Bedlam rivalries split households all across Oklahoma. The Bryan household is perhaps not much different than many others dotted across the landscape of the state when it comes down to OU versus OSU.
But for the Bryans, Bedlam goes far beyond fandom.
Rick Bryan was a big-time college footballer at the University of Oklahoma in the 80s, a time of plenty for the crimson and cream.
In fact, from 1977 to 1991 encompassing the years Rick was at OU the rivalry was rather lopsided. So lopsided that you’d have to call it one-sided, as the Sooners won all of their football meetings with the Pokes. Along with team success, Rick was blessed with individual success as a two-time all-American for OU. He was the ninth pick of the 1984 NFL draft and played nine seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.
Rick passed away in July 2009, right before the youngest in the family was entering her senior year of high school in the small town of Coweta, Okla. He wanted nothing more than his daughter to follow in the family footsteps and attend college where not only he attended, but also where his brothers Mitch and Steve played football, too. But that wasn’t in the cards for Jenni.
Instead, she opted to play basketball for Oklahoma State.
“OU/OSU – it’s always been [a rivalry],” Bryan said after Saturday’s Bedlam win. “It’s big in my family, and my dad played at OU, and he wanted me to go to OU. I didn’t get the opportunity, and I came to OSU and it’s just a challenge,” Bryan continued, “and I like playing in the challenge.”
On Saturday, she did more than play in the challenge, she overcame the challenge in monumental style. Bryan didn’t log even a second of playing time in the first half of the game. OU led 28-23 at the break and Jenni watched and waited from the bench until coach Jim Littell called her number.
Oklahoma State dug themselves into a hole early in the contest, and their 8-7 lead three and a half minutes into the game was their last until the final seconds. OSU was down by as many as 11 points nine minutes into the second half, but the Sooners couldn’t slam the door on their rivals.
Littell finally called Bryan’s number 11 with 11:45 to play in the game. She took the court for the first time in over 100 minutes of game action after watching both the Texas and Baylor games from the sidelines.
In the second half, Bryan logged 11 minutes, scored 10 points and pulled down five rebounds. She was 3-for-4 from the field, sinking both of her 3-point attempts. One of those triples came with 28 ticks on the clock and the Cowgirls down 63-62 to their rivals.
With 2:27 to play, a pair of OU free throws had the margin at 63-56 in favor of the crimson-clad. After two successful trips to the line for the Cowgirls by Bryan and Tiffany Bias, the lead for the Sooners dwindled to three. With 73 seconds to play, Bias sliced in for a layup and forced an OU timeout with the visitors up by a point. The ensuing Sooner possession was thwarted when Bias swatted away an Aaryn Ellenberg jumper and the Cowgirls scooped up the defensive rebound. Then, it was time for Littell to hit the drawing board in the huddle.
“We called a chase look and … that gives us three or four options where Tiff comes off the high ball screen, and we had Lindsey Keller on a pick and pop going to the left side, and we had Jenni on the right wing, and if she was covered we could have thrown it inside,” Littell explained. “So the kids ran what was drawn up to perfection.”
Seven seconds into the possession, Jenni on the right wing received a pass from Bias and went to work drilling a three and giving the Cowgirls the go-ahead basket. The OSU defense held serve to finish out the game, capping off the contest with their 11th block of the night on a desperation three at the buzzer.
Coach Littell praised the “extreme toughness” of the sophomore who sat sheepishly to his left. He talked about the importance that Bedlam has for Bryan and her ability to step in and step up when she’s facing the Sooners.
“That’s what makes me a good player is my toughness,” Bryan said. “I’m not blessed with a good shot or blessed with this or that, it’s just if I go out there and work hard I think I can achieve what I want.”
Jenni Bryan picked up right where her father left off so many years ago – winning Bedlam. But this time on the hardwood rather than the gridiron. And this time the victors were dressed in orange, not crimson. And her shot made this game one for the ages.