Cowgirls Get NCAA Bid

STILLWATER - Fortunately, the large gathering of fans, media, administrators, and the stars of the evening, head coach Kurt Budke and the Oklahoma State Cowgirls basketball team didn't have to wait long Monday night to hear their name called during the Women's NCAA Selection Show on ESPN.

Budke had addressed the crowd before the start of the selection show and said he thought they would make it in, but if they didn't they would try hard to win the WNIT.

There was no need as the Cowgirls were at the bottom of the first regional announced, the Greensboro Regional. As the ESPN commentator said, "and facing Bowling Green will be the Oklahoma State Cowgirls out of the Big 12," nothing else was audible as the Cowgirls screamed so loud you could hear them across campus. The noise level on the South Club Level of Boone Pickens Stadium was deafening.

"Honestly, I was a little nervous," Budke said just after hearing the Cowgirls were in. "I've been to the dance before but these kids have worked so hard and I was just nervous because I didn't want the 40 minutes at the Big 12 Tournament (loss to Kansas) to take away from the whole season, and it didn't. You look at the numbers and we have four top-50 wins this year and that was more than any team on the bubble had, so we felt pretty good about it

" This is the most special trip (NCAA) that I have had. This is a special day in Oklahoma State women's basketball," Budke continued.

"It's unbelievable, but I knew we deserved it," said Big 12 Freshman of the Year Andrea Riley. "It's just so special that it happened to us."

"This is my dream to see our name up on the board," said Cowgirl guard and three-point leader Taylor Hardeman. "It was up there so fast I wasn't expecting it. I love orange and black and you can't get enough of it here," added Hardeman, who played high school at Norman wearing orange and black.

The Cowgirls will face a 26-3 Bowling Green team that won the regular season and the post-season tournament in the Mid-American Conference. The Falcons are the seventh seed and the Cowgirls the 10th seed. The first and second round games in East Lansing, Mich., to be played at the Breslin Center on the Michigan State campus, will be held on Sunday (first round) and Tuesday (second round). Should the Cowgirls defeat Bowling Green they would likely meet up with second-seed Vanderbilt (27-5), winners of the SEC postseason tournament. The Lady Commodores open with Delaware State.

Oklahoma State has played both Bowling Green and Vanderbilt before. OSU won the only meeting with Bowling Green when they beat them 72-57, oddly enough in the Louisiana Tech Tournament in 1993. Odd, in that Louisiana Tech was the school that Kurt Budke coached previous to coming to Oklahoma State. The Cowgirls defeated Vanderbilt 67-54 in Stillwater in 1998 and lost to the Lady Commodores in Nashville in the 1996 season.

The Cowgirls end an NCAA Tournament drought that goes back to their last appearance in the women's big dance in the 1995-96 season. The 20-10 Cowgirls, which finished 8-8 in the Big 12 regular season, had the greatest turnaround of any Division I team this season. They went from their 6-22 record last season and from going winless in Big 12 play the year before captured to the best turnaround in Big 12 history.

"It can only help us in recruiting, our fan base, and for these girls to continue to believe in what we are doing here," said Budke.

Now as for East Lansing, the Cowgirls last trip there came in the 2002-03 season, the first under former coach Julie Goodenough. The Cowgirls lost to Michigan State 91-39. That shows you how far this team has come. None of the current players were a part of that team, but seniors Destanie Sykes and Christian Hood were a part of the next three seasons, all losing records. They said they don't know where East Lansing is, but they know how far this program has come.

"It means so much for our team, and Desty (Destanie) and I being together for such a long struggle I am so excited to end my career on something so wonderful as this," Hood said with tears in her eyes.

"I'm so happy for my seniors Christian Hood and Destainie Sykes, who for three years have had some tough luck here and for them to get to go to the NCAA Tournament really excites me," said Budke.

Times for tournament games will be announced Tuesday, as will the Cowgirls travel plans. Here is information on how to purchase tickets to the games in East Lansing, Mich.
Breslin Student Events Center (15,085)
East Lansing, Michigan
Host: Michigan State University
Ticket Prices: $40 Adult (Lower), $35 Adult (Upper), $20 Youth
Phone: 800/GO-STATE or 517/355-1610
Web site:

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