By NICK SNOW
STILLWATER — Submitted for your approval, we see an Oklahoma State women’s basketball team coming off a huge win at Lawrence, Kan., and a West Virginia team struggling to find its place in the Big 12. Yet inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, something strange happened as both teams entered ... the Twilight Zone.
No doubt, the Cowgirls felt like they were in an episode of the “Twilight Zone” following the 67-61 loss to West Virginia on Tuesday.
It started with sophomore Liz Donohoe’s missed free throw — snapping a string of 40 straight — and ended with the Mountaineers knocking down 9 3-pointers while forcing Oklahoma State to turn the ball over 22 times, including a career-high 11 by the normally sure-handed Tiffany Bias.
“When you let those mistakes linger, it’s just going to snowball into more mistakes,” Oklahoma State senior forward Toni Young said. “They had a couple shooters that were hot from the 3. We just should have adjusted a little more and kept them from getting the ball and kept them from shooting.”
Even after all this adversity, Oklahoma State (15-4, 4-4 in Big 12) had its fair share of opportunities to avoid the upset — pulling within 2 at 63-61 with 1:55 to play.
But those turnovers and missed layups eventually cost the Cowgirls as West Virginia made just enough free throws to pull away in the final minute.
“In Big 12 play, you cannot get outrebounded, turn the ball over 22 times and not execute and expect to win,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “Despite all that, we had a shot to tie it at 63 and then missed a layup when we’re down by 4. We missed defensive assignments and other things that you have to do to win basketball games in the Big 12.
“Part of it had to do with the pressure (West Virginia) put on, but I’d say over half of those turnovers were what I call self-inflicted wounds, where we made mistakes that didn’t make sense.”
It wasn’t just the blown layups or the high number of turnovers. It seemed like from the opening tip the Cowgirls were fighting more than just the Mountaineers’ stout defense.
West Virginia (12-8, 4-5 in Big 12) opened the game by knocking down 5 3-pointers in the first 8 minutes — led by Christal Caldwell, who finished going 5 of 7 from 3 — as the Mountaineers took 19-10 lead at the 12:30 mark.
“We just wanted to come out and be aggressive,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “Taylor Palmer is a shooter for us, so is Christal Caldwell. They have the green light. If it’s one of them, keep shooting and it’s OK if you make one once in a while.”
Oklahoma State made a little bit of a run, eventually taking a 29-28 lead following Kendra Suttles’ layup with 4:36 left in the half. But that was the last time OSU led as West Virginia ended the half with a 9-0 run to take a 37-29 lead at the half.
Despite a sluggish first half, Oklahoma State came out determined to get more open looks and knock down more shots. Aided by Bias and Young, the Cowgirls went on a 16-4 run midway through the second half but West Virginia’s defense continued to frustrate Bias and force turnovers in the most inopportune situations.
“It wasn’t so much frustrating,” Bias said. “I’m very disappointed in how I played the point guard position. They just played good deny defense on the wings. They denied everything in the post and on the wings, so I should have kept it on my hip than try to force the pass. I’m very disappointed in the way I played, but it’s one of those nights that you have to move on from it.”
Bias finished with 15 points and 11 turnovers, while Young had 15 points and 9 rebounds. Donohoe also had 10 points and 7 rebounds, with Suttles chipping in 11 points for the Cowgirls.
“There’s not a lot you can say,” Littell said. “There are three or four girls that we need to have play well every night. If they don’t, we’re going to struggle to win games.”
Two teams battling it out in Big 12 play. One was hoping a little home cooking was just what was needed after a extensive road trip through Kansas. The other — just looking for a road win after four conference heartbreakers. As it turns out, the enigma that is Gallagher-Iba Arena played its tricks on the Cowgirls Tuesday. Will it happen again when Oklahoma State faces Baylor on Saturday? Find out next time in ... the Twilight Zone.
Nick Snow is a sports reporter for the Stillwater NewsPress