STILLWATER — Megan Byford remembers watching the fans steadily flood into Gallagher-Iba Arena five years ago, the Bedlam crowd growing exponentially each time Oklahoma State returned to the floor for pregame warm-ups.
By the time she ran to the scorer's table to sub in for the first time, it was too loud to hear much of anything.
“I stood up, and there was so much adrenaline pumping,” Byford recalled. “You're just like, ‘Whoa, get it together. Don't pass out. Calm down.'
“Once the game started and we got in the flow of the game, it was just … amazing.”
What followed was a masterful performance by Andrea Riley and a landmark win for the Cowgirls, an 82-63 rout of sixth-ranked Oklahoma for a program that had gone winless in Big 12 play just two years prior.
Saturday's Bedlam matchup between the No. 23 Cowgirls and Sooners won't feature the same fanfare of a sold-out crowd or star power of OSU's Riley and OU's Paris sisters. But with the Stillwater contest essentially serving as a five-year anniversary of that game, it's a worthy time to revisit what turned out to be a watershed moment for Cowgirl basketball.
“It changed the program,” Byford said. “It kind of made a statement of, ‘Hey, we're not the whipping dog of the Big 12 anymore. We're going to come and we're going to fight every game. Don't overlook us.'
“I think that's the main thing — nobody was going to overlook us anymore.”
The OSU victory broke a 17-game winning streak for the Sooners in the series and caused Cowgirl fans to storm the court. Riley finished with 45 points and zero turnovers, using a blend of fancy dribble-drives to the basket and outside shots to reach that total.
And that was the day late coach Kurt Budke infamously broke out the bright orange blazer.
“It's going to be one of the greatest moments of my life,” Riley said last month. “Just having (a sold-out crowd) and feeling like that, it was amazing.”
OU, of course, has rolled along just fine since that game, reaching back-to-back Final Fours in 2009 and 2010 and holding steady as one of the country's premier programs. And the Sooners have continued to dominate the Bedlam series, with OSU's only victory since 2008 coming last season when a late 3-pointer by former Cowgirl Jenni Bryan lifted the Cowgirls to 66-63 win in Stillwater.
But OSU is no longer in the basement of the Big 12. Far from it.
The Cowgirls reached the Sweet 16 in 2008 and the NCAA Tournament's second round in 2010. Last season, OSU was one of the first teams left out of the tournament but won the WNIT.
For former Cowgirls like Riley and Byford, that 2008 Bedlam game provides a lasting memory. And it's one reminder of how we got to this point in this rivalry.
But, in reality, it doesn't have much bearing on Saturday's meeting.
Both teams, like most of the squads that currently occupy the middle of the Big 12 standings, have already had their share of signature wins and maddening losses this season. OSU took a particularly hard hit Wednesday night, falling to a TCU squad that was winless in conference play.
Sooner coach Sherri Coale needed to “search (her) brain” to remember the 2008 Bedlam game when asked about it earlier this week. And Cowgirl coach Jim Littell wasn't too fired up about reminiscing about that big victory, either.
“I'm not about living in the past,” Littell said. “I'm not about (reliving) that we won a game here last year. I'm about the present and what it takes for us to get to the NCAA Tournament.
“It was a nice night in Cowgirl basketball history, but I'm about what's going on now.”