WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — After its harrowing 61-60 overtime win against Florida Gulf Coast in the first round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Saturday at Mackey Arena, Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said Monday's second round contest might be even tougher.
The No. 21-ranked Cowgirls will take on No. 17-ranked Purdue on the Boilermakers' home floor and one of the loudest home women's crowds in all of college basketball.
“This is a game that everyone has got to play well,” Littell said at Oklahoma State's Sunday morning news conference. “We play a very solid basketball team that has a lot of weapons, they're very physical, and they got great size, so we can't have one person on or two people on. We got to have everybody at the top of their game.”
Littell added, though, he believes his squad matches up better against Purdue than the free-wheeling, guard-heavy offense it faced with Florida Gulf Coast.
“Do we match up with (Purdue) better? Probably,” Littell said. “Do our personnel fit their personnel better? Probably. And I heard their assistant coach that did the (scouting report) after the game say the same thing that I'm saying now, that we probably match up better with Oklahoma State than we would with Florida Gulf Coast.
“So in this game, a lot of times it comes down to matchups, and I think it's two teams that match up pretty well,” Littell continued.
Cowgirls Tiffany Bias and Brittany Martin said Big 12 arenas like Iowa State have well prepared them to go into hostile environments like Mackey Arena.
“Iowa State has the biggest fan base I've ever seen,” Martin said Sunday. “You can't hear anything in that gym. It's really loud. It scared me the first time I went there to be honest. But I think it’s fun to play with crowds like that, especially when they're against you. When you make a basket, it's silent. It's fun to be in that atmosphere.”
Bias said she believed her teammates have adjusted to big crowds with each game and don't think the opposing crowd will be a factor.
“I think we have all played in a lot of gyms like that, where I think we're accustomed to having not hearing plays,” Bias said. “I think that we have gotten better over the years and the season. So I think it will be a test, but I think that we have dealt with it before, so we'll be OK.”
The Cowgirls success will rest on how well they defend Purdue leading scorer Courtney Moses and the Boilermakers’ rangy front line of 6-4 Camille Redmon and 6-2 Liza Clemons, with 6-2 Whitney Bays coming off the bench.
“They just keep bringing size at you,” Littell said. “Their post strength and the versatility that they have to just run players in at the four and five position are impressive. It's going to be crucial that we keep them off the boards. I think one of the best things they do is offensive rebound. Their fours and fives are very good at dribble handoffs, taking the ball to the guards and creating a screen situation.”
Moses, who averages 15.7 points per game, is shooting 46.1 percent from the 3-point line this season and nearly 40 percent for her career.
“She's a great shooter,” Bias said. “She gets it off quick and comes off screens. I think a lot of plays are designed to get her through the staggered screens and get her that shot. So I think I've got to be cognizant of that and be defensively and mentally sound. I just have to stay down on defense.”
Moses and Boilermaker coach Sharon Versyp said they don't believe Bias will go 1 of 9 again like in Saturday's game against Florida Gulf Coast and expects her to be at the top of her game.
“She's a very quick player,” Moses said Sunday. “She's crafty on offense, and she's a very good defender. She's a great leader for their team and keeps them going.”
Purdue guard Dee Dee Williams said the Boilermakers will have to contest shots by Cowgirl sharpshooter Liz Donohoe and not allow her any open looks from the 3-point arch.
“I feel like from watching film we're just going to have to communicate,” said Williams, one of Purdue's defenders. “Donohoe is a great shooter from the three, especially. We're just going to have to not help off her on ball side and every else just has to contain.”