STILLWATER — In the early season, Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell has constantly preached that the Cowgirls needed to improve their defense.
Thursday night, 16th-ranked OSU put together its best performance on that end of the floor in an 85-41 rout of Stephen F. Austin at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“I like the fact that we won this (85-41), as opposed to 90-something to 60-something,” Littell said. “I liked what we did defensively. We took a step in the right direction.
“They just need to keep getting better on that, but the way we guarded tonight is going to give us a chance to be competitive in our league, and that's what I was looking for.”
The Cowgirls held SFA to 25.5 percent shooting from the field and forced 23 Ladyjack turnovers.
And the key defensive stretch came early in the first half, when the Cowgirls (7-0) held SFA scoreless for more than six minutes, helping turn an 8-7 deficit into a commanding 27-8 lead.
“Our kids did exactly what we had worked on,” Littell said. “We took the preparation from the practice gym to the game. We switched when we needed to, we kept the ball out of the post area, we stayed on shooters and contained dribble drive people.
“I thought it was the best we've been all year, as far as just understanding their personnel and how to guard them. I thought we played with really outstanding effort (Thursday night), but I thought our intelligence level was very high (Thursday night), as well.”
Individually, Littell praised Lindsey Keller, who held SFA's leading scorer, Porsha Roberts, to zero points on 0-of-3 shooting. It's the second time in eight days that a Cowgirl defender has shut down the opponent's top offensive threat, as Brittney Martin held Texas State's Diamond Ford to just five points on 1-of-14 shooting on Nov. 28.
Toni Young (game-high 20 points, 12 rebounds) and Liz Donohoe (15 points, 14 rebounds) both tallied double-doubles for the Cowgirls, while Keller (16 points) and reserve Morgan Toben (10 points) joined them in double figures.
After SFA's pressure defense frustrated OSU in the opening minutes, Keller said the Cowgirls slowed down in their half-court offensive sets, which also contributed to the big scoring run.
OSU played the majority of the contest without Martin, as the freshman guard had a tooth knocked out when she hit the floor on a defensive possession early in the contest.