game.

“I knew that they were going to go back to Fussell,” Bias said of the steal. “She’s a great player and a great shooter. It’s just one of those things that you have to read and know that they’re coming back to their best player.”

Playing in her final game, Toni Young got Oklahoma State off to a decent start, scoring the first six points of the game as the two teams traded baskets early. But a 10-2 Texas run aided by Brady Sanders’ 3-pointer gave the Longhorns all the momentum they needed to take a 30-25 lead into halftime.

“Our team knew the magnitude of this game,” Littell said. “We played a little nervous to start out. They knew that this game was important for us to get to the (NCAA) tournament and we just played nervous. Again, I take some responsibility. I started us in the wrong defense. We started off a little passive and tentative so I assume responsibility for that.”

Despite being down early, Bias provided the first spark in the second half with a 3-pointer with 13:10 left as the Cowgirls went on a 10-2 run to take their first lead since the 8:33 mark in the first half.

And once Oklahoma State got rolling and got some confidence, those missed shots in the first half started to fall.

“We kind of came out sluggish,” Bias said. “We weren’t really hustling as much as we should have and our coaches kind of got on to us about things we needed to fix and things that we needed to do. We executed them and just put a fire under our butt and just started playing.”

While the win doesn’t necessarily mean Oklahoma State will get a bye in the Big 12 tournament, it nearly locks up an NCAA berth and gives the Cowgirls some confidence as they head to Ames, Iowa, to face Iowa State Monday.

“We’ve got a good RPI and we’re playing in the No. 1 RPI conference in America,” Littell said. “8-10 got in last year and we’ve got our ninth win already. If history holds true on it, nine wins in the No. 1 RPI conference in the country should get you in.”

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