The Oklahoma State Cowgirls women’s basketball season ended without fanfare inside Gallagher-Iba Arena after a 66-56 loss to Abilene Christian in the first round of the WNIT.
The game served as a microcosm of the entire 2016-17 season for OSU—a great start that gave way to tremendous difficulties in securing conference wins as play wore on.
Playing on its home court, the Cowgirls jumped to a 13-3 lead early in the first quarter but struggled to keep the Wildcats at bay during a scoreless stretch that spanned more than four minutes of the first quarter.
That 10-point margin shrank quickly and turned into a five-point deficit by halftime after OSU only managed to put in eight points in the second quarter.
Any team will find difficulty maintaining a lead when netting just 10 points in more than a quarter and a half of game time.
Despite the early disadvantage, Abilene Christian outscored the Cowgirls in every quarter, and each Wildcats starter reached double digits in scoring by the end of the night.
With solid shooting overall, OSU sank more than 44 percent of its shots but only hit three of seventeen from behind the arc.
Even when a team shoots poorly—Abilene Christian shot less than 40 percent—it’s possible to overcome that inaccuracy through rebounding and forcing turnovers.
The Wildcats held the advantage on the glass, especially on its own offensive end, where second chance points helped overcome the early deficit. It also forced OSU into 16 turnovers.
OSU junior center Kaylee Jensen followed up her All-Big XII First Team selection with another outstanding performance. She had a game-high 26 points and pulled in seven rebounds.
No other Cowgirl scored in double figures, though sophomore guard Karli Wheeler had nine points on 3-of-14 shooting. Wheeler’s first attempt from three opened the scoring and helped spark the early lead.
But the Cowgirls just couldn’t hold on.
That’s been the story of this season for OSU. Jensen dominates the box score, which led to early-season success in the non-conference schedule. Opposing teams understood Jensen was largely unstoppable, but the rest of Jim Littell’s squad failed to support her efforts consistently once the Big XII season was underway.
When the season began, and even after piling up 11 wins before the new year, no one really knew what to expect without Brittany Martin. Who—besides Jensen—would step in to fill her shoes?
As the season concluded Thursday night, similar questions arise for next year.
With a pair of senior starters moving on, who will emerge as a consistent threat alongside Jensen to help the Cowgirls generate the recent success Littell has experienced since taking over the program?