It was not fair, but Jim Littell had no choice.
With five players on the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team – many of whom are key contributors – not available for Wednesday night’s game against TCU in Fort Worth due to COVID protocols, he told forward Abbie Winchester, forward Bigue Sarr, guard Tali Notoa and forward Ruthie Udoumoh that he was relying on them.
“Those four kids haven’t played many minutes,” Littell said. “I told them going into this game that, ‘We expect you to step up, play and make a positive contribution and that may not be fair because I haven’t played you a whole lot.' Now we’re throwing you into the fire and expecting you to perform.’”
To this point, unseasoned Cowgirls got the job done. OSU (8-2,4-0) won 78-53 over TCU (5-4,0-4). Seven of the eight Cowgirls who saw the floor played double-digit minutes.
“Those kids didn’t bat an eye out, and I thought they did really really well,” Littell said. “Their preparation was great.”
Sophomore guard Lauren Fields, junior center Kassidy De Lapp, junior forward Brittany Reeves, and sophomore guard Micah Dennis were all Cowgirls who usually play but did not on Wednesday. All four average at least 10 minutes-per-game.
Senior Abbie Winchester saw the highest bump in minutes with the bare bench. She averaged seven minutes per game coming into the contest, but she played 29 minutes against the Horned Frogs — scoring four points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
Senior Bigue Sarr also played heavily. She had six points on 3-for-7 shooting with four rebounds. Although she had averaged 3.3 minutes per game in her six appearances this season, she was another Cowgirl who performed valiantly — logging 17 minutes.
The Cowgirls adjusted their defense and rode their veterans to combat the effects of an extremely limited bench.
“We played more matchup zone,” Littell said. “We were predominantly a man-to-man team. We knew that we only had eight players available and some young kids off the bench, so we knew that people like Mack and Ja’Mee were going to have to play the bulk of the ballgame. I think that allowed us to save some legs and stay out of foul trouble.”
Getting any conference win is hard. The fact that OSU got a conference win on the road by 25 points with five key players out is a testament to the four players who performed well when the need was most dire.
“So proud of our group,” Littell said. “The way they responded tonight. We told our group that they could easily feel sorry for themselves…not one of them felt that way. Preparation was good. We had four kids that hadn’t played very much in Abbie Winchester, Bigue Sarr, Tali Notoa and Ruthie. All those kids stepped up and did really well.”