Sports

Cowgirls hoping tragedy, tough lessons help them take next big step at Purdue

  • Oklahoma State guard Tiffany Bias, right, answers a question as head coach Jim Littell sits near during an NCAA college basketball tournament news conference in West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday, March 23, 2014. Oklahoma State faces Purdue in a second round game on Monday. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

    Oklahoma State guard Tiffany Bias, right, answers a question as head coach Jim Littell sits near during an NCAA college basketball tournament news conference in West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday, March 23, 2014. Oklahoma State faces Purdue in a second round game on Monday. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)  (The Associated Press)

  • Oklahoma State head coach Jim Littell answers a question during an NCAA college basketball tournament news conference in West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday, March 23, 2014. Oklahoma State faces Purdue in a second round game on Monday. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

    Oklahoma State head coach Jim Littell answers a question during an NCAA college basketball tournament news conference in West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday, March 23, 2014. Oklahoma State faces Purdue in a second round game on Monday. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)  (The Associated Press)

  • Oklahoma State head coach Jim Littell answers a question during an NCAA college basketball tournament news conference in West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday, March 23, 2014. Oklahoma State faces Purdue in a second round game on Monday. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

    Oklahoma State head coach Jim Littell answers a question during an NCAA college basketball tournament news conference in West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday, March 23, 2014. Oklahoma State faces Purdue in a second round game on Monday. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)  (The Associated Press)

Two and a half years after Oklahoma State's head coach and an assistant were killed in a plane crash, the emotions still run deep.

The usually blunt-speaking coach Jim Littell, who took over after the tragedy, still struggles to find the right words. Star guard Tiffany Bias acknowledges the players who were in Stillwater, Okla., on that dark November day in 2011 have continued to play hard as a tribute to those who started this rebuilding project.

So before Bias and the other Cowgirl seniors graduate, they have one more goal to honor those who died — reach their first Sweet 16 since 2008. All the fourth-seeded Cowgirls (24-8) have to do is beat fifth-seeded Purdue (22-8) on its home court Monday night.