Oklahoma State women's basketball coach Jim Littell said he got the message from his team's well-wishers after Saturday's 61-60 overtime cliffhanger over Florida Gulf Coast in West Lafayette, Ind.
“I've got about 50 texts on my phone saying ‘survive and advance,’” Littell said in Saturday's postgame news conference. “That's exactly what we did tonight.”
After initially trailing by double-digits early, Florida Gulf Coast turned the tables and led by as many as 10 in the second half before the Cowgirls escaped with the victory. Littell did not hesitate to give kudos to the Eagles and coach Karl Smesko.
“That guy can coach with anybody in the country,” Littell said of Smesko. “He had his team very well prepared. We knew going into the game that it was a very tough guard for us, and the fact that they spread you out and drive so much, they shoot so many 3s. We may have been a little too locked in on guarding the 3s, and we really got beat a lot off the dribble-drive. I'm just happy right now that we advanced.”
BIAS ONLY NEEDED ONE TO MAKE AN IMPACT
Oklahoma State's leading scorer, Tiffany Bias, made only one basket, but that one, off of a Liz Donohoe steal with less than a minute remaining in overtime, made all the difference in the world, as it proved to be the winning score. Bias went 4 of 6 from the free-throw line to end the game with six points.
She went 1 of 9 from the field and turned the ball over eight times, most of those trying to sneak a pass into the paint against FGCU's bunched-up defensive effort in the lane.
“Sometimes you have those games (and) you can't do anything about it,” said Bias, who entered the contest averaging 14.2 points a game. “You have to keep pushing for your team, and eight turnovers are bad for a point guard. I was playing too fast, and I should have played more under control, but we won and we're moving to the next game. I think it's one of the things you can't dwell on and you have to look to the next one.”
Littell couldn't help but get a playful jab in on his star player during the postgame press conference when a reporter tried to get Bias to remember the circumstances around her game-winning basket.
“You only made one,” Littell told Bias, as both laughed it off.
JOHNSON STEPS UP AT CRUCIAL TIMES
It seemed that Florida Gulf Coast was just one big basket from breaking it open, but each time, freshman guard Roshunda Johnson had the answer for the Cowgirls. Johnson came off the bench and scored 11 points to lead Oklahoma State, but it was the timing that made her more valuable.
Johnson hit two of her three 3-point baskets in the second half. The first one, with 17:40 left in the game, helped break Oklahoma State's scoring drought after Florida Gulf Coast tallied the first six points in the period.
Her 3-pointer with 4:24 left broke a three-minute Cowgirl scoring drought and brought OSU within three points of the Eagles, 55-52. On top of that, her driving layup in the paint at the 1:57 mark cut the Eagles’ advantage to one, giving Oklahoma State a chance to take the lead again.
“It was very hard, but we've been down and up all season, so we're used to where we have to pick it up,” Johnson said. “I knew somebody had to make a play, and I was wide open at those times and I shot it.”
Johnson said she believes the nail-biter Saturday will come in handy when OSU faces Purdue at Mackey Arena on Monday in a second-round game.
“It teaches us that we can't take any team for granted regardless of what the seed is,” Johnson said. “We just have to keep playing hard and playing our game. It gives me confidence to keep shooting because our posts know if they're not open to kick it back outside and we have to step up and take the shot.”
PURDUE WAITING IN THE WINGS
Waiting for Oklahoma State Monday will be No. 17-ranked Purdue, which registered an 84-55 win over Akron in the second contest at Mackey Arena. The Boilermakers’ leading scorer, Courtney Moses, who scored 12 against the Zips, said Purdue watched as much of the Oklahoma State-FGCU game as it could.
“We saw a little bit of the end of the first half and Oklahoma State is a very good team,” Moses said. “They're solid (at) every position. It will be a tough matchup for us.”
Purdue coach Sharon Versyp, who celebrated her 300th coaching victory on Saturday, said she sees a lot of similarities between the Cowgirls and Boilermakers.
“They have a great shooter on the outside that's got great size,” Versyp said. “They have a good low-post player. They have a great point guard and a great scorer in (Brittney) Martin. They have all the pieces to the puzzle. We have to play a game like we did today.”