March 16, 2002

By OWEN CANFIELD
AP Sports Writer

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Jennifer Rizzotti's worst fears as coach were realized against Oklahoma.

Rizzotti, who led Hartford to its first NCAA tournament appearance, saw the Sooners bury her team with an 18-0 first-half run on their way to an 84-52 victory Saturday night in the West Regional.

"Every game we've played this year, I felt like if we played as hard as we could, we could win," Rizzotti said. "Tonight, I felt we could play has hard as we could and still be down 20 at halftime."

The Hawks committed 15 of their 22 turnovers in the first half, victims of tournament jitters and Oklahoma's superior talent. Rizzotti, who grew accustomed to being on the other side of blowouts during her All-America career at Connecticut, could only watch as her team unraveled.

"They're one of the best passing teams I've ever seen," she said. "Oklahoma knows how to share the ball, they know how to get it to the right people. They're just as good on the defensive end as they are on the offensive end."

Caton Hill had 14 points to lead four Sooners in double figures. Oklahoma (28-3), the top seed in the region, advances to play Monday night against ninth-seeded Villanova, which beat Pepperdine 67-46.

Stacey Dales and LaNeishea Caufield scored 13 points, and Dionnah Jackson had 10 for Oklahoma. Hartford (16-15) was led by Dorcas Miller with 13 and Kenitra Johnson with 12.

The Sooners opened with 3-pointers from Rosalind Ross and Dales. At the other end, Hartford turned the ball over on its first three possessions and missed its first three shots before Miller hit a 3.

Oklahoma was sloppy early, committing five turnovers in the first 5{ minutes. But when Caufield made a layup at the 14:02 mark, it started the 18-0 run in which the Sooners scored on eight of nine possessions and got baskets from six players.

"I think it has been pretty much our personality over the last couple of weeks, to come out of the tunnel ready to go," coach Sherri Coale said of the quick start. "We felt like we could maybe shock Hartford with the tempo from the very beginning."

During Oklahoma's run, Hartford was 0-for-5 with four turnovers and fell behind 29-5. The Sooners pushed the lead to 28 later in the half and led by 23 at halftime.

After Oklahoma scored the first five points of the second half, Hartford got no closer than 24.

Oklahoma used nothing but reserves in the final seven minutes. No starter played more than 27 minutes.

"The more rest we can get for these guys early in the tournament, the better that bodes for us later," Coale said.

Hartford had won nine of 11 coming in and got the NCAA berth by winning the America East Conference tournament.