By NICK SNOW
STILLWATER — It happened in the blink of an eye.
One minute Stephen F. Austin thought it might be able to hang with No. 16 Oklahoma State. The next, they found themselves in a 27-8 hole — a hole the Ladyjacks never dug themselves out of as the Cowgirls routed Stephen F. Austin 85-41 Thursday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
With just under 13 minutes left in the first half, Oklahoma State (7-0) went on a 20-0, effectively erasing all remnants of a slow start.
“They were pressuring pretty hard, so we kind of had to learn to get back into our offense and not get sped up too quick,” Oklahoma State senior forward Lindsey Keller said. “We just need to settle down and run our offense. We finally kind of figured that out as it got going. We calmed down, got into the game and got into the flow of it.”
The offense may get most of the credit for Oklahoma State’s big run, but it was the defense that propelled the Cowgirls to the victory. Stephen F. Austin (4-4) shot 25.5 percent from the field, including 20.7 percent in the first half as the Cowgirls held the Ladyjacks scoreless for over eight minutes en route to a 35-14 halftime lead.
“I really thought we took a step in the right direction,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “We had been focusing a lot about playing good defense and I thought we did an exceptional job defensively. Porsha Robert came in averaging about 17 points and 9 rebounds a game and I thought Lindsey Keller did an outstanding job guarding her. She shut her out and held her to 2 rebounds, so I was really proud of her.”
“Our coach had a good scout ready for us,” Oklahoma State senior forward Toni Young said. “We had been emphasizing defense a lot. That was our goal, to get down and play in the same stance.”
It came as no surprise to Littell that Young took over the game when the Cowgirls needed a spark. The senior from Del City used her sure hands to pull down rebounds and secure the ball at a time when Oklahoma State struggled with turnovers.
“I thought we turned the ball over too much in the first seven minutes,” Littell said. “We had about six turnovers early and that really kept us from getting off to the start we wanted. We played better in the second half and finished with 19 offensive rebounds.”
“Lately we’ve been starting off pretty fast,” Young said. “I think we’re a quick team. At the beginning we have to realize we can’t go as fast. Once we get in the (half-court offense), we have to tell ourselves to slow down and just run our plays.”
Young lead the Cowgirls with 20 points and 12 rebounds for her second straight double-double — and third overall this season. Liz Donohoe also chipped in 15 points and 14 boards, while Keller added 16 points.
The lead continued to balloon in the second half as Oklahoma State finally settled into a groove. The Cowgirls opened the second half with a 12-3 run thanks in large part to Young and never looked back, expanding the lead to 45 with just over a minute remaining.
“We had about a six minute drought where we couldn’t score, but other than that I was pretty pleased with the way we played,” Littell said. “We’re too good of a team to go into a drought like that, but I’m proud of the way we finished the game.”
While the Cowgirls weren’t able to reach their nation-leading average of 90 points per game, Littell said Thursday’s game against Stephen F. Austin is exactly the kind of game that will gear his team up for Big 12 play.
“We know that there are going to be some games that we’re going to have to grind it out,” Littell said. “The offense and scoring won’t always be there, but defense and rebounding will be there every night. I’d rather win a game 85-40 than 90-60 because those are going to be the types of games we’re going to play in the conference.”
Nick Snow is a sports reporter for The Stillwater NewsPress.