MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -- Sherri Coale doesn't mind the talk about
whether her team can go through the Big 12 season undefeated.
With No. 9 Oklahoma already guaranteed the regular-season
championship and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, the
coach said going for a 16-0 league record is the only remaining
incentive to keep playing hard.
"I'm really glad that we have this carrot of going undefeated,
to dangle out there in front of them to keep them directed and
going after a prize," Coale said after Oklahoma used a late 16-4
run to beat Kansas State 78-64 on Tuesday night. "It's like a good
hunting dog -- they need something to chase."
Courtney Paris extended her nation-leading string of
double-doubles to 20, finishing with 22 points and 15 rebounds for
Oklahoma. It was the freshman center's 25th double-double of the
season, also a national high, and her rebounds highlighted the
Sooners' 47-27 advantage on the boards.
Kansas State made Paris work for her numbers, though, playing a
physical game that sent her to the line 11 times.
"Toward the second half of the season, teams have gotten a lot
more physical," Paris said. "They did a good job, and I think
that is a good strategy, but it was definitely a lot more physical
than it has been."
Three other players also scored in double figures for Oklahoma
(24-4, 14-0 Big 12). Chelsi Welch added 14 points, Kendra Moore had
13 -- seven in the Sooners' decisive late surge -- and Britney Brown
finished with 11.
Kansas State (17-8, 7-7) has lost three consecutive conference
games for the first time since dropping eight straight in 2001.
Still, coach Deb Patterson was glad that her young team was able
to hang in against the Sooners as long as it did.
"In the second half, I think the difference was that we didn't
finish shots," Patterson said. "I thought our execution was still
as intense, we were committed, we didn't turn the ball over -- but
we didn't finish our shots."
Oklahoma trailed 39-36 at halftime -- the first time this season
an unranked opponent led the Sooners at the break -- but opened the
second half with a 14-2 run for a 50-41 lead.
Claire Coggins scored seven points in Kansas State's answering
run, including a 3-pointer for a 50-all tie with 13:41 to go. It
was still tied, 60-all, when Kansas State's Marlies Gipson hit a
runner off the glass with just over 6 minutes left.
Moore answered 7 seconds later with a pair of free throws,
putting the Sooners up 62-60, and Kansas State managed just one
more field goal down the stretch as Oklahoma steadily pulled away.
The Wildcats got to 63-62 on Jessica McFarland's free throws
with just over 5 minutes to go, but Moore answered with two quick
baskets for a 67-62 lead. Kansas State didn't score after Gipson's
layup with just under 4 minutes left cut the Sooners' lead to
"I missed some layups, we didn't crash the offensive boards and
the shots just wouldn't fall," said Gipson, who finished with 10
points. "Then they were able to come down and get some scores.
It's frustrating, but it's not something you can dwell on."
The first half followed a similar pattern, with Oklahoma
dominating early before the Wildcats rallied.
The Sooners jumped out to an 18-4 lead in the first 7 minutes,
but Kansas State responded with a 22-5 run -- capped by back-to-back
3-pointers from Twiggy McIntyre -- to go up 26-23 with 6:15 left in
the first half.
"We jumped out to a quick lead and just went away for a
while," Coale said. "We became observers instead of players, and
its very important to continue to play, especially against a team
that has the sense of urgency that K-State has right now."
McIntyre led the Wildcats with 15 points, Coggins added 13 and
Gipson had with 10.