STILLWATER — The first free throw shot off Liz Donohoe's hand rattled around the iron, then fell off the front of the rim.
Perhaps that opening-minute miscue from the nation's premier foul shooter was a sign of the game to come, as No. 19 Oklahoma State lost to West Virginia 67-61 Tuesday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena in a contest that was uncharacteristic all around.
“Really disappointed with the way we played,” OSU coach Jim Littell said. “West Virginia's very athletic and very physical, and we didn't match their toughness or their physicality tonight.
“In the Big 12, you cannot get outrebounded, turn the ball over 22 times and not execute and expect to win games.”
Sure-handed Cowgirl point guard Tiffany Bias tallied a career-high 11 turnovers, making way for freshman Brittney Martin — who had never played guard until she arrived at OSU — to become the Cowgirls' primary ballhandler for a large stretch of the second half.
Donohoe, who is so often a dangerous sharpshooter when coming off screens, only took five shots and never got a clean look from the outside.
West Virginia, which entered Tuesday averaging just more than five 3-pointers per game, had made five within the contest's first 10 minutes against the team that led the Big 12 in 3-point percentage defense during conference play.
And the Mountaineers, who had lost four Big 12 games by four points or less, finally closed out a win out in crunch time, though coach Mike Carey half-joked that his squad tried to give another game away when it allowed OSU to nearly rally all the way back from a 13-point second-half deficit.
The Cowgirls (15-4, 4-4 Big 12) got within one point at 58-57 with 4:19 to play and had the ball down two with 1:20 remaining after forcing a WVU shot clock violation. But following a missed jumper by Toni Young, WVU's Christal Caldwell nailed a pullup jumper to put the Mountaineers up four, and Kendra Suttles missed a layup on the Cowgirls' next possession with less than a minute to play.
Caldwell led all scorers with 21 points and was responsible for five of the Mountaineers' nine 3-point makes. Averee Fields added 19 points and six rebounds.
Maybe what has become characteristic of this Cowgirl team is its continued search for consistency.
In a 10-day span, OSU routed a ranked Iowa State squad, let down in an overtime loss at Kansas State and rebounded with a double-digit victory at Kansas before dropping Tuesday's close contest on its home floor.
Up next? A matchup against defending national champion and top-ranked Baylor at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday night.
“We just need to learn how to fight through adversity,” Bias said. “I think that's our problem right now. When we're down, we fight back, but we don't know how to win the game.
“I think that was a very big learning experience — from the K-State game and this game — and I think that we're going to grow from it and we'll see a different team from here on.”