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Stage set for point guard clash

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Last March, after Baylor was stunned by Louisville in the NCAA tournament, Oklahoma State's Tiffany Bias reached out to her fellow Big 12 point guard in distress.

Bias sent a text message to Baylor's Odyssey Sims, consoling her on the loss and complimenting her on a great season.

"Point guards talk to each other," Bias said in explaining her respect/concern for a player from a conference rival school. "I just told her, 'You played your heart out.' That's all you can say. I know as a player, in those tough situations, you don't want to hear too many words. But a few words mean something."

Leave it to Bias to always know the right thing to say. She's in her fourth season as the Cowgirls' leader on and off the court. She is the team's motor, one that never seems to wind down. Whether it's in the weight room, practice or a game, you have pretty much no chance of wearing out Bias. You will wear out first.

On Wednesday at Kansas, Bias helped the No. 8 Cowgirls rally to avoid an upset at the hands of the Jayhawks, who had done just that to Baylor on Sunday. Oklahoma State beat KU 64-56 to improve to 17-1, led by Bias' 14 points and five assists. Junior forward Liz Donohoe added 12 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocked shots.

"Very proud of these two here -- the way they played and the shots they hit down the stretch," Cowgirls coach Jim Littell said of Bias and Donohoe. "Good, experienced players, you call upon them at the end of the game to make shots. Liz was very dominant on the boards; had a lot of rebounds late that helped us secure the game. Tiff had a nice steal and run-out at a crucial point in the game. And I thought she did a good job of orchestrating our defense where we were switching and not giving up as many good looks."

Oklahoma State faces a showdown at the top of the Big 12 with Baylor on Sunday at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla. The Cowgirls are 6-1 in the conference, as is West Virginia, while Baylor is 5-1. Oklahoma State's lone Big 12 loss came at the hands of the Mountaineers; West Virginia's loss was to Baylor, which is 15-3 overall.

Sunday's matchup pits Bias versus Sims. They are both seniors who are their teams' top scorers this season.

In Sims' case, she's leading the Lady Bears (and the conference) in points by a mile, averaging 30.4. Bias, on the other hand, is part of a very balanced Cowgirls starting lineup. Bias averages 14.3 points, followed by sophomore Brittney Martin (13.2), juniors Liz Donohoe (12.4) and LaShawn Jones (9.8), and redshirt freshman Brittany Atkins (8.4). Bias leads the conference with 122 assists.

Bias is from Andover, Kan., near Wichita; Sims is from Irving, Texas. They didn't really know each other until they got to their respective colleges. Baylor has defeated Oklahoma State all seven times the teams have played during Bias' and Sims' college careers.

"I'm always the underdog in that situation, which is fine," Bias said of facing Sims and Baylor. "It's just about going out there and playing as hard as you can."

That is a given with Bias. She has averaged 7.9 points and 4.7 assists in her seven games against Baylor. In the first six of those contests, Baylor dominated: Oklahoma State lost by an average of 28.2 points.

But in the teams' most recent meeting -- last season in the Big 12 tournament semifinals in Dallas -- Baylor got a scare from Oklahoma State before holding on to win 77-69. Bias had 19 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds and 4 steals in that game. She and the Cowgirls were irritated that they didn't get that victory.

Oklahoma State went on to challenge Duke before falling 68-59 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on the Blue Devils' home court.

Oklahoma State lost Toni Young, a WNBA first-round draft pick, from that team; she averaged a double-double and was the Cowgirls' top scorer and rebounder last season. Yet they've still lost only once through 18 games this season and are currently the highest-ranked Big 12 team in the Associated Press poll.

"I mean, Toni Young, she was so athletic, and that was our rebounding star," Bias said. "Everyone now has to lock down and do the little things. Everyone has had to chip in to make up for the things Toni did. I put a lot of pressure on myself, but that's how it's always been."

As for Sunday, her eighth go-round against Baylor, Bias knows what it will take.

"They revolve everything around Odyssey, so the main thing is to try to not give her easy looks," Bias said. "What I'm going to focus on is playing good defense, and have that help create my offense. If I penetrate and pitch, that should be good for my shooters. It's a good matchup, and I'm ready to just give it my best."