For nearly everyone on Oklahoma State, the NCAA tournament will be a new experience. Meanwhile, reaching the field of 64 is old hat for DePaul.
The Cowboys are hoping their two seniors can steady them Sunday when they face the Blue Demons in a first-round match at Durham, N.C.
Oklahoma State claimed a No. 7 seed as it makes its first trip to the tournament since 2010. Seniors Toni Young and Lindsey Keller are the only players on the Cowgirls (21-10) with NCAA tournament experience, appearing as freshmen and reaching the second round, though coach Jim Littell's team has some success in postseason play after winning the Women's NIT last year.
"Building the program, winning the WNIT helped us gain six more games last year in a tournament setting, and I believe it was a definite help for our team this year,'' Littell said. "The natural progression was for us to build from winning the WNIT last year to making the NCAA tournament and, hopefully, winning some games in the NCAA tournament.''
The Cowgirls, who started the season 11-0, finished tied for fifth in the Big 12 and played No. 1 Baylor tough in the conference tournament semifinals before losing 77-69. Young leads Oklahoma State with 15.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, while Liz Donohoe (15.0 ppg), Tiffany Bias (12.1) and Brittney Martin (10.1) also helped the Cowgirls finish 13th in the nation in scoring at 73.9 points per game.
Young had 15 double-doubles, second only to Baylor superstar Brittney Griner's 21 in the Big 12.
DePaul (21-11) will have no problems keeping up offensively with Oklahoma State - the Blue Demons are 24th in the country in scoring at 71.3 points per game and making their 11th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Doug Bruno's team finished tied for sixth in the final version of the current Big East, and with perennial powers Connecticut and Notre Dame moving to different conferences next season, could become the cornerstone for the new-look Big East.
Sophomore guard Brittany Hrynko and junior forward Jasmine Penny could be those anchors, averaging 14.8 and 13.1 points, while seniors Anna Martin and Katherine Harry will try to cement their legacies with a deep run. Martin, who missed eight games in the middle of the season due to injury, is scoring a team-high 15.7 points while Harry contributes 8.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
"I think we're just excited to go out and play at Cameron," Martin said. "The team's really focused, we've prepared well and watched a lot of film so we're ready to play. This week is the first week I think we've had our whole team be able to play and I don't think we've played our best basketball yet, so what a great platform to do so."
The Blue Demons have won their last two first-round NCAA tournament games.
The winner of this game will play the winner of No. 2 seed Duke and 15th-seeded Hampton in the second round on Tuesday.
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