By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
DALLAS - There were disadvantages stacked against Oklahoma State, but in the end the Cowgirls turned those minuses into plusses and a spot in the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship.
In Saturday's first quarterfinal at the American Airlines Center, No. 4 seed Texas Tech figured to have a slight edge on fifth-seeded Oklahoma State. The Lady Raiders had won both regular-season meetings and were starting four seniors. The Cowgirls committed six of their 17 turnovers in the first eight minutes to dig themselves a 12-5 hole.
"Texas Tech is a good pressing team," Oklahoma State point guard Tiffany Bias said. "So I think early, I think we just had a little bit of jitters."
With only one senior starting - and with its top three players in foul trouble down the stretch - Oklahoma State overcome those jitters to grind out a 59-54 victory over the Lady Raiders (21-10).
The Cowgirls (21-9) will face No. 1 seed Baylor at 1 p.m. in Sunday's semifinal. The Lady Bears rolled to an 80-47 victory over No. 8 seed Kansas State in Saturday's second quarterfinal game.
Bias, who finished with eight turnovers and seven assists, helped get the Cowgirls get back on track. After falling behind by seven, Oklahoma State ripped off a 17-3 run to build a 22-15 lead. Kendra Suttles, who finished with 16 points, scored three consecutive baskets - all assisted by Bias - to fuel the run.
That provided an advantage that Oklahoma State would not relinquish for the remainder of the game that could be best described as a rock fight. The third meeting of the season underscored the fact that familiarity might breed contempt but in the Big 12 it breeds turnovers and missed shots.
The teams combined to make 40 field goals and 38 turnovers. Texas Tech's 21 turnovers proved decisive, particularly in the deciding sequence.
"They are a great team but we can't make mistakes like that," Texas Tech's Casey Morris said. "I think we lost this game ourselves, and we have to take responsibility."
Kelsi Baker's driving layup with 1:23 remaining pulled the Lady Raiders within 53-52 and then Texas Tech forced Bias into her final turnover.
Baker, who finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds, was the target for Texas Tech's next offensive play but Oklahoma State's Brittany Martin stole Chynna Brown's pass. That led to the Cowgirls closing the game out with six consecutive free throws.
Martin finished with 14 points, six rebounds and a career-high seven steals. She also limited Brown, Texas Tech's leading scorer, to four points and 0-for-9 shooting.
"I don't think you've got to look any further than what Brittany Martin did for us," Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. "She did a great job locking up Chynna Brown. That was the concern going into the game. Chynna had hurt us in the two previous games."
Following Martin's steal, Suttles missed a shot on the next Oklahoma State possession but Toni Young got the offensive rebound and was fouled to start the Cowgirls' free throw run. Young scored 11 with 18 rebounds - 10 of those on the offensive glass.
Bias picked up her fourth foul with 8:49 remaining, Young got her fourth with 7:51 to play and Martin picked up her fourth with 4:45 left. Littell did a masterful job of juggling his reserves to protect the trio and keep them from fouling out.
"We decided that if we were going to get beat, we were going to get beat with our best players on the floor," Littell said. "So we went back with them probably quicker than I would have liked to have had, but I didn't want to relinquish the lead, either. We were in pretty serious foul trouble."