"Somebody that spends that much time in the gym earns games like this." - Jim Littell on Liz Donohoe's 25 and 14 night
And then there were eight in the WNIT - and guess who's still in the little dance? One, Oklahoma State - a "first four out" team that hasn't forgotten about the committee's decision to leave them out of the NCAA playing field.
Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell continues to talk about destiny when he talks about the missing the tournament.
"We said let's learn from this. From now on let's control our own destiny and let's learn to play in a tournament where it's a one and done situation," Littell said on Thursday. "I just think it was a lot of reflection on the kids' part. They want to continue to go on and play. This isn't maybe the tournament that we wanted to be in, but we told them that it comes down to two choices - you're either going to get better, maybe prove the committee wrong or you're going to prove other people right."
So far, through three rounds the Cowgirls are working to prove the committee wrong. OSU bopped Cetnral Arkansas 72-51 in their first WNIT. They followed that up with a 63-44 win over Wichita State to get to the Round of 16. And last night at Gallagher-Iba Arena, the Pokes posted a 70-57 victory over Missouri State to be one of eight teams standing.
"We look at this like football teams look at a bowl game," Littell compared. "You get the extra practices, you get the extra time to develop players ... These extra practices and extra time we get can do nothing but help this basketball team."
Liz Donohoe, Big 12 Freshman of the Year, has elevated her play to levels that leave Littell beaming as he talks about her "special night". She made play after play, finishing with 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 14 rebounds. A Donohoe triple with 13:56 to play, her fourth of the evening by the way, sparked a 15-0 OSU run to put the Cowgirls up by 20.
The win, while not wire-to-wire, what pretty close to that. Missouri State opened up the game with a 7-0 run of their own before the Pokes came roaring back - again propelled by a Donohoe three-pointer to start the scoring. OSU went on a 21-5 run that was bookended by threes to get a 9-point lead and never looked back.
"What I'm proud of is that she comes to play every day in practice," Littell said of his freshman phenom, Donohoe. "She comes to play in the game and she's had some rocky games, she'll admit that to you. But she comes back. What's exciting about her is she really, really wants to be a basketball player. Basketball is very important to her, she puts a lot of time in on it and somebody that spends that much time in the gym earns games like this.
Donohoe wasn't the only stellar performance for the Cowgirls, though. Junior Toni Young continued on her postseason tear with 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks. In this season's three WNIT games, Young has a combined 55 points, 26 rebounds and five blocks. This is a far cry from her averages of 9.9 points and 6.5 boards during the regular season. She even went down bleeding in this contest, a serious battlefield on Eddie Sutton Court.
"Playing the post you get thrown around here and there, but you've got to fight through that. It's just a little bruise. It'll go away," she said of her new boo boo. "We're fighting for a championship, you know, so it's going to be aggressive every game from now on and we've just got to play through it."
They're playing right through it, alright. All the way to their best WNIT outing ever. OSU's next meeting is with former conference mate, Colorado. OSU has won the last five duals between these two schools despite having a 25-26 historical record with the Buffaloes. And now they're just playing basketball. And having fun.
"We just told them let's go one and done, get a stop and let's push the basketball," Littell said. "We told them at the timeouts instead of running plays let's go play. Let's treat the game like it's three one two, two on one. It's a drill that we do every day instead of just feeling like we've got to run plays and I thought we got in a real nice flow. We got people open, we shared the basketball, we made the extra pass and you could see the smiles on their faces."
Hopefully the smiles continue on for these Cowgirls Sunday at 12:30 p.m.