DALLAS — Clinging to a four-point lead with more than eight minutes to play, Oklahoma State point guard Tiffany Bias had already picked up her fourth foul.
Less than a minute later, leading scorer Toni Young was whistled for her fourth.
About three minutes after that, defensive stopper Brittney Martin picked up her fourth foul.
That can completely handcuff a team with as little depth as OSU currently has. But rather than trying to patch things up without the Cowgirls’ top trio for extended minutes, coach Jim Littell opted to keep his best players on the floor for the stretch run.
And they all avoided that dreaded fifth foul, instead helping lift OSU to a 59-54 victory over Texas Tech Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament at the American Airlines Center.
“We went back with them probably quicker than I would have liked to,” Littell said. “But I didn’t want to relinquish the lead, either.
“We just told them to be smart, keep them in front of you, don’t foul on tough shots. I believe we did a pretty good job of that the last seven minutes.”
The win helps pad the Cowgirls’ NCAA Tournament resume with a fifth win over a team ranked in the RPI top 50 and helps avenge two regular-season, single-digit losses to the Lady Raiders. It also gives OSU a date with No. 1 Baylor in Sunday afternoon’s semifinals.
Young and Bias both struggled to score, finishing with 11 and three points, respectively, on a combined 5-of-18 shooting. But Young used her height and leaping ability to snag 18 rebounds, while Bias dished out six assists.
And Martin was the standout in her first Big 12 Tournament action. The freshman scored 14 points and added six rebounds and a career-high seven steals.
Her final steal was the most crucial, but also probably the easiest for her to snag. With OSU leading 53-52 with about one minute remaining, Tech tried to run a high pick and roll withKelsi Baker, and Martin was there to grab the loose ball. The Cowgirls then sank all six of their attempted free throws for the final margin.
“I just stayed back,” Martin said of the steal. “I guess I got pretty lucky. It just came right to me.”
But Martin had put herself in position to be lucky, as she was actively defensively against Chynna Brown all game. Martin held Tech’s leading scorer to four points, Brown’s lowest total since she scored two against Southern Utah in November.
“I was worried about her driving last game (against Tech on Feb. 27), so she was just pulling up,” Martin said. “I guess I was just thinking about I had to do both (Saturday). I just really had to focus on what she was doing with her feet or where she was holding the ball.”
OSU fell behind 12-5 early, but an offensive adjustment to run more isolation plays on the block or elbow helped the Cowgirls finish the first half on a 19-7 run and lead 24-19 at the break. The Cowgirls never trailed after intermission.