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Cowgirls prep for underdog role against Florida Gulf Coast

Jim Littell has guided Oklahoma State on a late season surge which they hope to continue in the NCAA Tournament.

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

It may be a bit of a reversal, but it's still a rematch.

Oklahoma State needed overtime to dispatch the 12th seeded Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in Round 1 of the NCAA Women's Tournament in 2014, before eventually falling to Notre Dame in the Sweet 16.

As if the men's team playing a redux wasn't enough, the committee has given FGCU a chance for revenge, and this time the Eagles come in as the higher seed in this 7-10 matchup. Fresh off a 30-2 season, FGCU went 14-0 in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Sounds like some stiff competition, although there is some hope on the horizon. The Eagles only played three major Division I opponents, going 1-2. Those two losses came at Auburn (13-18, 3-13 SEC) and Ohio State in double OT (23-10, 13-5 Big Ten) at one of those early season, neutral site fun tournaments. Their lone win was against Clemson (9-21, 1-15 ACC) in that same event.

A pretty good team, but no juggernaut, as witnessed by their 7th seed.

Basic stats comparison gives us this, and I've highlighted what I think are some key stats:

FGCU OSU
Scoring 72.6 64.3
Pts Allowed 52.9 56.0
FG % 43.7 42.0
Opp FG% 36.3 37.0
3pt% 35.5 34.3
Opp 3pt% 27.2 27.9
3pt made 9.7 3.9
Opp 3pt made 4.7 4.7
FT% 69.9 64.2
Opp FT% 70.9 65.4
FT made 12.7 10.5
Opp FT made 10.8 9.5
Rebounds 35.2 41.1
Opp Rebounds 35.3 35.0
Assists 14.6 14.9
Opp Assists 8.5 11.2
Turnovers 11.5 14.0
Opp Turnovers 18.7 15.7
A/T Ratio 1.3 1.1
Opp A/T 0.5 0.7

The Eagle's lineup looks to go 9 deep, and is led by 6-3 junior guard Whitney Knight (14.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 2.0 spg) and 5-7 junior guard Kaneisha Atwater (14.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.8 spg). Knight is the team leader in all those categories. She also takes and makes the most 3pt shots per game for FGCU. This will be a really tough defensive matchup for OSU

Much like last year, the Eagles attempt lots of 3's, averaging 27 attempts per game. The Cowgirls held FGCU to 24.1% from deep on 7-29 shooting.

The formula here is going to be pretty simple. If the Eagles can push the tempo and 3pt shots are falling, this will be a tough ticket for OSU. The Cowgirls attempted less than 12 3's per game this season, and averaged just over 14 tries from behind the arc last season, but were baited into taking 22 shots from deep in the game against FGCU. Add to that a team FT% of less than 65%, and OSU is facing two potential strikes right out of the gate.

The Cowgirls will need to slow things down and turn this into a half court, shot clock governed contest, as well as diligently guard the perimeter.

The good news? After losing four in a row, and five of six, Jim Littell coaxed a 7-3 finish from the Cowgirls, partly due to the emergence of junior guard Roddricka Patton, who brings back memories of Tiffany Bias' speed in the open court. It will be no secret that OSU will need Brittany Martin, Liz Donohoe, Ro Johnson, and LaShawn Jones to all put up their usual double digits in points, as well as dominate the boards. The Cowgirls only averaged 58 ppg in Big 12 play, but I don't get the impression that FGCU will be a tough defensive opponent. If OSU struggles from the floor, well....

The other good news is that since 2000, OSU is 8-6 in the NCAA tournament, with only ONE first round exit. Hey Travis, are you reading this?

The game will be available on FULLCT/ESPN3 at 10am Central on Saturday, and you can always  on Twitter.

GO COWGIRLS!!!