Bedlam – a state of wild uproar. For Oklahomans, the term signifies many uprorious times on the gridiron, pitch, diamond and hardwood, times when in-state rivals collide. On Saturday, the women's basketball teams for the Sooners and the Cowgirls took to the court at Gallagher-Iba Arena to determine, at least on this one day, which rival would prevail. And while each side of every game has two stories, Bedlam Part 1's story was youth vs. experience, point guard vs. point guard and a shared belief in themselves.
The Sooners know that every Bedlam matchup is an important one. One Sooner in particular found out the hard way in her first Bedlam trip to Stillwater four years ago. Danielle Robinson lost the battle of the point guards in epic fashion. In 2008, Robinson came to Gallagher-Iba to watch Andrea Riley put in 45 points as the Cowgirls picked up the 82-63 win. Robinson was held to nine points in the stinging loss.
But last Saturday, Robinson's journey through the confines of GIA came to a fitting end – with the senior star for the Sooners acting as the game saver.
"Danielle took over the second half," OU head coach Sherri Coale said. Her first half was quiet – four points, three fouls and her team down four at the midpoint.
"I think I was a little passive in the first half," Robinson recognized.
And in the second, she activated her aggressive play, ending with 20 points and a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line including the last four points of the game for OU.
The seasoned veteran helps the Sooners to more than points and wins, her experience – and the experience throughout the squad – is a driving force.
So when the game came down to the final minutes, when the Cowgirls had the score tied with 5:30 to play Robinson and Co. kicked into tournament mode and used their Final Four experience to their advantage against the squad of youngsters.
"You've just got to trust in all your teammates and know that you have to secure the ball," Robinson said. "Know that it's going to come down to free throws and know – really just trust that everybody on the floor has the confidence. Just keep building up confidence in everybody so that they know we're going to execute down the stretch."
Execute indeed. Even when the starting lineup had 19 fouls against them. Even when the OSU crowd was loud and lively.
Joanna McFarland crashed the glass for key rebounds when it counted. Aaryn Ellengberg popped in a jumper. Whitney Hand blocked out the OSU post, on one good leg. Carlee Roethlisberger set screens for her teammates and boxed out for Sooner rebound opportunities.
"These guys believe we can win games," Coale said. "You look at what these veterans did last year, finding and willing their way to the Final Four after losing Whitney (Hand) early in the year, just finding a way to get there."
The Big 12 doesn't make belief or execution easy, as OU faces off with league – and nation – leading Baylor tomorrow in Waco, Texas.
There were times OU had trouble containing the OSU interior. And others when OU had trouble securing rebounds. Occasions when OU had trouble hitting shots from inside the arc. The Bears are sure to give the Sooners fits, but Coale's squad is one to watch as the season progresses.
"They just believe they're going to win games."
The Cowgirls came to play hard. And play hard they did. But OSU just couldn't outplay their veteran in-state rivals. But OSU, the prohibitive underdog, wasn't going to let their youth be a crutch.
Just like Danielle Robinson's first Bedlam experience ended in loss, OSU point guard Tiffany Bias is swallowing the loss too. But with perhaps unexpected optimism and excitement swelling.
"I thought it was a great basketball game," OSU head coach Kurt Budke said. "I thought they brought a different intensity to the gym tonight. I thought they came out and showed that they wanted to be a player in the Big 12. And it might be the first time that I've seen so far in this league."
Even through defeat, Bias is looking towards a bright future in her days as a Cowgirl.
"We had a lot of positives in this game," Bias said. "We can't get down now, there's no reason for us to get down. I think this just show we can play with the top 10 teams in the country and I think from here we can improve. If we play like that every game, we're going to have great success."
Budke sees a newfound confidence swelling in his team, even in the face of a 1-5 conference record. 20 games into the season, the fear has been knocked out of the Cowgirls.
"This is the first time where we played with intensity for 40 minutes, we didn't back down, we had no fear in this game," Budke said. "This is the first time we've been ready to play. We're all on the same page and I think it just shows that to everyone out there.
"It was the first time I think maybe that I haven't seen us have a scared look in their eye. Tonight there was a different look before the game, they were just really locked in. If we can learn how to do that every day in practice and for every game there's a lot of games left on the schedule that we can win."
This season, Budke has been tempering fan enthusiasm by placing gentle reminders of youth, inexperience, and the ups and downs he expected from the team. Bias is giving fans reason for hope heading into the meat of conference play.
"It's going to get better," Bias said. "We're improving every game and playing the best only makes you better."
If that's the case, then OSU should be getting better by the minute. Already facing Baylor and Texas A&M for the first of their two-game series', hosting Duke in a pre-conference loss. And now the Sooners and their all-American can be added to the list.
"I don't know if I was any more proud of anybody than Tiffany," Budke said. "Having to look Danielle Robinson in the eye and come out and have seven assists and two turnovers and 10 points, I think this is one that she as an individual can definitely build on."
Perhaps in four years, just like Robinson did, Bias will be looking back on a successful collegiate career full of memories of Bedlam and beyond.