By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Less than two hours after the Oklahoma State men pulled off an upset of No. 2 Kansas, the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team hoped to pull off the same miracle against No. 1 Baylor Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
And for 15 minutes, it looked like the Cowgirls might do the unthinkable. But in the end, Baylor’s size and athleticism — led by 6-foot-8-inch center Brittney Griner — proved to be too much for the Cowgirls to handle in an 81-62 loss to the top-ranked Lady Bears.
“I thought we competed,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “That was one thing that I really wanted when we went into this game — that we would line up, compete, really fight and I thought we did that a lot.”
The Cowgirls (15-5, 4-5 in Big 12) played well in spurts, even taking a 23-22 lead as late as 5:53 remaining in the first half, but the Cowgirls had no answer for Griner. Griner finished with a game-high 30 points and 10 rebounds while also collecting a career-high 7 assists.
“We played great and competed well for the most part,” Oklahoma State junior guard Tiffany Bias said. “As long as you compete like that against a Baylor team like that, it’s always a learning experience and it’s good for the next one. If we can play that hard and compete like that every game, I don’t think we’ll have a problem for the rest of the season.”
Despite falling behind early, Oklahoma State managed to battle back, using a 16-6 run to take a 21-16 lead and force Baylor coach Kim Mulkey to call a time out with 10:03 left in the first half.
“I took the starters out,” Mulkey said. “The people that were on the floor were the bench players versus their starters. Sometimes you just have to do that to get their attention and a wake-up call. We’ve got enough talent and enough depth on this team that if I have to start a different five, I’ll start a different five. ... We went down five with three subs in the game and then I put the starters back in.”
That apparently was the wake-up call the Lady Bears (20-1, 10-0 in Big 12) needed as Baylor went on an 18-2 run, outscoring Oklahoma State 21-5 over the final 9 minutes of the first half to take a 37-26 lead at halftime.
“Coach was on us about being down five,” Baylor guard Odyssey Sims said. “We didn’t have any intensity, we didn’t have any energy. We tried our best to pick it up. We just kept running and we got easy baskets in transition and just tried to find the intensity within each other.”
“We missed point-blank shots right at the rim,” Littell said. “If you’re going to compete against (Baylor), you not only have to hit open shots, you have to hit some tough shots. You have to hit some contested shots because there’s going to be a lot of those.”
Baylor opened the second half with a 10-2 run before the Cowgirls made a little run of their own, thanks to three baskets from Bias — including a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 15:30 remaining in the game to help the Cowgirls creep within 12, 54-42. Bias finished with 13 points, becoming the 20th Cowgirl to record 1,000 points in her career.
That’s as close as Oklahoma State got as players like Sims and Destiny Williams elevated their games to help Baylor pull away over the final 12 minutes of the game.
“There was a lot of positive things that we can take from this game,” Littell said. “We had 22 offensive rebounds against a very long, athletic team and those (amounted to) 27 second-chance points. That’s something you can build on for the second half. We forced 20 turnovers on Baylor, which proves that you’re playing hard and flying around a little bit.”
With Baylor now in the rearview mirror, Bias said Oklahoma State is looking forward to the second half of the Big 12 season.
“We saw glimpses of a team that we could be and should be, and then we saw a team that didn’t finish as we should have,” Bias said. “We expect a lot more of ourselves. The games that we shouldn’t have lost or let up a lead, that just shows some of the learning experiences that we shouldn’t have had by losing. We’d rather just grind it out and get to the next one. For the second half of the season, we’ll look back on (those losses) and make it better.”