By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It would be easy for the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team to overlook Weber State. The Wildcats (0-2) won just two games last season under first-year coach Bethann Ord and are still in the rebuilding process with four starting freshmen.
It may seem like a trap game, but after barely missing out on the NCAA tournament last season, Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell knows the importance of getting a big win early in the season.
“Every game counts now,” Littell said. “I told our players at the end of the year (the NCAA selection committee is) going to look at where you’re quality wins are or if you have bad losses. It’s going to come down to conference play. You have to win a certain number of games in conference play, but you don’t want to lose a game to a mid-major program either because that would hurt your chances in March.”
The Cowgirls (2-0) certainly didn’t hurt their chances for an NCAA berth with Tuesday’s 74-71 win at Missouri State. But the key will be carrying that momentum through the next month before the conference season starts.
“That game showed us some things that we needed to work on,” Littell said. “We’re going to look back at the end of the year and realize that the win at Missouri State was a quality win. They’re going to be a team that has a very good RPI and has a strong possibility of winning the Missouri Valley tournament and going to the NCAA tournament.
“It also showed that we really need to get a lot better in all phases of defense. Right now we’ve kind of had an offensive mentality and we’ve work the last couple of days trying to change that around. We still want to be successful offensively, but we want to get a lot better on the defensive end of the floor.”
Defense will be a point of emphasis when the Cowgirls take on the Wildcats at 2 p.m. Sunday in Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Wildcats are led by freshman Kalie Mathews, who is averaging 10 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.
“We’re just working on the basic fundamentals,” Littell said. “We want to get in a stance, play harder, jump to the ball and provide that help side defense. We’ve gone back to the basics and are trying to ensure that we get better on that end of the floor.”
The 22nd-ranked Cowgirls seem to be ripe for an upset Sunday. They’re coming off an emotional road win and will likely be filled with emotions the day after celebrating the one-year anniversary of the plane crash that killed Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna.
But as they have been for the last year and a half, Littell expects the Cowgirls to put all of that behind them and focus on the Wildcats.
“I don’t think it’s going to play a factor,” Littell said. “There are things that are more important than the basketball game. I think our players will play hard. They respect the game and they want to do well. I know that there’s going to be some things on their mind, but I know that they’ll play hard and represent our program the way we need to.”