Toni Young scored 20 of her season-high 25 points in the first half and No. 7 seed Oklahoma State (22-10) withstood a second half rally by No. 10 seed DePaul (21-12) as the Cowgirls beat the Blue Demons, 73-56, in a first round game in the NCAA Tournament's Norfolk Regional.
"Sometimes after the last game of the NCAA Tournament you are really irritated and you have good cause to be all over your team," said DePaul coach Doug Bruno. "This is not one of those teams. As hard as it is right now for this team to suck up this defeat right now, this has been a classic example of just the ability of the players to get in to this Tournament."
After losses to Kentucky and Marquette during the regular season, it looked like DePaul might not play in its 11th straight NCAA Tournament. When DePaul was picked last Monday to play in the Tournament, it drew a foe it had not played since a first round NCAA Tournament game in 1991.
And as introductions go, this was one awkward for DePaul early on.
The Cowgirls jumped out to a 7-0 lead just 90 seconds into the contest. Oklahoma State shot 74 percent from the field in the first 10 minutes of the game and led 30-16. DePaul was 6-24 from the field during that span.
"I thought we were going to get out to a quick start, that is what we like to do, but we just could not get anything going right away," said DePaul's Katherine Harry. "They were dominating us on the glass and we could not get into a flow on offense."
DePaul's Brittany Hrynko, averaging 14.8 ppg this season, scored her first points midway through the first half. She finished with 11 points on 2-17 shooting from the field.
Her three-pointer at the first half buzzer trimmed the Cowgirls' lead to 42-31.
Oklahoma State is now 20-2 this season when leading at the half.
The Cowgirls shot 55 percent from the field and DePaul 27 percent in the first half.
And as sentimental goodbyes go, DePaul seniors Anna Martin and Katherine Harry fought to the final minute, when they were taken out by Bruno to an ovation by the DePaul fans and their teammates.
Martin, playing with a brace on each knee, converted two consecutive lay ups at 16:00 to trim Oklahoma State's lead to 44-38. Jasmine Penny's jumper at 13:51 ended a 13-2 run by the Blue Demons, and DePaul trailed just 45-44.
But streaks run both ways.
"We had a good run when we cut the lead to 44-40, but I never felt that we really had momentum," said Martin (team-high 12 points).
The Cowgirls crept away to 49-44, eventually capping a 13-0 run to lead 58-44. DePaul during that same time shot 0-13 from the field. The Blue Demons did not score another field goal after Penny's jumper until the 4:00 mark.
"We got close and I think we all could kind of feel it, and then we made a couple of unforced errors and and it just got away from us," said Harry. "That is a total credit to Oklahoma State."
The Cowgirls closed the game on a 27-12 run.
DePaul set a season-high with 27 offensive rebounds. Harry secured a game-high 17 total boards.
"Katherine is one of the greatest rebounders in DePaul history," said Bruno. "She went to work hard on the glass, and we needed her to work hard on the glass. She will be able to go out and know that she gave her best effort in her last game."
Harry today played in her 136th game at DePaul, the most games of a player in Blue Demons' history.
And as well as DePaul rebounded today, it still struggled down low. Harry and Penny went a combined 4-19 from the field, and the Cowgirls outscored DePaul 40-14 in the paint.
"You have to penetrate the defense and get inside the defense to be able to be a whole offensive team," said Bruno. "We have not been able to do that all season long."
DePaul shot 8-37 from behind the arc, setting a school record for most three-pointers in a season with 761 attempts, a record previously held by the 2011 squad.
And what of the final game for Martin and Harry?
The man who knew them so well for their four years at DePaul had this to say about them.
"Anna Martin could have gone to Kentucky or Louisville, but she chose to come to DePaul, and I thank her for that choice and for the effort."
"People like to say that kids aren't the same- they are if you find them. They say kids today are not what they used to be, but they are if you look for them. Anna Martin is really one of those kids that kids used to be. She is a great young woman and a great human being."
"Katherine Harry easily could have gone to Missouri or Kansas, but she, too, chose DePaul. I want to thank those two seniors for choosing to come to DePaul University."
Bruno removed Harry at 1:40 and Martin with 47 seconds left in the game.
The two reflected on the winding down of their last game.
"I felt frustration," said Martin. "You just don't want to see it end like this."
"You never want to leave the court like that," said Harry. "I am really proud of the team that we had this year. We easily could have given up this year, but it showed our resiliency and our fight. I am thankful for going out four years in a row in the NCAA Tournament."
Martin finishes her career at DePaul with 1,756 points, sixth best in school history.
Harry finishes 1,158 rebounds, third best in school history.
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