TEMPE, Ariz. — She couldn’t even ride the team bus. Couldn’t darken the locker room door. Couldn’t sit on the bench. Couldn’t join the pre-game huddle on the ramp leading to Wells Fargo Arena.
The NCAA did more than punish Andrea Riley. It exacted a pound of flesh. It branded a scarlet letter atop her forehead. It wanted to embarrass Oklahoma State’s point guard. "It made me feel like an outcast,” Riley said of being made persona non grata for the Cowgirls’ NCAA Tournament opener against Chattanooga. "I go everywhere with my girls. "Just being away from them for a little amount of time, I was like, ‘Man, I can’t believe this is happening.’” But Riley can get her payback tonight. The best vengeance is living well, and the Cowgirls can’t live any better than beating Georgia tonight to reach the Sweet 16. That’s the best way to show the NCAA women’s basketball committee. Win a ballgame and flash that smile that has defined OSU women’s basketball for four years. "I’ve missed her,” sidekick Tegan Cunningham said, as if Riley had been gone for a year instead of one game. "It’s going to be a great game Monday. I know she’s going to come out firing. It changes the whole shape of the game, and it’s a relief knowing she’s back out there.” Let’s be clear. The one-game suspension was fine, for slapping LSU’s Erica White in a 2008 NCAA Tournament game. Keep your hands to yourself. Some preferred a longer, but regular season, suspension. I say the penalty was fair. The treatment of Riley was not. No game? OK. No team? Banished like you’ve got leprosy? That’s punitive. "It’s awful tough on the kid,” said OSU coach Kurt Budke.