The Cowgirls walked off Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium court Saturday with the feeling of defeat, but Sunday brought a gift no one outside the program expected at the beginning of the season.
An NCAA Tournament bid.
On Saturday, the eighth-seeded Cowgirls play the ninth-seeded Miami Hurricanes in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Bloomington, Indiana, at 1 p.m.
For OSU, losses have been common the past three weeks, dropping four of its last five, and not playing as well as it once was.
This season, OSU averages 75.8 points per game, 36.7% from 3-point range and has 21 wins, a significant uptick from last season’s 9-20 finish.
But, the last five games haven’t been too characteristic for the Cowgirls, averaging 62.8 points per game and losing four. If Terryn Milton’s gravity-defying shot rolled the opposite way, the Cowgirls could very well be walking into the tournament on a four-game skid.
It’s not known what the issue has been, but injuries and the Big 12 figuring out the offense doesn’t help.
Multiple players dealt with ankle injuries last week and forward Claire Chastain did not attend last Friday’s win versus West Virginia because she was sick, but returned versus Texas on limited minutes.
Chastain said she feels great and ready to go for Saturday’s game and OSU coach Jacie Hoyt said she feels the same about the preparation and practice her team has put in this week.
“It’s the most prep we’ve had in a really long time,” Hoyt said. “You always forget this time of year you go from playing in-conference, you know, scout, scout, scout and never get to work on yourself. This has been a good week for us to just be able to get back to us a little bit and work on us."
I think our execution of details, little things within our offense (are things we’ve worked on). We’ve gotten away from running in transition the way that we were early in the season. Just a lot of offensive stuff for us. We’ve had people in and out of rotations and we’re all healthy now. So, that’s been good to just get that continuity back.”
OSU is staring down a different beast and varies from the Big 12 gauntlet it endured. The Cowgirls get to play in The Dance.
Even though this group has been together for less than a year, there’s a good mix of players with and without NCAA Tournament experience.
“I think we have a cool blend,” Hoyt said. “Because we’ve got some that have been to the tournament and haven’t won, so they’re really hungry to get a win. We have some who know how to win in the tournament. Kassidy (De Lapp), Lexy (Keys) and Taylen (Collins), they all got a taste of winning and have that experience. Then, we've got some who’ve never been and so they’re just excited.”
Hoyt said the players who have been and lost have a hunger to win, but there’s also another hunger for the seniors – to continue.
For the Cowgirl seniors, it’s the last go. Last chance to win. Possibly the last time they lace up the sneakers and throw on an OSU jersey. With a loss, it’s over.
Chastain decided to pursue a fifth year following her career at UT Arlington, but now it’s about to end.
Chastain said there is an elevated intensity for the seniors last shot, but there’s also a great amount of composure.
“The urgency level is very high,” Chastain said. “I feel we’re very antsy to just get there again, especially those of us who’ve already made the tournament and know what the atmosphere is going to be like, and just having it be our last go as seniors I think is such an important experience that we’re about to go through. But also, being able to soak it all up, and staying the course is really important.”