The surging Oklahoma State Cowgirl basketball team, with its sparkling 11-0 nonconference record, is off to the best start in program history.
But to continue its undefeated ways, the 13th-ranked team in the nation now faces an entirely different challenge -- the gauntlet that is Big 12 play.
It begins against Texas Tech in Stillwater on Wednesday night, before a weekend trip to Waco for a shot at Brittney Griner and the defending champion Baylor Lady Bears.
But Toni Young and the Cowgirls believe they're ready to compete with the conference's elite.
Recently named tournament MVP and Big 12 player of the Week for her performance in the Surf 'N Slam Classic title in San Diego, the senior forward heads into her final conference season playing some of the best basketball of her career.
And before it begins, Young talked about the team's hot start and the challenges that lie ahead:
You guys are coming off a big tournament win down in San Diego. What did that do for the team?
I think it was great because it gave us a nice precursor to the Big 12 conference. The last team we played (San Diego State), they were a great team, with shooters all around. I think they could compete in the Big 12, so it was a good game to play right before conference season started.
You were the MVP of the tournament. How'd you feel about your play?
The first game, I don't really know how I got my numbers. I thought I played really bad. But the second game I was able to lock in and perform well for my team.
Is this as good as you've felt since that bad arm injury at the end of your sophomore year?
I think so. Last year was a huge setback for me. But I've put in a lot of work, my coaches and teammates have kept me going and I think it's starting to show now. On the offensive end, I feel like I could be a step better than I was (before the injury). Rebounding, I still need to get back to where I was. And I think I can, there's still work to do.
Looking toward Big 12 play, the last conference season of your career, are you excited?
I am excited. It's kind of bittersweet because it means my years of playing in college are coming to an end. But I'm excited to step up the competition and play some good teams.
Are you confident you can compete with the elite teams in the conference?
I think we can. We have a great team. We may not be big, and have a lot of size, but we fight to the end and don't give up. We don't let anyone tell us what we can't do. We just have to push past all the negative comments about how small we are.
What's the thing this team needs to improve on most heading into Big 12?
Just staying confident the whole game, every game. Our team is a great team, but we don't always stay as focused as we need to be. But our players are great and can play for any of the best teams in the conference and around the nation. We just need to believe in ourselves that we can compete.
Texas Tech at No. 13 Oklahoma State
* When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
* Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater
* TV: None
* Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1