Stillwater News Press

November 16, 2013

Atkins comes off bench to lift Cowgirls past Northern Colorado

By Nick Snow

STILLWATER, Okla. — Brittany Atkins wasn’t in Oklahoma State’s starting lineup Saturday against Northern Colorado. She probably wouldn’t have come off the bench had Tiffany Bias not been hampered by an injury early in the first half.

But if there’s one thing about Atkins, she knows how to make the most of what playing time she receives. After all, it beats the alternative.

Atkins, a redshirt freshman who missed last season with a knee injury, tallied a career-high 14 points and five rebounds as the Cowgirls thumped Northern Colorado 87-51 Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

“If you want to play, you have to compete and show that you’re here for a reason,” Atkins said. “It feels good. I just know that I have to keep working hard I can’t stop.”

Atkins didn’t just compete for the Cowgirls, scoring half of Oklahoma State’s 28 bench points. She dominated.

Whether it was on the defensive end fighting for a loose ball, driving to the basket or knocking down one of her two 3-pointers, Atkins was the spark that helped the Cowgirls (3-0) coast to an easy win.

“It’s not by accident,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “I’m always talking to these ladies about the fact that you get out of this game what you put into it, and she’s one that spends a lot of time in the gym. She comes back over in the evening and works on our game. I haven’t said it too much but she needs to be like (Oklahoma State men’s player) Phil Forte for us. She needs to be that one that every time you walk in the gym, she’s there shooting the basketball because she does have the ability to change a game and provide some instant offense for us.”

At times, Atkins did look like Forte, knocking down both her 3-pointers in the span of three minutes. Other times? Perhaps Markel Brown would be a better assessment as her defense helped force Northern Colorado (1-2) to turn the ball over 20 times.

“Last year was just so tough, sitting out watching my teammates struggling,” Atkins said. “This game really did boost my confidence level a lot.”

While Atkins’ confidence may be soaring after the win, there were times early in the game where Oklahoma State looked a little shaken. Northern Colorado’s Lindsay Mallon hit a 3-pointer to give the Lady Bears a 9-6 lead, but that seemed to be the wake-up call Oklahoma State needed.

A three-point play by Atkins sparked the Cowgirls to a 12-0 run and it seemed like Oklahoma State was off and running. Along with Akins, who had six points during the run, LaShawn Jones also tallied four points over that 3-minute span that saw the Cowgirls take a 20-11 lead. Jones finished with 17 points and five rebounds.

“LaShawn has worked hard, as well,” Littell said. “We’ve been tough on LaShawn because we knew how important she was to us this year with the loss of Toni Young, and she just continues to get better. She’s getting better because she’s putting good practices back to back to back.”

Atkins’ second 3-pointer of the game only added to Oklahoma State’s lead, but Northern Colorado refused to go away. Amy Kidner scored six straight points on back-to-back possessions to close the gap to 27-21.

That’s as close as the Bears ever got as Oklahoma State’s offense kicked it into high gear.

Aided by a foul on a 3-pointer and Tiffany Bias’ subsequent three free throws, along with a 3-pointer from Liz Donohoe, the Cowgirls went on a 12-2 run, effectively taking Northern Colorado out of the game.

“I think we have the ability to wear some people down with our depth,” Littell said. “We’ve got a lot of people that can play and make plays and contribute.”

Kendra Suttles’ 3-pointer with 1:54 left in the first half proved to the cherry on top of the half as the Cowgirls took a 46-25 lead into the locker room.

After letting Northern Colorado hang around a little in the first half, Oklahoma State definitely made sure that didn’t happen in second half.

Thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Bias, Oklahoma State opened the half with a 17-5 run over the first six minutes before Stephanie Lee finally broke that string.

“I thought we were better offensively with the way we ran the floor,” Littell said. “We tried to create some easy opportunities that way. We pushed it. We worked on that this week, picking the tempo of the game up, and I think we made a pretty good team have a bad day.”

Oklahoma State continued to pour it on late as freshman Lakota Baily knocked down a pair of 3-pointers — the last giving the Cowgirls their largest lead at 87-47. Northern Colorado gave it a little bit of a run over the final three minutes, doing most of the damage from the free-throw line, but it proved to be a futile effort.

And while Atkins may have had the breakout game she had been waiting for over the past year, with Idaho State coming to Stillwater Monday and a starting role still up for grabs, Atkins said she hopes to build on her own success and the team’s success moving forward.

“It took a lot of hard work to get here,” Atkins said. “Just sitting out last year, I knew I had to stay in the gym and come back prepared. We have a lot of guards … so I know if I want to play I have to keep stepping up because the competition is heavy.”