The lopsided boxscore speaks for itself after Oklahoma State opened the New Year with a 94-40 win over Texas-Pan American on Sunday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Head coach Kurt Budke said, "We'll have this conversation probably all year long, but we've got a long way to go - but they are getting better."
I'd say so.
44-8 points in the paint margin. 29-7 points off turnovers differential. 24-0 fast break points.
"We just came together," freshman Carissa Crutchfield said. "Coach just told us to get down on defense and stop the penetration and the driving, what they do best, so we tried to do that ... Coach said to make our first three steps to be our quickest steps, to get up the court and push the ball."
Fellow freshman Tiffany Bias added, "We just came out and played our game and let our defense take over first and then our offense came after that."
OSU wore Texas-Pan American down to the bone.
"We've been working on getting out and pushing it just a little bit more. The blockout breakout drill that we run every day, it just kind of puts an emphasis on getting the ball out and going," Budke said. "Sometimes what we're trying to get the girls to realize is if you don't get it in the first 20 minutes if you're in decent shape you can sure get it in the last 20 minutes. I thought there was a point in time where you saw another team tired and we kind of kept going."
Defense was the bread and butter as has become the norm in this season's non-conference schedule. OSU has held seven of their 12 opponents to under 50 points of offense. Only one team has scored more than 70 points, and that was then-ranked #5 Duke, which happens to be the Cowgirls' only loss on the season thus far. OSU also had the interesting anomaly of eclipsing their turnover mark in the game (11) with blocks (11) and steals (12).
OSU forced the Broncs into 23 turnovers to extend the streak of games with more than 20 forced turnovers to six. The Cowgirls have forced 150 turnovers in this six game span. Sure, there are lesser opponents on this pre-conference game list - UTPA, UALR, UAPB. But there are formidable opponents that have had trouble hanging onto the ball in the confines of GIA as well. Wisconsin and Duke both came to Stillwater and left with 25 turnovers apiece.
"We strive on our defense," Bias said. "We work really hard against each other in practice, pushing each other and turning the ball over in practice. So then to come out here against other offenders, it's easier."
While it's not a written goal, creating turnovers is certainly talked about as a method to get the Cowgirl offense sparking.
"We don't write it on the board - I always feel like if you write it up there then you maybe start gambling to get to the number - but we talk about that," Budke said, "We talk about deflections and creating a little offense with our defense and I think the girls have been really active and obviously we need that offensive help."
As a general rule, OSU does need that offensive help. Manufacturing scoring opportunities in the traditional sense is sometimes a struggle. Aside from two other contests, this is just the third time this season the Cowgirls have shot at least 50 percent from the field.
But in this game scoring was balanced and effective. Five women reached double figures and four of the five are in their first year of college. Every player that hit the court scored at least a point and every player clocked at least 11 minutes of game time.
"I don't think you can prepare for us right now to try to take just one person out," Budke said. "The only way you win in this league consistently is to have four or five people in double figures so that is a goal and hopefully we can do it when league starts."
Bias got her first double-double of her collegiate career with 11 points and 10 assists and added three steals to her stat line. Crutchfield was a perfect 6-of-6 from the field and sunk her one free throw attempt to end up with a career-high 13 points. Freshman Vicky McIntyre used her 6-foot-6 frame to body up for 14 points and six rebounds. Freshman Kendra Suttles added 10 points, eight rebounds and a game-high four blocked shots. Toni Young, one of the "elder statesmen" on the roster - a sophomore - had 12 points and 10 rebounds to get her sixth double-double of the year.
If there was any obvious opportunity that stuck out in the overall solid game, it was the sluggish start. OSU didn't get the lead until 3:29 into the game and missed five of their first seven shot attempts. An easy fact to overlook if you're going solely on numbers, but something that Budke knows must be addressed before conference play begins.
"We can't afford slow starts in the Big 12 or you'll be down 10 or 12-2 on the road and you're not coming back. It's definitely something we'll address tomorrow about how important those first couple of possessions are," Budke said.
OSU closes out its non-conference schedule tomorrow as they host a Vermont team that took them to the wire last season. The Cowgirls had to come from behind before they found a way to escape New England with a 68-63 win. This is the non-conference test Budke is looking for before the Big 12 schedule starts Sunday.
"I just remember that it was one of those games last year that we were awful lucky to get a win. I'm glad it's going to be that kind of test before we go on to K State."