Liz Donohoe matched her career best outing in the debut of Lizsanity in Stillwater.
Jeremy Lin has nothing on the world of women's college basketball in Oklahoma - Lizsantity gripped Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday night against the Iowa State Cyclones.
A plucky member of the basketball pep band held up a sign with the latest catchprase and let us all know who was going to have one of the best games in her young career in the 71-63 Cowgirls victory.
The Cowgirls fell behind by as many as 11 points in the first half, led by the solid scoring efforts of Chelsea Poppens and Nikki Moody. The Cyclones, who normally shoot 70.9% from the stripe, were 11-of-11 from the line. Iowa State shot 42.9% from the field in the opening period, four percentage points better than their season average.
But Liz Donohoe and her fellow Cowgirls scrapped back from their double-digit hole. OSU answered with a 15-6 run to end the half down just four points, 40-36. Donohoe posted 14 points, five rebounds and assist and a steal for the Pokes, nearly reaching her season averages by halftime.
"I had been struggling the last few games before K-State," Donohoe said. "It was great to come out - my team got me the ball, they screened and they got me open so it was finally good, I actually had a good night shooting tonight."
Against the Cyclones to start the month, Donohoe was but 1-of-12 from the field as the Pokes barely managed 30% shooting from the field in a 73-52 loss in Ames.
But in Stillwater, a different story was told. Donohoe kept trucking in the second half of action, bringing Lizsanity to its peak when she sunk the go-ahead 3-pointer with 12:30 to play in the game. The wild looking shot was basically an answered prayer for the player.
"Oh my gosh! I don't even know," Donohoe said of the virtual trick shot. "Tiffany (Bias) got me the ball, but I have no idea. I just threw it up, really. And it went in!"
Head coach Jim Littell said with a laugh, "You're not supposed to say that!"
"I mean, it's the truth! I'm glad it went in because I know he would have been really mad, if it didn't, so whew!," Liz responded.
Along with OSU's offense, the defensive adjustments of playing man and mixing up coverages wrecked havoc on the Cyclones game plan and became the deciding factor in the game.
"We've got a lot of pride in this group and it's been a maturing process for us all year long," Littell said. "There's been nights where we've been blown out and then there's been nights where we've played well on the defensive end, but didn't execute very good offensively.
"I thought we played really good defense in the second half and made some adjustments. Our players locked in and didn't miss assignments. We missed about five or six assignments the first half that allowed them to score 40 points, but to hold them to 23 in the second half, I thought was a special performance by our defense in the second half."
The defense shined bright by forcing 11 second half turnovers, 17 for the game. OSU held the Cyclones to 29.2% shooting in the second half, and ISU was 2-of-8 from beyond the arc in the final period. Moody, who had nine points and four rebounds at halftime, didn't get a bucket or a board again despite playing 15 minutes in the second half.
But back to the offensive prowess of Donohoe, because she wasn't done showing off her skills, not by any stretch of the imagination. Lindsey Keller picked the pocket of Moody and on the ensuing OSU possession, Bias drove to the basket. The Cowgirls had their largest lead of the game with 7:47 to play and the score at 60-49. But Fennelly's team wasn't done. The Cyclones went on a 10-1 run to close the gap. With 2:53 to play, a Lauren Mansfield layup made the game a one-possession affair.
"We cut it to two late and made two back-to-back defensive mistakes and had two great looks at the other end," Fennelly said of the missed opportunity for the Cyclones. "The margin for error in this league, except for when you're playing Baylor I guess, is pretty tight especially on the road."
But who was there to spread it back out? The star du jour, Ms. Lizsanity herself.
Donohoe drilled her next two shots to get the arena rocking and the Cowgirls never looked back. Liz and Bias combined to make a 10-2 run of their own to close the books on the night with an OSU win, their 14th of the season. Liz finished with a career-high tying 27 points on 10-of-21 shooting, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
The Cowgirls still have a shot to get to eight conference wins if they can close the season strong at Kansas and hosting Missouri. Will eight be enough to play this postseason? Who knows, but this win was vital in the development of the program, according to Littell.
"We need to learn how to win and wins against really good teams like this help you out," Littell said. "This is an NCAA team. They have been for years and they're coached by a legendary coach that runs so much offense that it's just hard to stay with them ... So well coached, and to get this win is big for our program."
A big win for the program and a big night to kick off the Lizsanity craze.
Joining Donohoe (27) in the offensive effort were Bias (17), Keller (12) and Kendra Suttles (11). OSU is 9-0 this season when having at least four double-digit scorers.
Toni Young tied her season-high in the rebound category with 12 to earn praise from Littell. "Toni Young gave us a great effort on the glass tonight. She only scored four, but had 12 rebounds and I thought she got some tough 50-50 rebounds with the game on the line and she played about as good as she could play on the defensive end of the floor."
OSU did not break the 40% shooting mark in their last five contests prior to shooting 42.1% against Iowa State. The Cowgirls have had their fare share of struggles from the field this season and are tied with Kansas State for the lowest shooting percentage in Big 12 play (38.3%).
Chelsea Poppens led the Cyclones with 19 points and 17 rebounds and finished the game with a black eye after being popped near the end of the first half. This marks her league-leading eighth double-double in conference competition and and 14th this season.