STILLWATER — Before the basketball season began, Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell pointed to one key ingredient that would help the Cowgirls rise in the Big 12 pecking order.
Winning on the road.
Friday's game against Harvard, a first-round contest of the Surf N' Slam Classic at San Diego State's Viejas Arena, technically isn't a road game. But playing so far away from Gallagher-Iba Arena should provide the No. 15 Cowgirls with a solid final test before conference play begins next week.
“I know our team is going to get on the road and we're going to be focused,” forward Lindsey Keller said. “And we're going to be determined and ready to show our true colors and really prove to people that we're ready to take that next step.”
Should OSU (9-0) beat Harvard, it could have a true road game Sunday if San Diego State beats SMU in its first-round matchup.
After six consecutive home games through most of November and December, OSU throttled Texas-Arlington 90-54 on Saturday to move to 2-0 away from home.
But winning on the road was a challenge for a young OSU squad last season. The Cowgirls were just 4-9 away from home (including tournament games), with a 2-7 mark in Big 12 play.
OSU beat the likes of Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Iowa State and Texas at Gallagher-Iba Arena. But on the road, the Cowgirls' only conference victories came against Missouri and Kansas.
Keller said OSU must grow mentally in those road environments, especially on offense. Yes, the Cowgirls lead the nation in scoring (88.8 points per game), but Keller said they still sometimes get skittish on that end of the floor.
“I really think it's just the tempo and making sure that you're in the flow of the game,” she said. “And relaxing and trusting the coaches, trusting the offense, just getting into what we work on every day in practice.
“We just need to settle into that on the road and get into that flow … and kind of get that more controlled play, where we're in control of how fast the game is going.”
Littell agreed, noting that because the Cowgirls have such a balanced scoring attack, there's no reason they shouldn't be patient and find the best shot possible on every possession.
“We've got to get smoother offensively and read the defense better,” he said. “Make better decisions, play without turnovers. We're a team that shoots a pretty high percentage, so we've got to make sure we put a premium on getting a good shot at the basket every time.”