STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Twice in its previous three games, Oklahoma State took on Top 15 teams and battled them close, only to fall short.
On Friday night, just three days after a 79-76 loss at No. 6 Mississippi State, the Cowgirls proved they learned some lessons from those games.
Loryn Goodwin had 27 points, six rebounds and five assists, to help Oklahoma State to a convincing 87-72 victory over No. 7 UCLA.
Kaylee Jensen had 19 points and 15 rebounds, while Braxtin Miller also scored a career-high 19 for Oklahoma State (7-2), whose students stormed the court after the game.
”It feels good,” said Goodwin, who scored 35 points against Mississippi State. ”We all knew we could do it, but to prove it to everybody else feels amazing. All your hard work, and coming up short a couple of times, to finally pull it out in front of our home fans, is priceless. Playing in those close games and learning from our mistakes and getting better, and having everybody buy in and everybody be on the same page, it really helped a lot.”
Oklahoma State lost to No. 11 Tennessee 79-69 in the Women’s Cancun Challenge Tournament on Nov. 24.
Jordin Canada scored a season-high 28 points and had seven rebounds and seven assists for UCLA (7-2). Kennedy Burke added 12 points and eight rebounds.
”This was not the team that I’ve been coaching,” said Bruins coach Cori Close, whose team had won four in a row. ”We need to grow from this, take responsibility, have teachable hearts, be willing to hold the mirror up and make changes.”
UCLA surrendered a season-high 87 points, allowing the Cowgirls to shoot 46.0 percent from the field (29 of 63), the second-highest figure of the season behind the 54.0 percent by No. 1 Connecticut in the Bruins’ only other defeat, on Nov. 21.
”We missed layups, we missed free throws,” Close said. ”But that part doesn’t bother me as much as the way we played defensively, giving up 87 points. We’ve been a great defensive team. That’s what I’m most disappointed in, our defensive intensity and focus and our toughness to get stops on the road.”
Oklahoma State had built a 20-4 lead late in the opening quarter, but UCLA slowly battled back, getting as close as three midway through the third quarter before the Cowgirls restored a double-digit lead in the fourth.
The win extended Oklahoma State’s regular-season home winning streak against non-conference foes to 54, dating to a Dec. 12, 2010 loss to No. 5 Duke.
UCLA: Despite the terrible first quarter, the Bruins battled back and eventually got within three points midway through the third, but were unable to maintain the momentum. Throughout the fourth quarter, despite being down by between eight and 12 for most of it, it always seemed like UCLA was ready to break through and take it over, they just couldn’t complete the job.
Oklahoma State: Just like they did last Sunday in the loss to Mississippi State, the Cowgirls proved they could compete with the best in the nation. They were unable to pull out the victory in that one, but that experience surely helped them lock this one down. The way they were able to seize back the momentum after UCLA pulled within 48-45 with 4:44 left in the third quarter was impressive. The Cowgirls went on a 7-0 run after that to restore a 10-point lead and eventually carried a 61-51 advantage into the fourth.
”Our team could have wilted a little bit there,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. ”But they kicked it in and found a different gear, went on a nice run, and made some big plays with the game on the line.”
UCLA slid two spots following a loss to No. 1 Connecticut a few weeks ago, so it seems likely that a 15-point loss to an unranked opponent means it will likely drop at least a few more. How many depends on how the teams directly below them do. As for Oklahoma State, which received votes in the last poll, this win may have opened enough eyes to see them squeeze into the Top 25. Certainly, if they can continue to play this well, it is only a matter of time.
When Michaela Onyenwere grabbed an offensive rebound and put home the layup with 7:58 remaining, UCLA was within 63-59 and looked poised to finally take over the lead. But Oklahoma State responded again, this time with an 8-0 run on a 3 by Goodwin and then five straight points from Maria Castro over the next 2 minutes to push the advantage back to double digits. The Bruins wouldn’t get closer than eight the rest of the way.
UCLA: The Bruins are off for nine days before heading out to New Jersey to take on Seton Hall on Dec. 17.
Oklahoma State: The Cowgirls get an 11-day break before their next game, hosting South Carolina-Upstate on Dec. 19.