The Southwestern Oklahoma State Bulldogs are one of the hottest teams in Division II women’s basketball. Winners of 17 in a row, they are in firm control of the Great American Conference and climbing the national rankings on a weekly basis.
Partners in crime Hailey Tucker and Hayden Priddy are at it again. Tucker, who recently joined SWOSU’s exclusive 2,000-point club, became the conference’s all-time leading scorer earlier this season and is looking to end her career by getting to Columbus, Ohio for the Elite Eight.
She caught up with NCAA.com to fill us in on what makes her and the Bulldogs click.
The Bulldogs are out to avenge their opening night loss
SWOSU entered the season in the national rankings, ready to bounce back from its early first-round exit in the NCAA tournament. Emporia State had other plans, however, handing the Bulldogs a 68-60 loss in Game 1.
The Bulldogs haven’t lost since.
“Oh man,” Tucker said. “That opening loss was a heartbreaker. We played awful. We full court press the whole game, we don’t stop, and we just weren’t very good at it at that point. Now we’re fixing it, getting the tweaks out. I wish we can go back and replay that game.”
This is what 4,707 combined points (and counting) looks like!— SWOSU Athletics (@SWOSUAthletics) January 25, 2019
Congratulations to Hailey Tucker, who joins the legendary Kelli Litsch as the only two players in SWOSU Women’s Basketball history who have scored more than 2,000 career points! #GoDawgs pic.twitter.com/Pxqr6gE2Nj
The Bulldogs are an eight-point loss shy of being one of four remaining undefeated teams in DII women’s basketball. That drive is fueled by last year’s three-point opening round loss to Fort Hays State in the NCAA DII tournament.
“We don’t want to be in that position again. I think we could have beaten Fort Hays State. It puts a little fire underneath us because we have everyone back from that team. We want to be able to make it to that game again and win it and keep winning.”
Luckily for the Bulldogs, they already have two wins against their biggest conference foes. There's two more looming to close the season, so this momentum is huge. Quite literally, as Tucker knows it's the size of Harding's frontcourt that gives the Bulldogs fits. “I give so much respect to Harding. It’s hard to match up against them because they are long and tall and very big. Even though you think you have a big team, compared to Harding, you don’t.”
The Bulldogs don’t mind a little superstition
This SWOSU team is loaded with talent. Priddy is the program’s all-time assists leader. Tucker seemingly breaks a scoring record every night. When healthy, sophomore Bethany Franks is a monster on the boards, leading the GAC with 9.4 rebounds per night.
That doesn’t mean the Bulldogs don’t look elsewhere for a little help each night.
“It’s gross almost,” Tucker said. “I’ve been wearing the same sports bra since like eighth grade. I know we have girls that don’t wash their knee pads and stink up the whole locker room, but hey, we haven’t lost.”
As far as what music gets them going before the game, well, that’s a little out of their hands.
“We tried to make a playlist, but it [wasn’t very appropriate]. So, they don’t really let us choose the music anymore.”
The dynamic duo of Priddy and Tucker
Priddy and Tucker arrived on the Weatherford, Oklahoma campus as freshmen in 2015. The two have been roommates, rewritten the record books, and piled up 83 wins (and counting) in their illustrious careers. They are two of three Bulldogs — Tyra Aska recently joined them — that have broken the 1,000-point mark.
While a 17-game win streak is a complete team effort, there’s no questioning who this program’s heralded leaders are.
“We’ve been friends since we got here. We can usually finish each other’s sentences. Coach Musick loves to yell at us together, it’s an ongoing joke. I’ll turn to Hayden and be like, ‘I don’t even remember that happening, it probably wasn’t us,’ but I’ll take that role.”
There is one thing the two have not yet accomplished. Of those 83 wins, nary a one has come in the NCAA DII tournament. Is this the team to take the Bulldogs to the Elite Eight?
“I hope so. We can really do this thing. We want to write the story for the NCAA era.”
A career in sports is the next step for Hailey Tucker
Tucker isn’t only busy when the basketball season is in session. She’s the SWOSU beat reporter, interviewing coaches during the fall and spring when hoops season comes to an end.
“I love watching the games. I love football, it’s the number one thing I’d love to do. It’s what I’ve wanted to do since middle school. I had a little streak where I switched to business, but then I sat in a business class and was like, ‘nope, this is not for me.’”
Of course, Tucker has her role models, many of which are the trailblazers that have opened the doors for young aspiring female reporters like herself.
“Of course, it’s typical, but Erin Andrews. I grew up watching her institute a role for women in sports broadcasting. Doris Burke, she’s another that has paved the way for women to be in this industry. I still catch some people I hang with say, ‘she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.’ I’m like, ‘yes, she does, you better watch out.’”
So, with the football-loving Tucker tearing up the hardwoods, can she make an accurate prediction for the coming Super Bowl LIII?
“I’m a big Tom Brady fan. I think the Pats will win it. I’m guessing 28-21.”