March 7, 2002

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - This time the young and fearless attitude didn't work for Kansas State.

No. 4 Oklahoma team had the 13th-ranked Wildcats, who start three freshman and one sophomore, frazzled early and had no trouble turning a 17-point halftime lead into a 69-49 victory Thursday night.

Oklahoma (26-3) forced 23 turnovers by Kansas State (24-7) and converted them into 24 points to advance to its second straight Big 12 Conference tournament title game.

"We have some quickness defensively," said Oklahoma's Stacey Dales. "When you have a young team, that pressure can fluster you. They're really good in their youth, but it can get to you."

Dales led an experienced squad - four starters have played in four conference tournaments - with 19 points.

Rosalind Ross, Caton Hill and LaNeishea Caufield added 13 points apiece for the Sooners, who won their fourth straight game.

"We get so much spirit and enthusiasm from Stacey," said Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale. "It was another great defensive effort. It was tough for them to get good looks."

The regular-season champions will play Saturday against the winner of Thursday night's late game between seventh-ranked Baylor and No. 10 Iowa State.

Kansas State got just eight points from Nicole Ohlde, who averaged 18.2 during the regular season.

Kansas State's Laurie Koehn started the game with a pair of 3-pointers, and the Wildcats took a 14-8 lead. But the Sooners countered with two 10-0 runs, and built a 45-28 halftime lead.

"We knew they weren't going to lay down after we got an early lead," Koehn said. "We showed some mental weakness and they totally attacked it."

Kristin Rethman hit consecutive 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the second half to cut the lead to 15. But the Sooners, who led by as many as 25, scored six straight points, and Kansas State never got closer.

Kendra Wecker scored points 12, and Koehn added 11 for the Wildcats.