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NCAA PREVIEW

This Title Isn't Easy for Sooners

March 17, 2003|From Associated Press

DALLAS — The Oklahoma Sooners are headed into the NCAA tournament on a bit of a roll, having won the Big 12 Conference tournament for the third consecutive season.

But if they don't start scoring more points in the second half, they won't last very long.

The No. 6 Sooners led Missouri by 22 points with 15:05 left in the title game Sunday, then failed to make another basket. It took two big defensive stands in the final minute to pull out a 49-47 victory.

The NCAA selection committee apparently was more swayed by the hot start than the cold finish, giving the Sooners (24-6) the No. 1 seeding in the East Region.

Missouri (21-10) will play No. 11 Southern Illinois in a Midwest Regional on Thursday in Indianapolis.

Though Coach Kelvin Sampson says these Sooners aren't as strong as last year's team that reached the Final Four, they'll start trying to earn a return trip Thursday when they play South Carolina State in Oklahoma City.

"For me to rack my brain about what's wrong would be to make something way too complicated out of something simple," Sampson said.

"We don't go into halftime and say, 'Let's slow down, let's get conservative, let's not make any shots and let them come back on us.' Contrary to belief, I'd like for them to extend the lead."

Oklahoma scored only 12 points in the second half, one day after getting only 18 in the second half of a semifinal against Texas Tech.

The collapse included 14 straight missed shots -- some wide open, some forced. On one occasion, Quannas White hit the side of the backboard and Hollis Price had to attempt a 35-footer because the shot clock was about to expire.

Oklahoma also had seven turnovers, including a three-second violation and a shot-clock violation.

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