By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Seven months ago the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team was on top of the world — winning the first Women’s NIT championship in program history.
Now it seems like just another step in the right direction for the Cowgirls, who are not only expecting to make the NCAA tournament but are looking to make a deep run.
Oklahoma State hopes to take another step in the right direction as it hosts Cal Poly in the season opener at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“Our goal is to compete in every game in the Big 12 and finish as high as we can,” coach Jim Littell said. “It’s going to be awful hard to unseat Baylor as tough as they are, but we expect to get to the NCAA tournament and make a run and play well. We expect to be competitive against everybody we play in the Big 12. We have a lot of weapons and I’m confident that these young ladies will take a step even further than they did last year.”
Expectations are already high for the No. 23-ranked Cowgirls, who will begin the season ranked for the first time since the 2008-09 season. But those expectations aren’t unreasonable.
“I think we should match up with just about anybody,” Oklahoma State senior Toni Young said. “I’m not very big, but I can jump and I have speed. You have to use what you got to beat your opponent. We’ve got people like (Lindsey Keller) that can bully people in the post. We just have to combine our talents into one solid unit.”
The Cowgirls showcased some of that talent in a 118-43 exhibition rout of Central Oklahoma on Wednesday. Oklahoma State’s new fast-paced offense clicked throughout the night, showing very little in the way of a learning curve, even with new players like freshman phenom Brittney Martin joining the corps of returning players from last year.
“We have a goal of getting four players in double figures each night,” Littell said. “We were able to get seven in double figures (against Central Oklahoma). When you’re able to do that, you’re going to have a lot of success.”
Rebounding has also been a big point of emphasis in the offseason and will no doubt be a big factor in Friday’s game.
“We always stress offensive rebounds,” Littell said. “We had 23 of them (against Central Oklahoma), so that was a big plus. … We’re going to continue to work hard on the glass and try to get those rebounds.”
There is one area Littell said he would like his team to improve on after Wednesday’s exhibition — defense.
At times the Cowgirls looked confused against the Bronchos, something they can’t afford to do against a Cal Poly team picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky Conference.
“We have got to get better on defense,” Littell said. “It’s not where we need it to be. We’re going to continue to try to improve it over these first few games before we hit the conference season.”
After taking some baby steps against the Bronchos, Littell does feel that the Cowgirls are ready to hit the ground running. And the excitement of opening night just adds even more punch for an Oklahoma State squad looking to win its seventh consecutive home opener.
“I’m excited about playing,” Littell said. “We have a lot of games coming here in a hurry, and they like playing in the games a whole lot better than they do practicing, I can tell you that.
“We’ve worked pretty hard in practice and they’re excited. We’ve had a quick turnaround, but we know that every night’s a new opportunity to get better and take that next step toward where we want to be at the end of the season.”