Feb 27, 2002

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  • S. Coale
  • J. Cunningham
  • S. Dales
  • J. Talbert

    By OWEN CANFIELD
    AP Sports Writer

    NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Fifth-ranked Oklahoma didn't shoot all that well and didn't defend as well as coach Sherri Coale would have liked, although she wasn't complaining after a 75-56 victory over No. 15 Texas Tech.

    "Texas Tech's a really good team, and I guess when you look at it through the lens of the emotion of this evening, I'm pretty pleased with it," Coale said Wednesday night.

    The Sooners (24-3, 14-2 Big 12) said farewell to six seniors, including Stacey Dales and LaNeishea Caufield, who have helped lead them to three straight regular-season conference titles.

    Dales had 17 points, 14 in the second half, and Caufield scored 18 as Oklahoma beat Tech (17-10, 8-8) for the fourth straight time.

    Dales, whose family made the trip from Ontario, Canada, for the game, cried during her post-game remarks to the crowd as she thanked her coaches and teammates.

    "This is a great night, but come with us to the Final Four," she said.

    The Sooners held Tech to a season-low 31 percent shooting. The Lady Raiders, who had shot 52 percent during the three-game winning streak they carried into this game, missed several open shots inside.

    "I'm disappointed in the way we shot the ball," coach Marsha Sharp said. "I thought we played well enough at times to have a chance to stay in it. We had some good looks at the basket and just missed a lot of shots.

    Natalie Ritchie led Tech with 18 points. Leading scorer Jia Perkins had just eight, half her average, on 4-of-19 shooting.

    Dales, just 1-of-4 from the field with four turnovers in the first half, started the second half by scoring inside and then hitting a 3-pointer to give the Sooners a 38-25 lead. She added a three-point play later as Oklahoma pushed the lead to 45-31.

    After Ritchie scored seven straight to get Tech within 45-38, Oklahoma scored seven in a row to again go ahead by 14. They Sooners took a 61-46 lead on two free throws by Rosalind Ross with 4:07 left before Lady Raiders scored eight straight to get within 61-54 with 2:25 to got. It was all Oklahoma the rest of the way.

    The Lady Raiders took an early five-point lead before Oklahoma went on an 8-0 run. The teams stayed within a few points of each other for the next several minutes, and Tech took what proved to be its final lead, 20-18, on a jumper by Ritchie with 7:06 left.

    Another 8-0 run, which included 3-pointers by Ross and Caton Hill, gave Oklahoma a 27-20 lead. The Sooners held an eight-point advantage at halftime despite committing a dozen turnovers.

    "We need to play better," Coale said. "We need to play smarter. We need to play fresher, and that's my job, to figure out how to get them that way.

    "Every team in America is tired. Every team in the Big 12 is tired. It's more of a mental freshness that I'm searching for."