Oklahoma City, OK -- What better match-up could you ask for with the Big 12 tournament taking place in Oklahoma City this year than a No.4 seed Oklahoma State (21-8) and a No.5 seed Oklahoma (19-9), the bitter Bedlam rivalry?
The 11 a.m. tip preceded by a show of recognition for the Cowgirls' Brittany Martin as Big 12 Player of the Year with the crowd a swarm of both crimson and orange apparel pumped up and ready to see their hometown favorite advance in the hopes of a championship.
Only one team could prevail despite best efforts, and Oklahoma was just the more consistent team down the stretch, beating Oklahoma State for the first time this year.
Sooners Head Coach Sherri Coale talked to the media following the game about their defensive strategy guarding their top scorers and how they were ultimately able to execute that plan and pull off the win.
"We knew we had to speed them up," said Coale. "They can't be real comfortable, or else they run their stuff, and they get it to Jensen, or they get to Martin and then there is nothing you can do about it. Both of those guys, you have to limit the number of times they catch it and the places on the floor where they catch it.
"And if you can take them out of their sweet spots, Brittney's line is still good, but it's not the 35 line that can keep you from winning."
It was an all-out battle from the opening tip. The Sooners appeared to be starting out hot as Gioya Carter drained a three on the first possession, but then they did not score again until around the 4-minute mark.
It was not pretty basketball in the first quarter. Both teams were playing with passion and a fiery defensive effort, but nerves may have been a factor and contributed to lots of turnovers and shots that were just off the mark.
The Sooners shot a field-goal percentage of just 25% and the Cowgirls, and even worse 15.4% to end the quarter. The refs definitely let these women play. Oklahoma did not get to the foul line a single time in the first and Oklahoma State shot just 4 four free-throws.
The offense picked up towards the end of the quarter with Peyton Little hitting a trey at the buzzer for the Sooners, giving them the advantage with the score 12-8 going into the second.
The second quarter was a fast-paced melee of activity. Every trip down the floor seemed to result in a tie-up, offensive foul or steal with the momentum shifting constantly and resulting in 26 combined turnovers.
Oklahoma's shots did start falling a little more consistently, with Kaylon Williams and Vionise Pierre-Louis finding a rhythm and powering their way to 12 points between the two down low.
The Cowgirls continued to struggle to find a consistent scorer, but Brittany Martin heated up slightly, and they forced turnovers and took advantage of some transition opportunities to tie up the game with 1:15 remaining. A free-throw by Williams and a fast-break layup by Derica Wyatt took the Sooners up 25-22 to end the half.
The momentum finally found a home with Oklahoma towards the middle of the third, and they went up by 10, the biggest separation of the game, when Pierre-Louis, the Big 12's Sixth Man of the Year, bested Kaylee Jensen for a turn-around bank shot. She continued to be the dominating force for the Sooners throughout the remainder of the game. Turnovers continued to plague Oklahoma State, and they ended the game with 27 of them.
Derica Wyatt provided a major spark off the bench for Oklahoma hitting three huge jumpers from behind the arc in the fourth to send the Sooners over the edge. Oklahoma was firing on all cylinders from that point forward, and the Cowgirls were left in the dust. The most notable stat difference was in three-point percentage made; OU was 50% going 7-14, and OSU hit just 1-8 at 12.5%.
When the final buzzer sounded, the fans in crimson were the ones on their feet cheering as the Sooners claimed a 61-43 victory over their in-state rivals. Pierre-Louis ended the game with a 16-point 15-rebound double-double, and Wyatt finished with 13 points going a perfect 5-5 from the field. Brittany Martin was the leading scorer for Oklahoma State, finishing with 17 points and 6 rebounds.
This win was especially sweet for Oklahoma since the Cowgirls swept them in the regular season. Pierre-Louis talked about that and how much this game meant to them: "It was important for our Oklahoma girls, we had to play together for them and for coach -- we had to show them -- I felt like we had to get back at them, first of all, for giving us two losses. I felt like this was our chance. They're not going to beat us three times."
You give yourself no chance to win when you turn the ball over 27 times," Cowlgirls coach Jim Litell said. "You don't have to look any further on the stat sheet than that. We were outrebounded. They guarded better than we did, and we weren't very good on the offensive end of the floor. You put all that together with 27 turnovers, and you have this type of outcome, but give Oklahoma credit.
"They played hard, they guarded well, they got the ball inside, got us in foul trouble early, and we were playing catch-up from then on."
The Sooners advance to the semi-finals and will face the winner of Saturday's matchup between No. 1 seed Baylor and No. 9 seed Texas Tech on Sunday at 1:30 pm. The Cowgirls will have a couple of weeks to rest and gear up for the NCAA tournament.