The Oklahoma State Cowgirls return to the hardwood after coming off a season that saw them nearly make a Sweet Sixteen appearance in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Now, minus All-American and WNBA first-rounder Toni Young, the Pokes are looking to kick-start themselves to another successful season.
The expectations for this year's team are definitely high. The Cowgirls were voted to finish in a tie for third in the Big 12, while also being ranked #19 in the country by Sporting News and No. 24 in the Coaches Poll. In addition to the preseason accolades, the Cowgirls will have, as of right now, six games televised on nationally, including two games on ESPN2 (Feb. 9 at Baylor, Feb. 16 Bedlam).
The Cowgirls have some roles to fill, but return four starters and brought in a recruiting class that is sure to make for some great additions to the team. Here's a breakdown of who to watch this season:
Senior PG Tiffany Bias
Tiffany Bias has been one of the premier faces of Cowgirl basketball since she first arrived to Stillwater in 2010. Called by some (ok, maybe just me) the second coming of Cowgirl phenom Andrea Riley, Bias has tremendous court vision and will make a defender pay for giving her an extra step of space. Lightning quick coupled with excellent decision making, Bias finished the 2012-2013 season averaging 12 points a game, grabbing 75 steals and dishing out 216 assists. An All-American honorable mention, she became the 20th Cowgirl to score over 1,000 career points and just the third to hand out over 500 career assists. She'll once again be at the helm, and it doesn't look like this Cowgirl will be slowing down any time soon.
Junior F Liz Donohoe
Liz Donohoe, a product out of Edmond North High School, was also an instant contributor when she stepped foot on campus. The young Cowgirl's shooting sparked a wave of "Lizsanity" and earned her numerous awards, including the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Last season, Donohoe made her case against the existence of the sophomore slump, continuing her streak of having the hot hand. She averaged 15 points per game while grabbing 52 steals and handing out 84 assists. Donohoe is a go-to scorer, and is near flawless from the corner three. If history holds true, it shouldn't be too long before GIA is once again infected with "Lizsanity."
Sophomore G Brittney Martin
The No. 19 player nationally (No. 3 among wing players), Brittney Martin became Oklahoma State's highest ranked recruit when she came to Stillwater from Syracuse, Utah. She instantly created a role for herself among the Cowgirl's core five, averaging 10.1 points per game as well as giving out 90 assists. Martin also recorded the school's first ever triple-double when she earned 10 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists against UT-Arlington. While her offensive numbers raise a few eyebrows, Martin is also known for her tenacious defensive skills. The powerful Poke nabbed an OSU fifth-best single-season 96 steals. Martin's an all-around athlete, and will definitely continue to be one of the key components to the team.
Junior C LaShawn Jones
Affectionately known as "Shaq" among her teammates, LaShawn Jones is a force to be reckoned with in the paint. The 6'3" Putnam City native came off the bench to alleviate some of the duties from starter Kendra Suttles, and easily excelled. While it may not be shown on paper (she averaged just 3.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game), Jones made up for her lack of stats with her defensive prowess. She recorded seven blocks on the season and went toe-to-toe with All-American WNBA first-rounder Brittney Griner from Baylor, where Jones scored nine points and raked in six rebounds. Look for Shaq to make increased contributions this season.
Junior C Marisha Wallace
A transfer from NOC-Enid, Marisha Wallace has already earned some attention. She was named the Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, and she will be looking to earn the same title in the regular season as well. In her career at NOC, she helped lead the Lady Jets to back-to-back conference titles all while averaging 17.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. The 6'2" player from Midwest City may be making the jump to Division I play,but she'll do it gladly with both feet. Don't be surprised if she quickly earns valuable minutes.
Season Sneak Peek
The Cowgirls will definitely have the talent to compete, but that doesn't mean that wins will come easy. The Big 12 has the No. 1 RPI rating in the country, as it has for the previous six seasons. The conference also leads the nation in attendance, and has for the past 14 years, so playing on the road becomes increasingly tough. Just ask anybody who has had to play in Waco.
The Cowgirls' season won't be short on national recognition, either. As I previously mentioned, OSU is currently slated for six television appearances, including two match-ups on ESPN2. This will mark a program first, as the Cowgirls have never appeared on the ESPN family of networks in the regular season.
The Cowgirls will also take part in two regular season
tournaments classics when they take the short drive to Oklahoma City to be one of the first women's teams to be featured in the All-College Classic. They'll then have to hop on a plane bound for paradise as they'll also compete in the Puerto Rico Classic.
Here are my picks for games to watch for this season:
- Dec. 12 vs. South Florida (All-College Classic)
- Dec. 19-21 vs. Michigan State/Georgia Tech (Puerto Rico Classic)
- Jan. 14 vs. West Virginia (6:00 p.m., FS1)
- Jan. 22 at Kansas (7:00 p.m., ESPN3)
- Jan. 26 vs. Baylor (3:00 p.m., FSN)
- Feb. 1 at Oklahoma (2:00 p.m., FSN)
- Feb. 9 at Baylor (3:00 p.m., ESPN2)
- Feb. 16 vs. Oklahoma (12:00 p.m., ESPN2, will also be the Play4Kay game to promote breast cancer awareness)
As you can see, the action gets really juicy in Big 12 play. I've had the privilege of getting to cover this team for the past two years, and I can tell you that this is a fun bunch to watch. Many of the opposing coaches will tell you that they're afraid to play in Gallagher-Iba Arena because the fans are so loud and knowledgeable of the game. With this year's talent combined with some of the nation's largest powerhouse opponents, it's shaping up to be another fantastic season in Cowgirl country.