Feb 19, 2003

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - When it came to Wednesday's milestone victory, Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp was realistic. But her players were euphoric about her 500th win.

"I have to speak for all the others, because coach Sharp is an extremely humble person," said junior guard Natalie Ritchie. "But from the beginning, she took this program and had a vision for it. She's done so many things for women's basketball. She's the reason a lot of us play, and it's an honor to play for her and an honor to be a part of this."

Sharp became the 22nd NCAA Division I women's coach to reach the 500-victory mark as the eighth-ranked Lady Raiders overcame a nine-point first-half deficit to defeat Oklahoma 59-48.

"It has not been as big a factor for me as just winning games this year," said Sharp, who along with her players wore a pin that read simply "Tech pride, Marsha Sharp, 500 Wins."

"At the same time, I don't want this to pass by without thinking about a lot of people who have been involved in this. I've told several people this week that this program is bigger than one person.

"The fans have been so awesome. We've coached a lot of terrific kids, and my staff has just been outstanding. I'm really proud of this milestone for the program, because 500 wins at one program in this day and time is a big thing."

Immediately following the game, Tech athletic director Gerald Myers presented Sharp with a plaque and praised a program she has built from the ground up into one of the nation's most consistent over the past two decades.

Plenette Pierson scored 23 points as Texas Tech (21-3, 10-2 Big 12) bounced back from Saturday's conference loss at Baylor.

Sharp has a career record of 500-156 (.762 winning percentage) in 21 seasons with the Lady Raiders. Her 500th win came in the same building where Tech's Bob Knight earlier this month won his 800th game, becoming just the fourth NCAA Division I men's coach to reach that plateau.

Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale congratulated Sharp.

"That's quite a milestone. I figured if I coached until I was 97, I'd have a shot at it," Coale said. "She's a classy lady, one of the best in the business, and I'm really happy for her."

Oklahoma (15-10, 6-6) has lost all six of its games against Top 10 teams this season.

Sharp, 50, has already clinched her 14th straight 20-win season. She has led the Lady Raiders to 16 NCAA tournaments, including the last 13, and their only national championship in 1993 when Sheryl Swoopes was playing.

"It feels great to be a part of this," said Tech freshman LaToya Davis. "Even though coach Sharp might jump down your throat, when she yells at you, it's because you know she cares."

Oklahoma held a 31-27 lead with 16:12 to play following a 3-point basket by Chelsi Welch, who led the Sooners with 23 points. The Lady Raiders took control with 14 straight points in a four-minute span to lead 41-31.

"I think when we got on that run, we got the crowd involved," Sharp said, "and they energized us on the defensive end. We were able to turn some defensive efforts into offense."

Pierson and Jolee Ayers combined to score the first nine points of the run before Natalie Ritchie hit a 3-pointer that pushed the Tech lead to 39-31. Erin Grant capped the run with a 12-foot jumper.

"I thought the 3-pointer by Ritchie was really one of the biggest plays of the game," Sharp said.

"They're the No. 8 team in the country," said Coale. "We came in here wanting to win this game, and we played that way throughout the first half. But if you can beat the No. 8 team on their home floor, then that's gravy."

The Sooners never got closer than seven points the rest of the game.

Oklahoma had just a 25-23 lead at halftime after Welch hit a baseline jumper for the last of her 12 first-half points.

Earlier this season, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and Texas coach Jody Conradt won their 800th games, with Conradt's coming in a victory over Texas Tech. They are the only women's coaches with more than 800 wins.