Second-half performance sparks Cowgirls' offense going into Idaho State

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Vivian Gray brings the ball up the court during the Cowgirls v. Emporia State women's basketball game, at Gallagher-Iba Arena, on October 27, 2019.

Numbers can be deceiving, especially in this situation.

The Oklahoma State women’s basketball team beat Tulsa 78-48, but it wasn’t easy. The Cowgirls were down eight points at halftime — then everything changed.

The Cowgirls went on a 47-9 run in the second half on the strength of their stifling defense. OSU forced 12 steals and held the Golden Hurricane to 10% shooting in the second half.

OSU tallied 16 steals and forced 24 turnovers on Wednesday. Coach Jim Littell said the Cowgirls forced 49 deflections against Tulsa. That’s big a step up from the 37 deflections OSU had against Idaho and Lamar.

Even when they didn’t force a turnover, the Cowgirls were disruptive on defense. Forcing deflections can throw a team out of sync and mess up the timing. That’s what happened against Tulsa as the Cowgirls played lights out on defense.

OSU forward Vivian Gray said the deflections were an integral part of the game.

“We got a lot of deflections, which is the main goal for us,” Gray said. “Heading into games, we have a goal number of deflections to get and we surpassed that by a lot. That’s what really got us going in the second half, it was good defensive steals and things like that.”

The defense was only half the equation, though. The offense also picked up after the break.

Gray shook off a rough first half and turned in 18 points on an almost perfect 6-for-7 shooting after the break. Gray said the team helped her get back on track.

“I think in the first half I put too much pressure on myself and I tend to come out too fast and rush everything,” Gray said. “I definitely did that. And then I got to the locker room in the second half, my teammates encouraged me and coach told me to just keep pushing through, keep pushing through.”

Gray also had a team-high four steals, one higher than guard Ja’Mee Asberry.

Asberry, who once again had three steals, had an excellent game with 21 points, six assists and four rebounds. Her point total was one shy of her career-high. She also shot 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Littell said he wants to see this kind of performance from Asberry regularly.

“We’ve talked to her, that for us to be good, we’ve got to have three premier scorers,” Littell said. “And I think she took that to heart. She was playing at home and we told her after the game, ‘just pretend every time you’re playing in Tulsa’ because it was one of her better games since she got here.”

OSU connected on a season-high 50% of its 3-point attempts, albeit on 12 attempts. Littell said he prefers his team shoot only 10-to-15 threes a game, but he was encouraged by the improved shooting for when teams force the Cowgirls to take a high volume of threes.

“We’ve been in the gym working on it,” Littell said. “We’re going to see that. And ultimately, when people do that, we got to step up and hit shots. Our kids have been shooting it a lot better, indicative of this game and we got people that can make shots. It’s just a matter of relaxing a little bit for our group.”

OSU’s second Big Sky matchup is with Idaho State. The Bengals come into the game with a 2-0 record and scored on average 83 points per game. They’re an experienced, physical group, but Littell said the Cowgirls need to continue building off their last win.

“Our size is going to match up with anybody,” Littell said. “It’s a matter of us guarding and continuing our intensity on the defensive end and then continuing to prove offensively. I think we got a lot better in the second half against Tulsa offensively.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com