STILLWATER, Okla. — Vivian Gray knew the caliber of defense she was playing Wednesday night and decided to do something about it.
Against an Oklahoma unit that is only better than five teams in the country in scoring defense, Gray jumpstarted an Oklahoma State offense that was nearly lifeless at times in the season’s first Bedlam contest.
OSU beat OU 84-74 on Wednesday night inside Gallagher-Iba Arena as Gray, a sophomore from Argyle, Texas, scored a season-high 33 points, including 21 in the first half.
After OSU had a start that was reminiscent of some of its recent games, spotting OU a double-digit lead, Gray and the Cowgirls came to life when the Sooners reverted to their much-maligned defense.
“Honestly I didn’t know that I had that many points, I was just happy that we got the win and played really well as a team for the first time in a while,” Gray said. “I am really happy with how we came out and played tonight.”
The Sooners, whose scoring defense ranks 346th in the country and is only better than five schools, came out with a fury, trying to end an eight-game losing streak after starting the Big 12 Conference slate 1-0.
OU coach Sherri Coale’s game plan seemed to be working early as the hot shooting bamboozled the Cowgirls and seemed to break OSU’s spirit as the Cowgirls were on a four-game losing skid of their own.
“Game plan obviously was Braxtin Miller and Vivian Gray are their scorers,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “Stick with the game plan and deny them touches. Offensively, when we ran our stuff, we got what we wanted.”
However, Gray – one of the few players who has maintained consistency in OSU’s losses – once again started to bring the Cowgirls back from the depths.
Gray was helped by Alva native Jaden Hobbs, who was playing at another level in Bedlam and made four shots from the field for the first time since Dec. 2 against Tennessee.
“I thought (Hobbs) had a shoot-first mentality tonight,” OSU coach Jim Littell said. “For a long time, she has kind of looked on should she or shouldn’t she, but I really liked her mentality tonight to seek her shot and look for it immediately.”
Hobbs, who is the all-time leader in Oklahoma high school scoring, played like the Hobbs of yesteryear against OU, finishing with a season-high 17 points in 32 minutes.
“I was glad I was able to help the team win, especially with it being Bedlam,” Hobbs said. “I felt like my teammates put me in good position to get my shots off. … I think I need to me more aggressive sometimes and tonight, I showed what I am more capable of.”
The Cowgirls (13-8 overall, 4-6 Big 12) once again suffered third-quarter woes that have been typical of this team, though, as OU started the second half much like the first, on a 12-2 run.
The Sooners would overtake OSU shortly in the quarter behind strong shooting from McPherson, Kansas, native Taylor Robertson, who scored eight of her 11 points in the half before fouling out.
Robertson was not the leading scorer for OU, though, as the Sooners (5-16, 1-9) had three other players in double figures, led by Choctaw product Ana Llanusa’s16 points with Jessi Murcer and Madi Williams close behind at 15 and 14 points, respectively.
The OU offense, though, once again could not overcome a defense that once again allowed Gray and Hobbs to shoot lights-out in the fourth quarter with OSU regaining a lead early in the fourth that it never relinquished.
“I thought we started great and our third quarter was great, but our second and fourth quarters were just dismal,” Coale said. “That is our toughness, we aren’t very tough.”
Littell also pointed to good outings from junior Mariam Gnanou, who had seven points and six rebounds in 10 minutes along with eight points from LaTashia Jones, who hit a clutch 3-pointer.
OSU’s win was the third-straight in the Bedlam series and the sixth out of the past eight contests in Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Cowgirls travel to Texas Tech on Saturday whereas the Sooners will attempt to earn their second conference win with a home contest in the Lloyd Noble Center against Kansas State on Sunday.
“I hope that this is something that you can build off,” Littell said. “Going into this, both teams needed a win and were reeling a little bit. It is always nice to get a win and really nice to get a Bedlam win.”