By NICK SNOW
STILLWATER — Thirty-point wins typically aren’t typically the types of games where a coach earns his keep. Most of the time it’s about strategizing; when to pull the starters and put the reserves in.
But while the scoreboard may not have looked like much of a game, the Oklahoma State players and coaches will tell you the 74-45 win over Idaho State Monday in Gallagher-Iba Arena was anything but easy.
“We told our players that the well-coached teams are going to make you go to your second and third options offensively, and they did that,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “... It was a good game for us. This was a good mid-major team coming in that went to the NIT and the year before went to the NCAA tournament.”
Liz Donohoe was one of only two Cowgirls to reach double figures — going three-for-three from 3-point range — en route to 12 points and five rebounds as Oklahoma State (4-0) battled a tough Idaho State team and a cold night shooting in what proved to be a perfect precursor for Friday’s game against Southern California.
“It was a good test for us,” said Oklahoma State guard Tiffany Bias, who finished with nine points and nine assists. “We just weren’t discipline in making sharp passes. We weren’t breaking hard enough to get open. Idaho did play a good defense, but that’s just one of those things that you’ve got to push through it.”
Almost from the opening tip the Bengals (2-2) made it clear they weren’t just going to take a loss and move on. And they made sure Oklahoma State knew that too, forcing the Cowgirls to go scoreless on its first three possessions.
It wasn’t until Donohoe got things started with a 3-pointer from the wing that Oklahoma State started to get in rhythm, before another 3-pointer ignited the Oklahoma State offense for an 11-2 run.
“Liz has struggled a little bit with her confidence, but she’s put in some extra time with her shot,” Littell said. “I thought she shot the ball with good tempo and had no hesitation in her game. It was really good to see her step up and go three-for-three from the arc.”
That seemed to be the wake-up call the Cowgirls needed as Oklahoma State’s defense went into lockdown mode.
Aided by a steal and score by Katelyn Loecker, the Cowgirls ended the half with an 18-6 run to take a 38-18 lead at halftime.
“We started to pressure the ball more on defense,” Bias said. “We picked it up in the backcourt and our guards picked it up on the wing denials. ... We get energy off each other. It was nice when one person was up on somebody, someone else gets up.”
Even with a 20-point lead at half, there was still a hint of nervousness surrounding the game.
Maybe it was the 11 turnovers in the first half, Or the fact that Idaho State only shot 36 percent from the field. Either way, Littell knew something had to be done.
“We changed up how we screened in the second half,” Littell said. “We made some adjustments on some of the sets we were calling. We just kind of figured out a little bit of what was working and what wasn’t.”
And one thing that worked was getting the ball into LaShawn Jones, Oklahoma State’s 6-foot-3-inch center.
Jones finished with 10 points and five rebounds — six points in the second half alone as the Cowgirls opened with an 18-5, capped off by Jones basket in the paint with 7:23 left. From there, Idaho State kept pace but could never pull within less than 28 the rest of the way.
“We made a more concious effort to go to LaShawn in the second half, and she came up with 5 for 7 again,” Littell said.
With the win the Cowgirls will now turn their attention to Friday’s game against USC.
And while Monday’s game may not have been pretty, Bias said it should be a confidence boost.
“We’ll be ready,” Bias said. “We’re going to get in the gym and shoot, and just be ready and focused.”