LaShawn Jones looked at the stat sheet after Oklahoma State’s upset of Purdue and liked what she saw in her rebounding column.
Then, she looked at Brittney Martin’s number.
“Brittney!” she shouted across the locker room. “Dang!”
More happy shouting followed. Some hugging, too. And frankly, Jones isn’t the only Cowgirl excited about what Martin is doing. The sophomore is surging in the postseason, and so are the Cowgirls.
It’s no coincidence.
If you’re looking for a reason OSU could upend undefeated Notre Dame on Saturday in South Bend, Martin is it.
She is capable of big numbers — she holds the team-best marks for points, field goals made and rebounds this season — but while she had three games of 20-plus points, she also had three of five or less. And often when she’s been so-so, the Cowgirls have been, too.
But in March, she is averaging 12.3 points and 13.3 rebounds, both team bests for the month.
She was never better than Monday night when OSU faced a good Purdue team on the Boilermakers’ home court. Martin not only had 20 rebounds but also 20 points as the Cowgirls surged to victory.
“Just monster numbers,” Cowgirl coach Jim Littell said.
Toni Young, who now plays for the WNBA’s New York Liberty, is the last Cowgirl to hit that 20-20 mark in a game. She is a 6-foot-2 post player.
Martin is a 6-0 wing player.
“For a small forward or big guard to go in there and get 20 rebounds is pretty remarkable,” Littell said.
Martin was only three boards short of the NCAA Tournament record and became only the 20th player who snagged that many rebounds in a tournament game.
It was a continuation of some big-time rebounding performances. In the Big 12 Tournament, Martin had 11 boards against Iowa State and 15 against Baylor. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, she went for 15 boards against upset-minded Florida Gulf Coast.
She averages 8.8 rebounds a game this season, which is decent but seems puny compared to what she’s done lately.
“It is all about effort, I think,” Martin said. “Hustle gets you far.”
And Martin admitted that her hustle hasn’t been where it needs to be this season. She realized as much these past couple weeks while watching video of games. Her body language wasn’t always good. Her energy wasn’t always high.
That flipped a switch.
It created an acceptance of her role as a team leader, too. She was one of the Cowgirls’ best players last season. Athletic. Skilled. Intelligent. Here’s how good she was — she was invited to USA Basketball’s U19 World Championship team trials after the season, and the last Cowgirl to participate in a USA Basketball event was superstar Andrea Riley.
Martin, though, was a freshman playing alongside Young and point guard standout Tiffany Bias. She deferred to them.
She admits that she carried that stay-in-the-background mentality into this season.
“I should be consistent. I should have that kind of energy,” Martin said. “I should’ve had it the whole year.”
Better late than never.
These Cowgirls face the tallest of tasks Saturday, going to Notre Dame and trying to beat the undefeated Fighting Irish on its home floor. But if Martin plays like she has been, provides a compliment to Bias on the perimeter and frees up the capable role players around them, you have to give the Cowgirls a chance.
“When she plays well,” Jones said of Martin, “we all play well.”
Well enough to beat the Irish?
That remains to be seen, but this much is sure — the Cowgirls are at their best when Martin is at hers.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.