March 9, 2002

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Oklahoma had won or shared three straight Big 12 Conference regular-season titles and still wasn't satisfied. But not anymore.

Stacey Dales scored 25 points as the fourth-ranked Sooners defeated No. 7 Baylor 84-69 Saturday night for its first conference tournament championship.

The win all but seals a first seed in the NCAA tournament for the Sooners, who won by an average of 22 points in three games in the tournament.

"There's no way we're not a No. 1 now," said Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale. "This is pretty special what we just did. But it's not over. There's a bigger picture here."

Oklahoma (27-3) fell behind early, but took control before halftime. The Lady Bears (26-5), who got 23 points from Danielle Crockrom, never recovered.

Oklahoma, the regular-season champion, forced 23 turnovers and beat Baylor for the ninth straight time.

"In my opinion they're the second-best team in the country," said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson. "We almost tied a record for most turnovers that snowballed on us."

Oklahoma stymied Baylor in the opening minutes to take a 6-2 lead. The Lady Bears shot 1-of-9 in the first five minutes. Then they couldn't miss. They hit on nine straight shots and built a 23-14 lead with 10:50 remaining in the half.

But Rosalind Ross hit a 3-pointer to cap a 13-4 run that tied it at 27 with five minutes left. Ross scored another five points during the Sooners' charge to a 41-29 halftime lead.

"We were so immersed in the game that we didn't realize we were on a run," Dales said. "Tonight was really big. Particularly, how we did it."

Dales hit consecutive 3-pointers to start the second half, and Oklahoma went up by as many as 19 points. Baylor, which had won eight straight games, never got within 12 points thereafter.

Dales, the tournament's MVP, added 11 rebounds. Ross had 16 points, LaNeishea Caufield 15, Caton Hill 12 and Dionnah Jackson had 11 for the Sooners.

Sheila Lambert added 15 points for the Bears.