STILLWATER, Okla. — An emotionally exhausting nine days for the Oklahoma State Cowgirls ended Saturday with hugs, tears and a few smiles.
In their first game since a plane crash killed coach Kurt Budke, assistant coach Miranda Serna and two others, the Cowgirls beat Coppin State 59-35 behind 17 points from Tiffany Bias.
The Cowgirls celebrated the victory by standing arm in arm on the floor and singing the university’s alma mater with the crowd of 3,557. Interim coach Jim Littell and many of the players then pointed their index fingers toward the sky and went into the stands to hug Budke’s wife, Shelley, and other Budke family members, who attended the game and sat behind the home bench.
Their presence didn’t surprise Bias, a sophomore guard who wrote “Serna” on one of her shoes and “Budke” on the other.
“It just shows how much OSU is a family,” Bias said. “That’s what the Budke family is. They’re a family, and we’re their extended family. No matter what the tragedy is . they are going to come out and support us.”
In the immediate wake of the Nov. 17 crash in Arkansas, Oklahoma State postponed home games last weekend against Grambling State and Texas-Arlington, but university officials decided to resume the Cowgirls’ schedule Saturday.
“It’s the best therapy we could have,” university President Burns Hargis said of the Cowgirls’ return to the court. “I just think the whole OSU family came together wonderfully. It’s not going to be easy. There are going to be a lot of tough times ahead. But if we pull together, we’ll figure out a way to get through this.”
The Cowgirls (2-0) have won 55 of their last 56 nonconference home games.
“I thought today got much deeper than just the basketball part of it,” Littell said. “I thought we had a chance to pay honor today.”