3-22-08 -- Back in the NCAA tournament for a second straight year after a long absence, Oklahoma State isn’t willing to look past any opponent regardless of where it plays.
Expecting to make a deep tournament run, the third-seeded Cowgirls meet East Tennessee State on Saturday in the New Orleans Regional in Des Moines, Iowa.
Oklahoma State (25-7) expressed some disappointment that it wasn’t selected to play in the Oklahoma City Regional - about 70 miles southwest of Stillwater - but at least one player said that didn’t matter.
“I’m happy that we’re a 3 seed,” said sophomore point guard Andrea Riley, who led the Big 12 and finished sixth in the country with an average of 22.9 points per game. “We’re looking forward to going all the way. We’re not looking forward to being one-and-done or two-and-done. We’re looking to compete with the best and beat the best.
“I think we can play with anybody in this country. We’re going to go out and play hard and not overlook anybody and just play with a lot of confidence.”
Oklahoma State was a regular participant in the tournament from 1989-96, reaching the round of 16 in 1991. The Cowgirls went 0-16 in conference play and finished 6-22 in 2006, but last season they went 20-11 and were a No. 10 seed in their first tournament appearance in a decade, losing to Bowling Green.
The No. 3 seed this season is the best in Oklahoma State history, as is its No. 13 ranking.
Besides Riley, Oklahoma State also will rely on senior guard Danielle Green (13.6 points, 7.4 rebounds per game) and junior forward Shaunte’ Smith (9.3 points, team-high 8.6 rebounds per game).
East Tennessee State (21-11), the 14th seed, averaged a conference-best 75.2 points per game en route to the Atlantic Sun title. Winners of 15 of their last 16 overall, the Lady Buccaneers - one of nine teams making their NCAA tournament debuts this year - went 0-4 this season against teams that are in the field of 64.
Coach Karen Kemp, though, thinks her team matches up well against Oklahoma State.
“Size-wise they’re not a lot bigger than we are, so I think we’ll be a matchup as far as size,” she said. “It’s going to be tough for us. I really feel we have a chance to go out there and do some good things. We’ve played some really good basketball teams. I feel like this team may be the one that can go and surprise some people.”
The Lady Buccaneers are led by sophomore guard-forward Siarre Evans, who leads the team with 13.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Senior Michele DeVault, also a guard-forward, chipped in with a career-high 12.8 points this season.
This is the first meeting between these schools, with the winner meeting Ohio State or Florida State in the second round on Monday.