DALLAS — Kendra Suttles believes being left-handed gives her an advantage on the basketball floor. But she's a bit surprised her opponents haven't already figured out her secret.
“You'd think that as far as we are in the season that people would realize that I'm left-handed and I really mostly go left,” she said. “I can go right sometimes, but I usually go left.”
Either way, Suttles and Oklahoma State will take the results. The junior post from Lawton has emerged as a well-rounded contributor as the Cowgirls begin Big 12 Tournament play against Texas Tech Saturday morning at the American Airlines Center, a chance for OSU to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume and atone for two single-digit losses to the Lady Raiders during the regular season.
“For the last two months, I think she's been really solid and played as well as anybody we've got on the floor,” coach Jim Littell said of Suttles.
Littell first inserted Suttles into the starting lineup — his only change to his first five all season — against Baylor in early February. Since then, she's averaged 14.4 points and 6.7 rebounds over the Cowgirls last 10 games, including a season-high 26 points at Iowa State Monday night.
And her value has only increased with fellow post Lindsey Keller missing the past five games with injury.
“I realized that my team needed me,” Suttles said. “And especially when Lindsey went down, I really understood that I had to step up.”
Her only poor performance during that stretch, according to Littell? Last week in Lubbock, where she turned the ball over nine times. She wasn't the only one who struggled, as the Cowgirls totaled 23 turnovers and allowed 19 offensive rebounds in the 61-53 loss.
Suttles brings a versatile offensive game, with the ability to put the ball on the floor in the paint — yes, with that left hand — and drill the 3-pointer from the top of the key. But perhaps the biggest difference in her game is that she is simply playing harder.
That's been a process for Suttles during her first three seasons. She admits she never ran the floor in high school, opting to stay on the offensive end the entire time.
But now she takes pride in rebounding and defense, even pointing to her role in shutting down Oklahoma's Nicole Griffin in the Cowgirls' victory in Stillwater two weeks ago as her highlight of the season.
“She's gotten better at that,” Littell said. “There's still some room for some improvement on it, but she's played harder, she's been more focused and I think that's been where she's really improved.
“She's always had a high basketball IQ. It's just been a matter of ‘I'm gonna play harder' and ‘I'm gonna compete harder' on a daily basis.”
Suttles hopes her strong stretch run has proved she can be a go-to player for OSU next season, when the Cowgirls will have to replace departing senior and leading scorer Toni Young.
But as OSU tries to grab its first Big 12 Tournament win since 2010 — which will likely come with the right to face No. 1 Baylor in the next round — Littell said there's no need for Suttles to look toward the future.
“The way she's been the last 10 games, we count on her right now,” he said.