ESPN experts and other Big 12 coaches thought the Oklahoma State Cowgirls overachieved this season.
Coach Jim Littell did not.
“This was a special, special group that I’m not going to say overachieved,” Littell said. “I don’t think they did. I think they were capable of it; they didn’t let anybody put limits on them, they didn’t let anybody tell them how good they were going to be.”
The Cowgirls were picked eighth in the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll and finished third. They won a program-record 13 conference games and beat in-state rival Oklahoma three times. OSU’s season ended Tuesday night when the Cowgirls were defeated by the No. 1-seeded Stanford Cardinal in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I just told our kids a few minutes ago how proud I was of them,” Littell said. "We’ve had an unbelievable year…they just battled their tails off all year long.”
The team was led by senior forward Natasha Mack, who is headed for a top-10 pick in the WNBA. Mack, the Big 12 defensive player of the year, was OSU’s most decorated player in years.
The other team leader, point guard Ja’Mee Asberry, is a player the Cowgirls will have returning next season. Mack called Asberry her sidekick after the game against Stanford. The duo combined to score 52% of OSU’s points this season.
Even with Asberry moving from Robin to Batman next season, the Cowgirls will have plenty of support. Three of the top six players in terms of minutes played were freshmen. At times this season, Littell started those freshmen, Taylen Collins, Tali Notoa and Lexy Keys together.
“I’m so proud of them,” Mack said. “I’m like a big sister over here, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.”
Littell is confident his young players and veteran leaders will be even better next season.
“They respect the game, they work hard, they’re going to do nothing but get better cause they work at it and they all want to be basketball players. That’s (Lauren) Fields, that’s Ja’Mee Asberry, that’s our whole group,” Littell said.
Looking ahead to next season, filling the shoes of future WNBA lottery pick Mack will be a challenge, but the Cowgirls have the veteran leadership and young potential stars to do it. Equally important, they have an attitude that no matter where they are picked to finish, they will continue to do their own thing and surprise the doubters.
“(The future of Cowgirl basketball) is very bright,” Mack said. “They’re going to be something special and I can’t wait to watch.”