She Was Literally On Fire

By Jeff Lippman - January 13, 2008

Never before has a post in "She's On Fire" been as appropriate to its title.

Oklahoma State's Andrea Riley truly was on fire Saturday against Oklahoma. The 5-foot-5 sophomore guard from Dallas' Lincoln High School scored an incredible 45 points - 37 in the second half alone! - and literally could not be stopped during the Cowgirls beat down of the No. 6 team in the nation.

The first time I saw Andrea Riley was during last year's NCAA Tournament. In that game, the freshman Riley did all she could, scoring a game-high 20 points, but the Cowgirls lost to Bowling Green. Still, you could tell that it wouldn't be the last time you heard Riley's name.

With that said, whoa! I didn't expect her to drop 45 points on Oklahoma.

"Half of the players were on her, and she still scored. She just took over this game," said teammate Maria Cordero after the game. "She was scoring, and you might as well let her keep the ball because she was scoring and no one could guard her."

The 45 points is the most points ever scored by a Cowgirl at Oklahoma State's Gallagher-Iba Arena, and it is the second-highest total by a woman's player in the history of the school. Riley is averaging 22.5 points per game this season after Saturday's total, she is also one of the nation's leaders in steals.

What makes the feat most impressive is the fact that it came against Oklahoma - a team that prior to Saturday owned a 17-game winning streak against the Cowgirls. Thought by most to be the class of the Big 12, this thumping that OK State put on the Sooners proves once again just how tight a race the Big 12 will be this season. No team is safe.

When the buzzer sounded and the upset was complete, fans rushed the court, Cowgirls danced uproariously and Gallagher-Iba Arena was engulfed in joyous jubilation.

Third-year Cowgirls coach Kurt Budke, who did an amazing job turning OK State from a team that lost 17 straight games two seasons ago into an NCAA Tournament team last year and this year has his sights set on a Big 12 title, wore a bright orange sportcoat for the game, symbolizing just how important it was for the Cowgirls to get the victory.

After the game, Budke spoke to the fans: "We could not have done this tonight without the greatest crowd in America," he said. "I think tonight we might have seen the best player in the conference in Andrea Riley."

That's a tall statement considering Oklahoma's Courtney Paris was probably sulking in the locker room after her 15 point, 19 rebound performance, good enough to extend her consecutive double-double streak to a ridiculous 74 games.

But, if you think about it, the best players play their best when the biggest games are on the line, and for Oklahoma State there was no bigger game to date. Last season, when Oklahoma came into Stillwater and beat the Cowgirls, Paris scored 41 points in the process. She played huge and it was the difference.

So if Andrea Riley had that game in the back of her mind she realized it would take an inspired performance to duplicate what Paris and the Sooners did to her Cowgirls last year.

Riley didn't want to match Paris, she one-upped the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year. Maybe Budke is more right than we think about Riley being the best player in the conference. Just a sophomore, be thankful that we have two and a half more seasons to find out.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 12:29 PM on January 13, 2008

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