Feb 23, 2003

By OWEN CANFIELD
AP Sports Writer

NORMAN, Okla. - Oklahoma may have sent a message while beating Kansas to move into a first-place tie with the Jayhawks in the Big 12.

"Our program, from a consistency standpoint, we're getting pretty good," coach Kelvin Sampson said after his team's 77-70 victory Sunday. "Kansas has set a standard for this conference and will continue to do so. But at the same time, Oklahoma basketball is getting pretty good."

The fifth-ranked Sooners were better than that for 25 minutes in building a 32-point lead, then withstood a rally that saw No. 6 Kansas get within five in the final 30 seconds.

Hollis Price and Quannas White each scored 19 points for the Sooners (19-4, 10-2), but there were contributions throughout the lineup as they extended the nation's longest homecourt winning streak to 36 games.

De'Angelo Alexander came off the bench to score 12 points and Ebi Ere had 11. Little-used Jozsef Szendrei, playing 23 minutes because of an injury to center Jabahri Brown and foul trouble that handcuffed Johnnie Gilbert, had 11 rebounds.

"I said before the game, at my press conference Thursday, that I thought they were playing the best basketball of anybody in the league and I really believe that," Kansas coach Roy Williams said.

"Oklahoma's team defense is extremely impressive, and their team offense gets the ball to the guys who should get the shots, and those guys take them and make them."

Kirk Hinrich scored 21 points, Wayne Simien had 17 and Nick Collison had 15 points and 14 rebounds for Kansas (20-6, 10-2), which shot just 34 percent. Collison was 5-of-18. The Sooners took control early by hitting their shots and controlling the backboards at both ends of the floor. White had three 3-pointers and Price had two as Oklahoma went 6-of-10 from behind the arc in the first half.

The Sooners had a 10-3 lead in the first five minutes, stretched it to 17-6 with 11:30 remaining and went on to lead by as many as 21.

"They did a good job against our defensive sets," Kansas guard Keith Langford said. "We were in situations where it was one on one at the top of the key and they exploited us."

Brown was an early surprise on offense, scoring seven of the Sooners' first 12 points. He also had two blocks before getting knocked out at the 10:15 mark and leaving the game with a concussion.

"He did a great job for us, and I think we fed off of him a little bit," Price said.

Kansas got several good looks early that didn't fall. The Jayhawks missed 17 of their first 20 shots and shot 26.7 percent in the first half (8-of-30).

"In the first half not only were we not in the same building with them, we were not even in the same league," Williams said.

Kansas then scored one point in the first 4 minutes of the second half while Oklahoma pushed its lead to 59-27.

A 3-pointer by Langford with 15:26 remaining started a 21-5 run that got the Jayhawks within 64-48. The Sooners led 70-54 before Kansas scored seven straight to make it 70-61 with 2:47 to play.

Price came up with one of game's biggest shots, a leaner over Hinrich that stopped the Kansas run and gave Oklahoma a 72-61 with 2:13 remaining.

Price later missed two free throws - he had made 36 in a row before that - and White missed two with 54 seconds left and Oklahoma leading 72-66.

Collison missed from in close with 42 seconds left and the Jayhawks turned it over six seconds later when an alley-oop pass from Aaron Miles to Collison banged off the rim.

White followed with a free throw for a 73-66 lead, and a shot by Collison with 23 seconds remaining was as close as Kansas got.

"When you combine great defense with making shots, it's going to balloon a lead," Sampson said. "We knew Kansas would come back. Their program's too good. Their players are too tough."

The record for biggest deficit overcome to win a game is 32 points by Duke against Tulane on Dec. 30, 1950. The Blue Devils were down 54-22 late in the first half before winning 74-72.

Kansas is the last team to win in Norman, on Jan. 13, 2001. But Oklahoma has won three of the past four meetings, including twice in the Big 12 tournament.

"The fact of the matter is they're playing great basketball and they do get fired up to play us," Williams said. "We have to get just as fired up to play them."