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Cowgirls cruise to 77-48 win over Oral Roberts; Toni Young leads the way with 25 points, 10 rebounds

Oklahoma State sophomore Toni Young is averaging 15.3 points and 8.4 rebounds a game
Oklahoma State sophomore Toni Young is averaging 15.3 points and 8.4 rebounds a game

There are more than two NCAA Division I basketball schools in the state - Tulsa and Oral Roberts both fall into that category as well.

Summit League competitor ORU was in town on Wednesday to face an 8-1 OSU squad still smarting from their 73-45 loss to Duke. And the Cowgirls made the most of their rebound-game by walloping the Golden Eagles 77-48 over Christmas Break.

Eight early lead changes started off the game as a back and forth battle. The Golden Eagles had 12 of their first 16 points from beyond the arc. ORU held the two-point advantage at the 10 minute mark, but a 3-pointer by Kendra Suttles gave OSU the 17-16 lead which they never relinquished in the last 30 minutes of play.

"I came over tonight thinking we were going to be competitive and I told the girls minimum that we need to be ahead or tied 10 minutes into the game," ORU coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. "I guess I forgot to talk about the last 30 minutes. I'm shocked. Just very, very, very shocked."

After the competitive start to the game, the end was all Cowgirls, all day. The Pokes went on a 24-3 run to end the first half and take a 38-19 lead into the break. ORU committed 19 first-half turnovers - which if you're of the perceptive sort - you see is the same number of first-half points for the squad.

After that, it was just a matter of margin of victory.

Toni Young ensured that margin was ample by pouring in 25 points, grabbing 10 boards and blocking five shots for the Cowgirls. The sophomore set a new career-high for blocks, tied her highest points total and notched her fifth double-double of the season.

"We need more nights like that out of Toni, and she needs to understand how important she is to this team," OSU head coach Kurt Budke said. "I don't expect 25 and 10 every night. I'd like that, but I'd like to see her get more consistent; about a 15, 16, 8 boards every night.

"I thought she really brought it tonight. We talked before the game about the opportunity for offensive rebounds and putbacks in this game, and we thought they were going to be available, and I thought Toni took advantage of that."

Young has been in a mini-slump of sorts in the month of December. In the Cowgirls' previous three games, she was 11-of-28 shooting, had 16 total rebounds and seven turnovers. Against Duke, Young could only muster seven points. The 10-day break since facing the Blue Devils and getting outmuscled in the loss seemed to treat her right as she and the entire Cowgirl roster came back ready to play

"[Prior to tonight] I hit a wall, but tonight it was just to get back on my feet and play for my team," Young said "At the beginning of practice before we started, my legs felt good and they were warm so that's always a good start for me. I shot the ball, I didn't think so much into when to shoot, I just released."

Fellow Cowgirl Tiffany Bias was ready to erase those memories of Duke leaving Gallagher-Iba Arena with a 28-point victory.

"We had a lot of time to think what to do and what stuff to work on from the last game and I think we were really fired up to play this game," Bias said. "We had a lot of time off, and we were just ready to get a game under us."

"We needed a confidence boost and I think this helped us a lot," Young added.

Bias ended with 12 points and seven assists, and coupled with Young' 25 accounted for nearly half of the OSU offense. But as has been the case throughout their 10 games, defense is the focus.

"I think our defense is outstanding, we keep working and our intensity is up," Bias said. "Defense is our key. Our key thing to do is just force turnovers and our offense came into play."

And force turnovers they did. Along with the 19 first-half turnovers committed by ORU, the Pokes forced an additional 16 in the second, to bring the grand total to 35 turnovers in 40 minutes.

"We talk about deflections and having hands high and just basic things every coach talks about but I think it just comes down to the want-to of these kids," Budke said of the efforts of the Cowgirls to get extra possessions. This marks the fourth straight contest in which OSU has forced their opponent to commit more than 20 turnovers. Only one game this season falls short of that 20-turnover mark, a 74-65 double-overtime win at New Mexico.

The turnovers on Wednesday night against ORU led to 37 points and a what-could-have-been Sportscenter Top 10. Young blocked a 3-point shot attempt from ORU's leading scorer, Jaci Bigham, took the rebound and raced down the court on the fastbreak. All that was missing was the fantastic finish when Young went for a dunk that didn't quite make it.

"I was just super excited," Young said of showing her above-the-rim skills. "When I went up, my legs just gave out. It's ok, I'll do it again sooner or later."

This win puts OSU at the 9-1 mark heading into their last game of 2010 and has Budke pleasantly surprised by the early showing of this young squad.

"We thought at this time honestly that there was a lot of 50-50 games on the last five games here that could go either way," Budke said. "We thought that we could easily go into Christmas with four or five losses so to have one we're really excited."

ORU's Finkbeiner sees the youth and talent that has OSU sitting with just one loss on the season.

"Coach Budke's done a really good job with a young team and he's got the pieces of the puzzle," Finkbeiner said. "I know he's got three more pre-conference games before Big 12 and those kids are going to keep growing up. They're going to win their share with a young club this year."

Budke is still figuring out exactly what the agenda and expectations are for this team of underclassmen.

"I don't know what our agenda is," Budke said with a chuckle. "Honestly, last year's agenda was we were going to be disappointed if we didn't make the NCAA tournament.

"With this team and this youth... we have the inexperience so we don't know what to expect. We're still trying to get them to play 40 hard minutes every night and let's see what happens in the Big 12."

Before the Big 12 comes knocking, there are three more opportunities - to get that elusive in-game dunk and to get to 12 wins with the 12 women suiting up in the orange and black of Oklahoma State.