Cowgirls fend off Kansas State rally to snap losing skid

Jan. 25—Jacie Hoyt has come to appreciate nights like these. They're earned, never given.

In her first season at the helm of the Oklahoma State women's basketball program, Hoyt's first few weeks of Big 12 Conference play featured back-to-back losses before responding with a three-game winning streak.

And the Cowgirls extinguished another losing skid on Wednesday night, too, defeating Kansas State 82-74 in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

"I actually threw the basketball away from my first win that I ever got," Hoyt said while reminiscing on her days at Kansas City. "I threw it away because I thought the team we beat was terrible.

"But I have come to realize how hard it really is to win, and I appreciate every win, no matter who it is now."

Hoyt and the Cowgirls (14-6, 4-4 Big 12) entered their second meeting with the Wildcats (13-8, 2-6 Big 12) on the heels of two-straight road losses to then-No. 12 Iowa State and then-No. 14 Oklahoma.

But OSU was able to rid itself of its recent woes, getting back on track with a win that helped the Cowgirls avoid their longest losing streak in league play. It also marked their first win over the Wildcats in four tries, the most recent being a 59-46 triumph on Feb. 17, 2021.

"It was not a pretty win. I wish we would've finished it out just a little bit stronger," Hoyt said. "But at the end of the day, winning is really hard — it's really hard in this conference. I will take it all day."

The Cowgirls were in position to win each of the previous two outings. They led both the Cyclones and Sooners with five minutes to play before their upset hopes withered away down the stretch. And it seemed as if that might be the case against the Wildcats as well.

K-State got within 5 points before OSU created separation with lockdown defense and by going 10 of 15 from the free-throw line throughout the final four minutes.

Fifth-year guards Naomie Alnatas and Terryn Milton paced the Cowgirls, scoring 17 points each. For Milton, it was nearly double her season average of 9.2 points per game, and it matched a season high that she first posted against Florida State in late November.

And for Alnatas, it ended a two-game slump. Both Iowa State and Oklahoma made it a point of emphasis to limit her production, and both effectively did that. She scored 16 points in the previous two games combined.

But exactly how nice was it for the Cowgirls' scorer to get back on track?

"Real nice," Alnatas said in the aftermath of the win. "There's no other words."

Without sophomore Anna Gret Asi, OSU's first guard off the bench, the Cowgirls needed others to step up. That's exactly what junior forward Taylen Collins and fellow junior forward Lior Garzon did.

Collins bounced back from an unwelcome performance against Oklahoma, a performance that featured her fouling out in five minutes of action. And while she picked up four fouls against the Wildcats, she returned to her usual self. The Muldrow native contributed 16 points and a game-high eight rebounds.

Garzon, who's made the most 3-pointers for OSU thus far, helped Alnatas fill the basket from beyond the arc. Those two combined to go 8 of 19 from deep (Alnatas, 5 of 12; Garzon, 3 of 7).

"One man down — first of all, the next man come up. But (Hoyt) asked every single one of us to give a little bit more," Alnatas said. "It doesn't come from just one more person, and I think that's just what we did tonight."

OSU's production wasn't even close to coming from one person. The Cowgirls were — and have previously been — at their best when sharing the basketball. Hoyt knows that. Alnatas does, too.

When Alnatas started to score, she capitalized on the defensive attention and started distributing the ball. She dished out seven assists, and so did Milton, who found herself in a similar situation once she got going early and often from the mid-range.

The Cowgirls made 27 baskets against the Wildcats, and 22 of those came on the backend of an assist.

"Everything changes. I mean, we have so many weapons," Hoyt said. "We feel like if we can get a paint touch, and kick out for 3s, then that's when we're at our best. Our kids were exceptional at that."

Hoyt and Co. won't have long before their revenge tour continues.

They've reached the point in their Big 12 slate where they'll meet up with conference foes for a second time, and that will continue when OSU makes the trip for a rematch with Texas on Saturday in Austin.

Follow News Press sports reporter Jon Walker on Twitter @ByJonWalker for updates on Oklahoma State athletics, Stillwater High sports and more.