Cowgirls falter down the stretch
With a long-distance 3-pointer, Kirsten Deans gave an emphatic answer to the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team’s late rally.
The Cowgirls had cut West Virginia’s lead to single digits, and as the Mountaineers’ field-goal efficiency diminished, the possibility of another comeback win was in sight for OSU.
Then sophomore guard Deans gained control of the ball and positioned herself well beyond the center of the arc, not far from the Big 12 logo in the middle of the court.
She jumped and lobbed the ball toward the basket, where it hit the backboard and dropped through the hoop, putting the Cowgirls in a deficit they couldn’t overcome.
West Virginia pushed past OSU 59-50 on Saturday to eliminate the third-seeded Cowgirls from the Big 12 Tournament.
With the semifinal victory, the second-seeded Mountaineers will face No. 1 Baylor in the championship game Sunday afternoon.
Deans’ 3-pointer put the Mountaineers up 59-48 with 3:20 left, and the Cowgirls (18-8 overall, 13-5 Big 12) had run out of answers.
“You feel like you played pretty good defense, and then they do that,” OSU coach Jim Littell said. “What we’re responsible for, too, is we got three or four stops, and then didn’t check off the boards, and then they started running clock again, too.
"That hurts you when you feel like you’ve done a good job defensively, and then you have to turn around and guard again. And the clock’s not in your favor when that happens.”
OSU senior standout Natasha Mack knocked down two free throws to cut West Virginia’s lead back to single digits, but she and her teammates couldn’t find the same momentum they used to defeat Oklahoma in overtime just one day earlier.
Despite going on an 11-0 run early in the fourth quarter, the Cowgirls never made a field goal after Lauren Fields’ layup with 5:29 left.
Although Mack had 19 points and redshirt junior guard Ja’Mee Asberry contributed 14, shooting woes kept OSU from taking control of the game.
The Cowgirls went 18-for-57, or 31.6 percent from field-goal range, and made only two of 19 attempts beyond the arc.
That’s difficult to win when you mix those numbers into it,” Littell said.
The Mountaineers (21-5, 13-5) had a field-goal percentage of 35.9, or 23-for-64. Although they endured some scoreless stretches, three players scored in double digits, challenging the Cowgirl defense with their various strengths.
Sophomore forward Esmery Martinez crashed the boards, finishing with 15 rebounds and 19 points. Deans had 11 points, and senior leader Kysre Gondrezick added 17.
By the end of the third quarter, Wes Virginia had built up a 52-35 lead. When the final seconds approached, Gondrezick dribbled, patiently waiting to make a move, and fed the ball to Martinez while center Blessing Ejiofor set a screen.
Martinez nailed a jumper that gave the Mountaineers their largest advantage so far, and they again led by 17 early in the fourth quarter.
Although the Cowgirls chipped away at that large lead, their spark wasn’t enough. Gondrezick hit two free throws before Deans’ big 3, putting the momentum back in the Mountaineers' hands.
Mack said OSU’s field-goal struggles hurt, but she’s carrying a lesson into the NCAA Tournament.
“We have to bring our own energy because we don’t have that many people in the stands,” Mack said. “So we have to be our biggest fans.”