By NICK SNOW
If history is any indication, you might want to tune to ESPN2 around 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
That’s when the seventh-seeded Oklahoma State women’s basketball team will face off with 10th-seeded DePaul during the first round of the NCAA tournament in a rematch that’s been 22 years in the making.
“We’re excited,” Oklahoma State junior guard Tiffany Bias said. “We just get to go out there and play. We get to see some neat things and just play together again.”
But while most of the players weren’t even born when the Cowgirls beat the Blue Demons 81-80 during the first round of the 1991 NCAA Tournament in Stillwater, this year’s matchup in Durham, N.C., could be just as exciting.
“I know that (DePaul) is very well-coached,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said following the NCAA Selection Show. “They’ve had a long history of being in the tournament. They played a great conference. I really don’t know a whole lot about their personnel, but we’ll go to work on that tonight.”
DePaul (21-11) isn’t the only one with a history of NCAA tournament appearances. Since 1989, Oklahoma State (21-10) has made 15 postseason tournament appearances — 10 of those in the NCAA tournament. But while the Blue Demons have made 11 straight trips to the big dance, the Cowgirls haven’t been there since 2010. Only seniors Toni Young and Lindsey Keller have felt the pressures of the NCAA tournament — and even they were used sparingly.
“It doesn’t help a lot because they were pups when they did it and they were riding Andrea Riley’s shirttail,” Littell said. “They weren’t big factors in that part of it, so it’s going to be new for most of our players going into this.”
It may be a new experience in an unfamiliar land — the historic Cameron Indoor Stadium — but Littell said playing in the NCAA tournament should be a breeze compared to what the Cowgirls faced this season in conference play.
“The thing that’s good about it is that the Big 12 prepares you to play against a lot of different styles and a lot of different types of opponents,” Littell said. “We believe that our conference gets our teams ready to play for the NCAA tournament. We’ll prepare the same way. We’ll go over the scouting report and breakdown personnel. We won’t change anything than what we’ve been doing all year.”
No doubt the Cowgirls have had plenty of time to prepare for DePaul. By the time they step on the floor, Oklahoma State will not have played for two weeks — the last game being the Big 12 semifinal loss to No. 1 Baylor on March 10.
Most coaches might be concerned with a two-week hiatus between playing games, but not Littell. The week off allowed Oklahoma State to focus on some things and get back to the basics before the postseason begins.
“It was good for us that we were able to get two or three days off,” Littell said. “We played five or six players for the majority of the last two months, so we needed a little break to get healed up and rested. Then the last few days, we’ve been able to go back and focus on some of the little things and fundamentals of the game.”
“That week after the tournament we went hard in practice and got back to the fundamental things,” Bias said. “You kind of forget that. Since the season is so long, you can’t do a lot of those things without having legs. It was good just to get your health back up and get legs under you, especially for this tournament coming up because you know every team is great.”
The Cowgirls are hoping to make a little noise in another postseason tournament.
“Everybody wants to go out with a bang,” Young said. “It’s my senior year and we’re all willing to fight until the end.”