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Oklahoma State Reaches Women's NIT Championship Game
March 28, 2012
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By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big12Sports.com Correspondent


Oklahoma State had matched the Kansas men and the Baylor women by reaching the Final Four of the Women's NIT.

Now, it's up to the Jayhawks and the Lady Bears, who play in NCAA men's and women's Final Four semifinals this weekend, to keep up with the Cowgirls.

Oklahoma State rolled past San Diego 73-57 Wednesday night in Stillwater in the WNIT semifinal game in Stillwater. The Cowgirls will host the championship game at 2 p.m. Saturday, facing James Madison. The Dukes (29-7) of the Colonial Athletic Association slipped past Syracuse, 74-71 Wednesday night.

Toni Young scored a career-high 27 points and Liz Donohoe, the Big 12 Conference freshman of the year, added 20 points and 11 rebounds (her fourth straight double-double) for Oklahoma State (21-12). The Cowgirls haven't trailed in the second half since losing to Missouri in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. The Cowgirls never trailed against San Diego, jumping to a 17-6 lead.

"They're just playing a lot looser, a lot freer," Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell told the Oklahoman. "(Tiffany Bias) said on the way up here it's kind of like a pickup game right now. That's kind of how we're playing, and our players are enjoying playing that way.

"Because of that, I think all three of them have been more productive and have been able to use their athletic ability."

Oklahoma State limited the Toreos (26-9) to 29 percent shooting in the second half and 30 percent for the game. Combined with the Cowgirls' 52 percent shooting and control of the boards, the visitors had no chance to make it close.

"We've been playing a lot of man and we decided to go with a lot of the matchup zone tonight," Littell said. "I thought we were very good rebounding the ball too. We got a lot of the 50/50 rebounds. This group is playing with a purpose right now and they're not satisfied. They want to go get one more."

Littell credited a crowd of 3,484 with providing the noise and support to help his team get off to a fast start. He's hoping that the possibility of winning a championship on a Saturday afternoon will bring more fans to Gallager-Iba Arena.

"These kids get juiced up ready to play, they're excited about playing and we're feeding off of our crowd right now," he said. "Let's go fill the thing. People are getting excited about it. I hope it continues to grow."

A victory Saturday would be an uplifting and poignant end to a season that started with tragedy. Coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna along with two others died in a plane crash in mid-November.

"We play for a bigger reason than ourselves," said Oklahoma State's Tiffany Bias, who finished with 15 points and eight assists. "We play for the name on our jersey and we play for a lot of people in the stands and our friends and family."

"It would be something that we could be very proud of," Littell said of the chance to win the WNIT title Saturday. "The character of this group and how they've been all year long, I'm just blessed to be coaching them."
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