Travis Ford buys 400 student tickets

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State men's basketball coach Travis Ford and his wife, Heather, have purchased 400 student tickets for the Cowgirls' WNIT final Saturday against James Madison.

"The Cowgirls are playing great basketball right now," Ford said in a statement released by the university. "They need and deserve all the support they can get while trying to win the WNIT championship. Anything Heather and I can do to help them achieve this goal, we're willing to do.

"I just hope we can get as many students as possible at the game to cheer on the Cowgirls to victory."

That the Oklahoma State women are on the verge of winning a title would be an uplifting end to a heartrending four months. In mid-November, one game into the season, coach Kurt Budke, 50, and 36-year-old assistant Miranda Serna died when a single-engine plane transporting them on a recruiting trip crashed in Arkansas.

Jim Littell, who was associate head coach on Budke's staff, was named head coach on Dec. 9. He said the Cowgirls' resilience, effort and attitude have been the components crucial to their success.

"They've had the idea, the philosophy, to pay honor all year long" to the memories of Budke and Serna, Littell said during a Thursday night interview on "SportsCenter." "It was a tremendous tragedy for the Oklahoma State program and the community."

The Cowgirls (21-12) play host to James Madison (29-7) at 3 p.m. ET in the WNIT final. According to the university, current students with a valid student ID can go to the table at the north end of Gallagher-Iba Arena starting at noon Saturday and pick up a single ticket until the full allotment purchased by the Fords has been claimed.

"It's a team right now that is playing with a lot of purpose and has a lot of desire to get better," Littell said on "SportsCenter." "It's been a great year and we've got a great support staff and the kids have really enjoyed bonding."

Additional student tickets will be available for purchase at the arena ticket office for $5.

"Our coaching staff and team are very appreciative of the continued support from Coach Ford and Heather," Littell said in a statement. "They have been and continue to be very gracious to our program."