John Klein: Oklahoma State women get emotional win one year after tragedy
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Monday, November 19, 2012
11/19/12 at 5:09 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog
STILLWATER - About an hour before Sunday's game at Oklahoma State, Weber State coach Bethann Ord spent some time at Gallagher-Iba Arena's memorial lobby.
Ord, a former assistant at Tulsa, was a good friend of OSU coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna, who were among four people killed in a plane crash one year ago on Nov. 17.
Ord wanted to pay her respects to old friends before the game.
"I sat our team down on Saturday night and told them what happened to coach Budke and Miranda," said Ord. "I wanted them to understand what kind of emotions, what kind of environment this would be on Sunday.
"This was difficult for everyone at OSU. It was also difficult for all of us in women's basketball and for all of us that knew Kurt and Miranda."
The Cowgirls played Weber State on Sunday, one year and one day after the tragedy that claimed four lives in an airplane crash in Arkansas.
OSU won, 101-49.
"It was good to get out there and play," said OSU coach Jim Littell. "You could kind of see the emotion of this week in the eyes of some of the girls.
"I think our girls were very aware of what this week was about."
The Cowgirls were terrific, jumping out to a 20-point lead 10 minutes into the game. They led 56-24 at halftime.
Weber State, loaded with freshmen in Ord's second season as head coach, was no match for the Cowgirls. OSU was sharp from the start despite a weekend that was full of difficult memories.
"We really just wanted to get on the floor," said Littell. "It has been a tough week, a tough couple of days.
"But, I was really proud of the kids. They came out and played pretty well."
It was an emotional day for everyone involved as the 22nd-ranked Cowgirls continued to move forward from that awful day a year ago.
A video tribute played on the scoreboard just prior to tipoff. It left many in the crowd in tears.
The game was the final event of a weekend full of "Remember the 4" tributes on the Oklahoma State campus.
Oklahoma State's football team wore "4" stickers on their helmets during Saturday's 59-21 victory over Texas Tech. OSU football coaches wore "4" stickers on their shirts.
The Chi-O clock on campus was decorated with four wreaths, which will remain through the holidays, in honor of the four crash victims. The Edmon Low Library bells rang four times at 4:10 p.m. Saturday in honor of the four.
A "Remember the 4" banner hung in the memorial lobby of the arena for fans, who were admitted free to the game, to sign. A private reception for family and friends of the victims was held prior to Sunday's game.
It was all a part of remembering the victims but also to start moving on to a season full of much promise.
"Everything we're doing right now is about getting ready for January," said Littell. "This is about getting ready for the Big 12 Conference and the kind of defense we're going to have to play in our league.
"But I really liked how we played in this game. If we continue to share the basketball and can get at least four or more double figures, then we're going to be all right most nights."
The Cowgirls were ranked 23rd in the preseason and are up to 22nd in the latest poll.
It is the first time OSU has been ranked in the preseason in four years.
There is good reason for optimism.
The Cowgirls, riding a wave of emotion in the wake of the crash, won the Women's National Invitation Tournament last year.
Littell, who steered the team through the tragedy to a postseason title, is starting his first full season as head coach.
Littell was Budke's best friend and admitted the days and months since the tragedy have been difficult for everyone around the OSU women's team.
However, he did a fantastic job in an impossible situation and coached the Cowgirls to a trophy.
It was an uplifting story that drew national attention.
Now, Littell hopes to build on the NIT title and put the Cowgirls in the race for the Big 12 Conference title, arguably the toughest league in women's basketball.
Certainly, defending national champion Baylor may be virtually unbeatable. However, there seems to be plenty of room for challengers for the second spot behind the Bears.
The Cowgirls hope to be in that mix.
Original Print Headline: Moving forward
OSU up next
Vs. Texas-Pan American 7 p.m. Tuesday
Oklahoma State student Taylor Miller signs a banner in the South West entrance of Gallagher Iba Arena. KT KING / for the Tulsa World
Freshman Oklahoma State guard Brittney Martin hugs Weber State head coach Bethann Ord after Sunday's game in Stillwater. KT KING / for the Tulsa World