Cowgirls, 25-6, To Play For Big 12 Title

As Carla Cortijo's shot fell harmlessly to the floor as the final buzzer sounded simultaneously Oklahoma State head coach Kurt Budke began sharing hugs with his staff including associate head coach Jim Littell and assistants Miranda Serna and Kenya Larkin. Those four have been there since the beginning of the Budke era three years ago when the Cowgirls finished 0-16 in the Big 12.

While the hugs were going on Cowgirl star point guard Andrea Riley was at the front of the handshake line repeating, "Ya'll, played good" to each Longhorn player whose hand she shook.

Texas did play good, but in the Big 12 Tournament semifinal Riley and the Cowgirls, especially teammate Danielle Green, played better and won 75-72.

Oklahoma State is in its first Big 12 Tournament championship game and will play Texas A&M on Saturday night in Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium at 6 p.m. (CDT). The Aggies disposed of Iowa State earlier Thursday night.

The Cowgirls had led 46-32 at halftime, after leading by as many as 16 points in the half, 38-22, and 40-24 before Texas made a late run in the half. At halftime the Cowgirls were out-shooting Texas 50 percent to 38 percent, out-rebounding the Longhorns 24-16, and winning the battle in the paint 18 points to 8.

However, Earnesia Williams and Ashley Lindsay came out hot to start the second half and combined for nine points to get Texas back into it. The game became a see-saw affair that also featured a scoreless stretch of about three minutes where neither team could get much accomplished.

It all came down to the end as Texas freshman Kathleen Nash hit her fourth three-pointer of the game to give Texas a 72-71 lead. Nash and Cortijo tied for Texas' scoring honors with 14 points.

Andrea Riley wasted no time after the Nash three from the right corner as she went down the heart of the floor and hit a bank shot to give the Cowgirls the lead back at 73-72. After each team missed a scoring opportunity, Erneisha Bailey drove toward the basket only to have her shot blocked by Cowgirls senior post Maria Cordero. The ball went out of bounds and stayed with Texas. That is when Shaunte' Smith came up big for Oklahoma State.

On the inbounds play the ball went to Brittainey Raven, who missed the a shot. Texas got the rebound and Cortijo drove down the lane only to run over a firmly planted Smith, who anticipated the drive by the Texas point guard. That gave the Cowgirls the ball with 9.7 seconds left.

Texas immediately fouled Smith on the inbounds play. Smith, the Putnam City North product that finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds, nailed both her free throws to improve to six-for-six at the charity stripe and put OSU up 75-72. After a couple of Riley fouls as OSU had only four team fouls at that point, Cortijo missed that final shot causing the hugs and Riley's quick roll to the handshake line.

Riley finished with 23 points and six rebounds, while Green, who singlehandedly kept OSU in the game at times in the second half, had 23 points and 7 rebounds.

The Cowgirls, now 25-6, are conquerors of five nationally ranked opponents including three wins over top-10 teams. There is still business to attend to Saturday in Kansas City but at this stage anything less than a three seed in the Oklahoma City regional would be robbery. This team may be a sleeper with the national media, but the committee has to recognize what has been accomplished this season in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

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