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Cowgirls start slow, finish strong against Southern

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The referee throws the ball in the air for the tip-off of OSU vs. Southern.

Shot after shot in the first quarter, the Cowgirls couldn’t seem to get one to fall.

Then, redshirt-freshman guard Jaden Hobbs entered the game and made two 3-pointers and provided the spark the Oklahoma State women's basketball team needed.

OSU defeated the Southern University Jaguars 94-66 Thursday night in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

After Hobbs’ quick 3s, the Cowgirls (6-1) went on a 20-1 run with 16 unanswered points and never looked back.

“I wasn’t here before (Hobbs) was injured, but all I know is, since I’ve been here, she’s gotten way better,” senior guard Loryn Goodwin said. “She has more confidence and is driving the basketball and is shooting her shot and being ready whenever we need her to hit a three. I think she’s progressed so much since we played in Australia. I’m just really happy for her because I know that’s a really hard injury (torn ACL) to come back from.”

Trailing early, it seemed like Hobbs and sophomore guard Areanna Combs were the only Cowgirls able to find the bottom of the net during the first half.

Combs finished the game with 18 points, a new career high, and her performance kept OSU from falling behind early.

“Combs had a breakout night,” coach Jim Littell said. “She was really special in the first half.”

After senior center Kaylee Jensen got into some early foul trouble, senior forward Mandy Coleman stepped up and dominated in the post.

“I think it’s special here because we have more than just one or two people that can score,” Coleman said. “If someone’s having a bad game or is a little off, it’s great that someone else is able to step up and help us out.”

Coleman drew four trips to the free-throw line and went 6-for-7. As a unit, the Cowgirls have seen quite the improvement in free-throw percentage, something that Littell said he is happy to see.

The Cowgirls finished with a 79.4 free-throw percentage against Southern (1-3).

“We’ve improved dramatically at the free-throw line,” Littell said. “We’ve been struggling there. Our players put in a lot of time, and we set aside time in our practice for that.”

Along with Coleman’s 18-point performance, Goodwin had an impact on both sides of the ball, finishing with seven rebounds, six assists and five steals to complement her 13 points.

One sore spot for the Cowgirls was the rebounding battle. Despite finishing tied at 42 rebounds with the Jaguars, Littell said he was unhappy with the 15 offensive rebounds his team gave up.

“Our goal is to give up seven or less (offensive rebounds) each night,” Littell said. “We’ve got to be fundamental about checking out. There’s going to be times that we play people that, if it’s a 50-50 ball, they’re going to out-jump us, so we got to make sure we are putting a body on somebody.”

The Cowgirls next test will be in Starkville, Mississippi, as they take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Bulldogs (7-0) were NCAA runners-up after losing to South Carolina in last season's NCAA Tournament final.

“They’re returning virtually everyone off of a team that broke UConn’s 111-game win streak,” Littell said. “We’re going to have to have a lot of people on top of their game. It’s a big challenge. There’s a big reason they’re ranked No. 3 in the country.”

.@OSUWBB started slow against Southern University, but the team took over thanks to several Cowgirls' stellar performances.