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SPORTS: Oklahoma State University

Cowgirl Basketball: A Season Preview

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Jim Littell's Cowgirls open the season ranked No. 19 and No. 21 nationally and are picked to finish tied-for-third in the Big 12. Oklahoma State returns four starters from last year's group that went 22-11 and nearly knocked Duke out in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament.

Of course the lone starter lost was leading scorer and rebounder Toni Young, who was picked seventh in the WNBA Draft, but Lindsey Keller, a key role player, is also gone. How the Cowgirls make up for Young and Keller's absences will determine whether this team can win a Big 12 championship.

Back are starters Tiffany Bias, Brittney Martin, Liz Donohoe and Kendra Suttles along with reserves Kamri Anderson and LaShawn Jones. Littell brings in several freshmen including Roshunda Johnson, the Cowgirls' point guard of the future, Katelyn Loecker, a multi-faceted forward, and Lakota Beatty, the High School Player of the Year in Oklahoma last year. Guard Brittany Atkins will look to contribute after redshirting last season and Marisha Wallace transfers in to bring add points-in-the-paint and rebounding.

Projected Starting Lineup

G – Tiffany Bias

G – Brittney Martin

F – Liz Donohoe

F – Kendra Suttles

C – LaShawn Jones/Marisha Wallace

Leaders

Tiffany Bias brings the leadership and Liz Donohoe brings the intangibles. Bias enters her senior season with 580 career assists – 127 shy of Andrea Riley's OSU record. She averaged 12.0 points and 6.5 assists per game as a junior and earned second-team All-Big 12 and Honorable Mention All-American honors.

Donohoe is a do-it-all forward who keeps getting better. Two years removed from winning Big 12 Freshman of the Year and being named second-team Freshman All-American honors, Donohoe expects to fill up the stat sheets again for Oklahoma State. She scored 15.0 points and while chipping in 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per contest as a sophomore.

Neither Bias nor Donohoe leave the court much. Bias played 36.9 minutes per game and Donohoe played 35.0 last season and neither has missed a game in the past two years.

Newcomers to Watch

Marisha Wallace was selected as the Big 12's Preseason Newcomer of the Year. The center averaged 17.6 points and 7.1 rebounds as a sophomore at NOC-Enid and was a second-team all-conference pick. Even with the likes of Brittney Griner and Joanna McFarland moving on, the Cowgirls will need Wallace against opponents with size.

While Wallace garnered the accolades in the preseason, true freshman Katelyn Loecker has been getting the minutes in exhibition contests. Loecker played 21 minutes against East Central, grabbing five rebounds and then started against Northeastern State, scoring nine points to go along with four rebounds in 25 minutes in the Cowgirls final tuneup. Loecker was the High School Player of the Year in the state of Kansas last year after averaging 17.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.6 blocks.

X-Factor

Brittney Martin carried some hype nationally with her to Stillwater and she delivered, posting 10.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and a Big 12-leading 2.9 steals per game as a true freshman. She recorded the first triple-double (10 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists against UT-Arlington) in Cowgirl history and was unanimously chosen for the All-Big 12 Freshman Team. Martin competed against some of the best young players in the nation at the USA U19 World Championship Team Trials this summer. If the 6-foot guard can become a true scoring threat and continue to improve on the defensive end, the Cowgirls will have one of the best backcourts in the nation.

Strengths

"I believe one of our strengths is our chemistry," coach Littell said. "This is a very tight-knit group and they get along with each other both on and off the floor." Aside from having a group of starters that are used to playing together, Littell now has some depth to work with. Near the end of last season Littell only used one or two girls off the bench, with several starters getting less than five minutes of rest. He should be able to open up the rotation more, especially with his post players.

Weaknesses

Size in the post is not the Cowgirls' forte. LaShawn Jones is 6-foot-3, Marisha Wallace is 6-foot-2 and Kendra Suttles stands 6-foot-1. That's the extent of the center depth. OSU would love to play small with Donohoe or Loecker at power forward and open up the floor with long, rangy guards like Martin and Atkins.

Three Big Non-Conference Games

A mid-December contest in Chesapeake Arena against South Florida (Dec. 14) should give OSU its first real test. Then the Cowgirls will take on No. 20 Michigan State (Dec. 19) and Georgia Tech (Dec. 21) at the Puerto Rico Classic.

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