At 5-5, Andrea Riley playing big for Oklahoma State
Posted: Friday January 18, 2008 1:25PM; Updated: Friday January 18, 2008 1:25PM
Tagging along with dad as he coached his AAU team, Andrea Riley was just a toddler when she first stepped onto a basketball court. Twenty years later, his words still stick with her.
"He told me, 'I know you want to play, but you're a little small,'" Riley said. "I've worked hard because I don't want to be the person that's too small to play. I didn't want to be the player that everyone pushed out because I was too small."
Riley didn't grow much, but now a sophomore at Oklahoma State, the 5-foot-5 point guard is the leading scorer in the Big 12, and a key part of the Cowgirls' rise to the top of the conference.
Last Saturday, Riley scored 45 points, grabbed four rebounds and had three steals and two assists as the Cowgirls' defeated Oklahoma, 82-63. It was the second most points scored in a single game in program history (Donna Ridling scored 51 against Tulsa in 1978).
"It's the single greatest performance I've ever seen," Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke said. "You definitely don't go into any game thinking somebody can do that, especially in the Big 12."
Riley followed that with another strong night, putting up 19 against Missouri on Wednesday.
A star at Lincoln High in Dallas, Riley originally committed to Miami before signing with Oklahoma State, saying she wanted to be closer to home. What intrigued Riley the most, though, was the opportunity that the Cowgirls presented. She liked the idea of leaving a high school known for state championships for a college looking to become a contender.
"I wanted to be part of someplace that was building, and I wanted to play against the best instead of being part of the best," Riley said. "I wanted to build something up to be one of those places."
Budke knew she would. Through his friendship with Riley's father, Roosevelt, a former member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Budke had watched Riley grow on the court over the years. When he left Louisiana Tech three years ago to take on the task of rebuilding the Oklahoma State program, Budke's timing couldn't have been better.
"There's no question I brought in an unbelievable staff to help me turn this thing around," Budke said. "But, you still need to have one great player that people want to play with."
The Cowgirls could take a big step toward their first Big 12 title in the next few days. With a three-game stretch that includes road trips against ranked teams, Texas A&M and Texas. With that and a matchup with Kansas State, the Cowgirls once again have a chance to stand tall in the league.
"The Oklahoma game, it was exciting," Riley said. "It was a big accomplishment, but at the same time, we have  more games. Nobody cares about anything but getting a Big 12 championship."
Out Of Order
Oklahoma State isn't the only team turning conference standings upside down. Schools that have become accustomed to being at the top are finding themselves in unfamiliar positions. Michigan State, a contender in the Big Ten in recent seasons, is off to a slow start. The Spartans have limped out to a 3-4 start in conference play. The losses include rival Michigan, which hadn't beaten the Spartans since 2002.
Then, there is Georgia. The Bulldogs followed a 30-point loss to Auburn -- their worst loss since 1999 -- with a loss to Vanderbilt on Thursday. Granted, it's early. But it's not often you see the Bulldogs open league play at 1-2.