Cowgirls Still Dancing After First-Round Win

The Oklahoma State Cowgirls are advancing to the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Championships for the first time in 12 years. The Cowgirls used an 18-4 run in the first half and a 7-0 run in the second half by All-American and All-Big 12 sophomore standout Andrea Riley to put 14th-seeded East Tennessee State away 85-73 in the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Cowgirls advance to play the winner of the Ohio State-Florida State game that was contested immediately following the Cowgirls win. Oklahoma State's previous win in the NCAA Tournament came in the 1996 event when the Cowgirls defeated Rhode Island in a first-round game played in Athens, Georgia.

"That thing was ugly," said associate head coach Jim Littell. "It was ugly and sometimes you get lucky. We may have set basketball back tonight. I think that game got very physical and we didn't adjust very well to it. The thing is you win and survive and we did that."

Oklahoma State and East Tennessee were playing a see-saw game in the opening minutes before a Taylor Hardeman three-pointer from the wing put the Cowgirls up 16-14 at the 12:51 mark of the first half. That was followed with a Hardeman steal on the other end of the floor. The junior from Norman, Okla., passed the ball to Riley who threw a no-look pass to Shaunte' Smith who drew the foul and knocked down both free throws.

Riley scored off a steal to make it 20-14. That was followed by a putback by Maria Cordero, and then another Hardeman trey pushed the Cowgirls lead to 25-16. The first double-digit lead was moment later as the game went under the 10--minute mark as Cordero scored on an up-and-under move to make it 27-17.

Cordero had her best game of the season finishing with 23 points and 9 rebounds. Her free throws were key throughout the game, but especially in the second half as she hit her first nine attempts from the charity stripe. Before the end of the half Cordero scored in the paint on a nice assist from Riley and then Cordero returned the favor in fighting on the floor for a loose ball before the ball got to Riley on the other end where she hit a pull up jumper to make it 34-22.

Just before the half ended Hardeman hit her third of six three-point attempts in the first half. The trey at the 2:30 mark made it 39-26, the biggest lead of the half for the Cowgirls. They would lead 41-29 at intermission. Hardeman was playing well but in the end was not real pleased with the way the team looked.

"A win is a win and we can't say we played our best," said Hardeman. "Luckily we have Monday and we need it because we want to prove what kind of team we really are. We got frustrated and we just need to relax and show what we can do and play defense."

Riley was very relaxed to start the second half as she nailed a three-pointer right off the bat in the second stanza to push the Cowgirls lead to 44-29. However, East Tennessee State, behind the strength of solid shooting by Michele DeVault, hit three easy baskets to get right back in it.

Later in the half East Tennessee made its biggest threat pulling within seven points at 67-60. That is when Riley, as she seems to always do when she needs to, took over. Riley scored the next seven points for a 74-60 Oklahoma State lead. East Tennessee stayed close but never threatened again in single digits as the Cowgirls went on to the 85-73 win.

Riley led the Cowgirls, who shot 44 percent from the field and a sizzling 80 percent (28-of-35) at the free-throw line, with 26 points and also had five assists.

Oklahoma State head coach Kurt Budke likes to say his team is a sure winner when Riley gets help in the scoring category with others in double digits. Cordero with her big game with the 23 points and 9 rebounds. Hardeman was dynamite on defense in the second half and finished with 13 points. Shaunte' Smith had 10 points and Danielle Green was quiet on offense with seven points but also had six rebounds and solid defense.

The Cowgirls improve to 26-7 on the season with the Monday second-round date with either Ohio State or Florida State next on the agenda. East Tennessee State, making the school's first ever women's NCAA Tournament appearance, finishes its season 21-12.

It may have been ugly in Des Moines but it did the job and the Cowgirls are dancing on to Monday.

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