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Column: Coaching has Cowgirls off to first 3-0 conference start in Littell’s tenure

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Natasha Mack

Natasha Mack shoots a jump shot during Oklahoma State WBB's victory over Texas Tech on January 2, 2021.

The final minutes counted down in Oklahoma State’s 75-48 blowout win against Texas Tech, but the effort never wavered.

Natasha Mack made a trio of blocks in the closing minutes, then dove to the floor after the loose ball. The crowd made its presence felt, showing Mack appreciation for the effort.

The line change happened at 1:44 in the fourth quarter and the final horn blared at 8:17 p.m. The Cowgirls were 3-0 in conference play.

OSU coach Jim Littell is putting together a masterful coaching season.

In Littell’s past nine years at Oklahoma State, he hadn’t achieved a 3-0 conference start. Some years, it was a matter of drawing Baylor to eliminate a perfect start to conference action. Other attempts were deterred by unexpected losses.

After dominating Texas Tech on Saturday night, OSU snapped the streak. The Cowgirls are brimming with confidence, something Littell’s coaching is magnifying.

“This is more about the character of these kids and the chemistry of them than anything,” Littell said. “They play for each other and they like each other on and off the floor. It’s been a difficult year for everybody, and I know our kids are just appreciating the opportunity to play the game that they love.”

In a sense, OSU (7-2 overall, 3-0 in Big 12) played against its former self. Everything from the Texas Tech personnel (Vivian Gray, Bryn Gerlich) to a familiar minute distribution the Lady Raiders continued implementing amplified Littell’s coaching adjustments just a season after Gray and Gerlich departed.

With Gray, the Cowgirls leaned on her for heavy minutes with no breaks. As a result, Gray shouldered the burden on offense. Now, the Cowgirls can give breaks to their stars without the concern about losing the lead.

Texas Tech (6-3, 1-2) utilized Gray similarly to the Cowgirls in past seasons. She shot 5 for 18, scored 12 points and played 39 minutes. Mack and Ja’Mee Asberry played similar minutes, but the difference proved to be the Cowgirls’ bench flexibility.

Against West Virginia, Kassidy De Lapp proved to be the difference after minimal usage in the shortened nonconference slate. Oklahoma had only seven eligible players, and the rotation players feasted on the Sooners tired athletes.

Only Baylor is matching the Cowgirls unblemished 3-0 conference record. Iowa State, Texas and Kansas remain unscathed but haven’t played as many Big 12 opponents.

“We’re just taking it one game at a time,” Asberry said. “We’re not getting too high, not getting too low.”

Through three Big 12 games, the philosophy is proving to work.

sports.ed@ocolly.com