Toni Young remembers her Oklahoma State squad, without star Andrea Riley, being down by 18 points at the half against Chattanooga in her first NCAA women's tournament game three years ago.
Then she remembers the crowd in Tempe, Ariz. growing louder and louder as the Cowgirls used a full-court press and scoring outbursts from Young and former Cowgirl Tegan Cunningham to fuel a furious comeback victory.
And, well, that's about all she can recall.
“I don't remember much of it,” Young admitted.
Yet that's the only real firsthand experience these Cowgirls can rely on as they enter tournament play as the No. 7 seed in the Norfolk Regional, with a first-round contest against 10th-seeded DePaul on tap Sunday afternoon at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
There are notable similarities between these two squads. They both feature a lineup with three guards and two posts and want to play at a quick pace when possible. They both come from tough conferences, with DePaul facing No. 1 seeds Notre Dame and Connecticut during Big East play and OSU matching up with defending national champion Baylor three times.
The one major difference, which could serve as a possible edge for DePaul? NCAA Tournament experience. The Blue Demons are making their 11th consecutive appearance, while OSU is back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2010, the year they rallied to beat Chattanooga without Riley before falling to Georgia in overtime in the second round.
“Their coach (Doug Bruno) and players have been in that scenario before, so that's obviously a concern,” OSU coach Jim Littell said.
Lindsey Keller also remains from that 2009-10 Cowgirl squad, but she has been shut down for the rest of the season because of multiple concussions. So that leaves Young, OSU's leading scorer and rebounder, as the only Cowgirl who will not step on an NCAA Tournament floor for the first time Sunday.
Littell said Young was just a “pup” back then. She was only a freshman, after all. Still, she became a vital piece of that victory over Chattanooga, scoring a then-career-high 22 points. She then tallied eight points and 11 rebounds against Georgia.
But Young hasn't given any deep advice to her teammates who have never been a part of March Madness. She told them to enjoy the excitement, but to treat the contest against DePaul like any other game.
Because it should be like the bulk of OSU's Big 12 slate, where the Cowgirls have been tested for the better part of two months. Seven out of 10 teams from the conference made the NCAA Tournament. And in its last game, OSU took Baylor down to the wire in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
That's why Young isn't too concerned about nerves as the rest of the Cowgirls make their NCAA Tournament debuts.
“We have competition every night in the Big 12,” she said. “Most of the teams that are in the Big 12 go to the NCAA Tournament. That's not (the case) in every conference. So we get an NCAA game every time we step on the court in the Big 12.”