By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A week ago, the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team seemed to be on top of the world — returning home with the Surf ‘N Slam Classic title and excited to open Big 12 conference play.
That excitement has turned to urgency after the Cowgirls (11-2) dropped their first two conference games — including an 83-49 loss at Baylor Sunday.
Now Oklahoma State hopes to right the ship when it faces No. 17 Kansas at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“You want to stop it right now,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “Iowa State played a very difficult schedule early last year and started 0-5, but I think three or four of those games were on the road so they were still OK. We’re in a different scenario and we don’t want to start there. Every game counts the same, but it’s really crucial on home games to make sure you take care of that.
“When you let one get away at home, you have to make sure you secure all the other home games that are possible. It’s a situation now where it becomes difficult if you don’t take care of your home games.”
Protecting the home court in conference has always been a mantra of Littell — dating back to his earliest coaching gigs. But with the next seven games coming against NCAA tournament teams — including four at home — there might be a little added pressure to rack up some resume-building wins.
“I don’t think there’s as much pressure as it appears,” Oklahoma State junior guard Tiffany Bias said. “We’re a great team and I believe that. The game that we lost (against Texas Tech), we were shocked. But we made a lot of adjustments and we’re going to come out ready to play at home.”
Oklahoma State fans saw those adjustments against Baylor. Most teams don’t make it to the 10-minute mark before being blown out by Baylor. The Cowgirls almost made it to the half before a 15-2 run late in the first half put Sunday’s game out of reach.
“We played really well the first 10 minutes, but they’re superior in a lot of ways,” Littell said. “They’ve seen a lot of different defense over (Brittney) Griner’s four years and they’re pretty good at making adjustments.”
Littell is hoping the baby steps made against the Lady Bears turns into a giant step in the right direction against the Jayhawks.
“We’re very focused, right now,” Bias said. “We had two tough losses but that’s just basketball and the Big 12 conference. You just have to come back stronger, be more focused with the scouting reports and be ready to play.”
It isn’t going to be easy for the Cowgirls. They may not have to deal with the 6-foot-8-inch Griner in the paint, but Oklahoma State will have to find a way to stop Angel Goodrich and Caroline Davis.
“You have to contain Goodrich off the dribble and make sure she doesn’t get around you and start creating handoffs or easy baskets for other people,” Littell said. “She’s one of the top point guards in the country, so you have to keep her in front. But when she becomes really dangerous is when she starts penetrating and creating shots for other people.”
The responsibility of stopping Goodrich falls on Bias — an Andover, Kan., native that’s no stranger to guarding the Kansas senior.
“She’s a great competitor and a great point guard,” Bias said. “Any time you have a matchup like that it’s always fun to see how the game turns out. You just have to keep her in front and don’t let her get easy looks. ... I think just reading and playing smart are the keys — not trying to do too much and just play the game.”
In a time where Oklahoma State needs that sense of urgency, it seems fitting that Bias will be a key factor in Tuesday’s game. The junior has spent much of her career playing with that same urgency and typically has her best nights against Kansas schools.
Now she’s hoping to continue her run and provide that extra spark that ignites Oklahoma State’s run through the toughest part of its schedule.
“There’s always that extra drive when you play a school where you’re from,” Bias said. “I think this game means a lot more to us as a team because we have got off to a little bit of a slow start in the Big 12. Baylor and Texas Tech are great teams and Kansas is a great team, but we don’t want to drop another game at home to anyone. We have to make adjustments each game and try to get better. We have to hit our shots when we’re open and we have to execute. We didn’t do that against Baylor.”