STILLWATER, Okla. – Relying on a six-player rotation, Oklahoma State went 22-11, was 9-9 in the Big 12 and nearly upset second-seeded Duke on its home court in the NCAA Tournament.
While the Cowgirls must replace leading scorer and rebounder Toni Young, they have gone from a team with a short bench to one with a deep roster. Four starters return and nine newcomers make Oklahoma State a team to watch.
“We’re very excited about this season,” coach Jim Littell said. “We’ve added depth with the 15th-ranked recruiting class and we’ve got four starters coming back. We have the versatility to play with a big lineup or go with four or five guards. One of our strengths is our chemistry. This is a very tight-knit group and they get along with each other both on and off the floor.”
Four-year starter Tiffany Bias returns at point guard. She’s one of the players who should benefit from the Cowgirls’ depth. Over the last 14 games, Bias played all but 15 seconds – that’s seconds, not minutes. As Littell said, that’s unheard of.
“I don’t know where she gets her energy, she plays hard all the time,” said freshman All-American Brittney Martin said of Bias. “I’ve never seen her take a break or ease up. I love playing with her because of that and because she’s a great leader on and off the court.”
Bias averaged 12 points and 6.5 assists per season. She hopes to raise her 3-point shooting percentage (.286) and she realizes that occasional breaks on the bench make sense.
“At first, you when you start playing in your career and you start every season, you’re like, ‘I don’t want to sit, I want to play,’” Bias said. “Then toward the end of the season, you wish your legs were a bit fresher. It won’t be a bad thing if I have to sit a few minutes.”
Freshman Roshunda Johnson, ranked as one of the nation’s top point guards, could supplant Bias at point guard. Guard Lakota Beatty, Oklahoma's Gatorade Player of the Year and forward Katelyn Loecker, a two-time player of the year in Kansas, are two more freshmen who are highly touted. Plus redshirt freshman guard Brittany Atkins is back after missing last season with a knee injury.
MarishaWallace, a junior-college transfer, was selected the Big 12's Preseason Newcomer of the Year.
“She’s a physical post,” Bias said of Wallace. She’s big and strong and you don’t want to get in her way. She’s got great footwork and you don’t see that with a lot of post players.”
In addition to Bias and Martin, starters Liz Donohoe and Kendra Suttles return. Donohoe, a junior, averaged 16 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while making 91 percent of her free throws and 36 percent of her 3-pointers. Suttles, a junior, moved into the starting lineup last February and averaged 9.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Oklahoma State was picked to finish third in the Big 12 preseason voting by the coaches.
“I think there are five or six teams that can contend for the championship,” Littell said. “That’s nice, because the past few years with Brittney Griner at Baylor, we didn’t have that feeling. We’re very optimistic about the season. We have some great leadership and a great group of talented, athletic kids. Those things are usually a recipe for success.”
“As a team, I think we have big goals,” Bias said. “We want to win the Big 12 championship and then see where that takes us. I think we can have a deep run in the tournament.”