Martin leads Cowgirls into Sweet 16

Oklahoma State's Brittney Martin and her teammates are in the NCAA Sweet 16 but will have to face No. 1 seed Notre Dame on the Irish's home court. Pretty tough assignment for the No. 5 seed, right?

Sure. But, hey, Martin is a pretty tough kid. She was only about a month into her first college basketball season when she got a tooth knocked out.

She dove for a loose ball against Stephen F. Austin in early December 2012. One of the SFA players lost her balance and fell on Martin, whose face went into the floor.

"The initial hit was not painful; it kind of felt like if you bend a piece of licorice, maybe," Martin said. "Then I felt my mouth, and my teeth were in my hand. So ..."

Martin then smiled and pointed to her mouth.

"One cracked high in half, so I had to get it taken out," she said. "This one is still cracked in the corner. They had to put a fake piece on the side. I had just gotten my braces off. My mom cried. She was like, 'Noooooooo! Your beautiful teeth!'"

A dentist came into the Gallagher-Iba Arena training room, where Martin was, and he immediately began the process of trying to save her teeth. One made it, one didn't.

So was Martin, a 6-foot sophomore guard, scared for a while to even be out on the court?

"Well, I didn't really worry about it. Life is about experiences, right?" she said with a grin that looks just fine, in case you're wondering. "You gotta go through some tough ones. If it happens again, though, I'm going to have dentures, probably. Because I am not going through that root canal and getting a fake tooth put in again. That was the worst."

Martin is a funny, personable kid, and in talking to her, you can see why former Oklahoma State coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna liked her so much and wanted her to be a Cowgirl.

She is from Syracuse, Utah, about a half-hour north of Salt Lake City. She had initially committed to Utah as a high school freshman, but then her dad told her to at least think about reconsidering.

"He said, 'You've been in Utah your whole life; maybe you should get out and see some different things,'" Martin said. "All his family is from South Carolina; the military brought him to Utah, where I was born. So I decided to look around.

"Oklahoma State was the first of my five visits. And then when I got here, it was like ... you know when you have that feeling, that you're meant to be some place?"

Martin was aware it would be a transition to go to Oklahoma, especially as close as she is to her family. And she knew she'd miss the view of the mountains, although she isn't into snow sports.

"I have snowboarded once; that is not my thing," she said. "I am really bad. Plus, I am scared of heights."

So she felt sure she could adjust to the move south, and she committed to Oklahoma State. But not long after, in November 2011, Budke and Serna were killed in a plane crash on a recruiting trip.

"I loved them; they are what drew me here," Martin said. "It was such a sad situation. Of course, I had to sit then and think about it, because I had committed to those two people and they were gone.

"But then I realized I loved it at Oklahoma State -- all the people there. And I know I'm still playing for Coach Serna and Coach Budke. I think about them every day."

It's fair to say that everyone involved with the Cowgirls has emotions like that. Coach Jim Littell, a close friend of Budke's for years, had to take over the program while dealing with his own grief.

Oklahoma State won the WNIT title in 2012. Then last year, the Cowgirls made it back into the NCAA tournament, where they beat DePaul and then fell to Duke. This season, after tying for third in the Big 12, Oklahoma State lost a close game to Baylor 65-61 in the league tournament semifinals.

Another nail-biter followed in the Cowgirls' NCAA tournament first-round game, which they won 61-60 in overtime against Florida Gulf Coast. In the second round, Oklahoma State upset No. 4 seed Purdue on the Boilermakers' home court 73-66. Martin had one of the best games of her career against Purdue, leading Oklahoma State with 20 points and 20 rebounds.

As a freshman, Martin averaged 10.1 points and 6.2 rebounds. This season, with the Cowgirls having lost forward Toni Young to graduation and the WNBA, everyone has had to pick up the slack -- especially in rebounding. Martin has led the way on the boards, averaging 8.8 rebounds to go with 12 points per game.

Now she and the Cowgirls are playing in Indiana again, this time against an even more powerful foe. For Martin, though, this is exactly the opportunity that she hoped for when she came to Oklahoma State.

Even if it did cost her a tooth along the way.