8:00 PM ET, February 21, 2006
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 67-64."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.
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