Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

March 19, 2013

OSU women to face DePaul in NCAA tournament

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State junior guard Tiffany Bias rubbed her temples with her fingertips — trying to alleviate the nerves. Senior Toni Young played with a ring on her finger. And even though Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell didn’t move, you could the nerves were starting to get to him.

So when the television finally revealed that the seventh-seeded Cowgirls will face No. 10 seed DePaul at 1:30 p.m. Sunday during the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Durham, N.C., it wasn’t so much as excitement as relief that overcame the crowd gathered inside Boone Pickens Stadium.

Relief that the week of anticipation and the hour leading up to the show was finally over and Oklahoma State could get back to doing what they do best — playing basketball.

“It came kind of late, so there was a little anxiety for a while,” Littell said. “I was afraid that we were going to have to charge all the people for the ice cream if we didn’t make it there.

“But it’s really nice to see you’re name come up. It’s been a few years since we’ve been in the NCAA Tournament and as I told our crowd, I’m very proud of the young ladies and what they’ve accomplished the last couple of years. This is just a nice progression for our program to get to the NCAA Tournament.”

Projected as high as a sixth seed and as low as an eight seed, it wasn’t a matter of if — rather when — the Cowgirls would pop up on the big board. That still didn’t make it any easier for the team as they saw other Big 12 teams like Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia learn their destinations early.

“It’s just kind of nerve-racking because you’re always looking at the Bracketology,” Bias said. “They were saying that we were going here, here or here, but then all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Alright, that’s not even where we’re going to go any more.’ We were nervous the whole time. I don’t know why, but it’s just one of those things that you’re just excited to play and see who you’re going to play.”

Bias wasn’t the only one that had been peeking at ESPN’s Bracketology. Littell also had an idea where the Cowgirls might end up, but was a little surprised when they didn’t appear in the Spokane Regional in College Station, Texas.

“We were and to be honest we hadn’t even considered Durham,” Littell said. “We thought we could possibly go to College Station. We thought that Spokane or Iowa City was an option, but we’re going to a neat place for the kids to play — Cameron Indoor Stadium on the campus of Duke. It’s going to be a fun place for them to play.”

No doubt NCAA Tournament trips are meant to be a reward for an entire season of hard work. Even with a tough draw in DePaul in the first round, the Cowgirls aren’t ready to call it a season yet.

“We feel great,” Bias said. “Now that we know who we’re playing, we can prepare better and just be ready to play. We played Baylor close, so I think we feel like we can play with anybody out here. It just depends on how much we want it and how hard we’re willing to work for it.”

You could see all that hard work in the eyes of each of the Oklahoma State players as they patiently waited for their name to pop up on the screen. But from freshman Brittney Martin’s piercing scream to the hug shared between sophomore Liz Donohoe and senior Lindsey Keller as Oklahoma State’s name appeared on the board, Young said that moment was worth all the hours of intense practice over the summer and into the season.

“It was well-deserved,” Young said. “Our team fought the whole year. I was getting nervous, wondering where we were going, but to see our name pop up on there meant we got the recognition we deserved for playing so hard all year.”

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