8:00 PM ET, February 24, 2010
NORMAN, Okla. -- Coach Connie Yori remembers crying almost every night during a difficult first season at Nebraska.Now, she only has tears of joy to shed.Kelsey Griffin had 30 points and 13 rebounds, Cory Montgomery added a season-high 24 points and No. 3 Nebraska won its first conference crown in 22 years by pulling away from Oklahoma (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP) on Wednesday night for an 80-64 victory."We just won the Big 12 title," Yori said. "We just won the conference championship in the toughest league in the country. It's pretty phenomenal."After allowing Oklahoma to overcome a 10-point deficit in the second half, the Cornhuskers (26-0, 13-0 Big 12) matched the Sooners blow for blow before finishing the game on an 18-1 run.Griffin lifted reserve Nicole Neals in a hug after the final horn sounded, and the entire team gathered and jumped up and down after the postgame handshakes. Nebraska hadn't won a conference title since claiming the Big Eight crown in 1988."There haven't been a lot of titles, and so Nebraska's really come behind us," said Griffin, who's averaging a double-double after missing last season with two surgeries on her left foot. "The whole state's just been super supportive through this run through the season that we're having. It means a lot to people."You just go to the grocery store or go to Blockbuster to pick up a movie and people are saying, 'It's so great to see you guys. It give us something to cheer about.' It's really great to have that support, to feel that. I hope it puts Nebraska basketball on the map," she said.To get there, the Cornhuskers had to get past Oklahoma -- which had won six of the previous 10 regular-season titles in the Big 12 and holds the distinction of having the only unbeaten run through conference play in 2005-06. The Sooners (19-8, 9-4) had also won 10 of 11 against Nebraska and hadn't lost to the Huskers at the Lloyd Noble Center since 1998.The Sooners got 16 points and a career-high 14 rebounds from Abi Olajuwon and rallied back from 10 points down to take the lead but didn't score another basket after going up 63-62 on Amanda Thompson's layup with 3:33 remaining.Nebraska ended up with the same margin of victory top-ranked Connecticut -- the nation's only other undefeated team -- had in Norman nine days earlier."They're both very gritty teams. They're both very physical teams. They're both balanced and score inside-out. And I think dominant post play is consistent through both," Sooners coach Sherri Coale said. "They're really good teams."Olajuwon had three baskets inside and Nyeshia Stevenson broke Oklahoma's 0-for-9 start from 3-point range as the Sooners scored nine in a row to get within 52-51 with 8:10 remaining. Jasmine Hartman's 3-pointer put Oklahoma up with 6:38 left.From there, the teams traded baskets and free throws back and forth until Turner stole Thompson's pass and turned it into a runout layup. Robinson missed a rare 3-point try at the opposite end, and Oklahoma unraveled from there.Montgomery added a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put Nebraska up 70-63 with 2:23 to play and Olajuwon's free throw provided Oklahoma's only point the rest of the way."We've got a very composed team. A lot more composed, as I say, than the coach. I'm thankful for that," Yori said. "Our team has shown that they can make plays in tough situations, and that comes with having veterans."Vonnie makes a big play, Cory makes a big play and Kelsey makes big plays. Those are three seniors," Yori said.Thompson and Danielle Robinson each finished with 15 points for Oklahoma."I don't think we fought for the full 40 minutes together as a team. I thought we kind of separated a little bit when they came down and made tough shots and we didn't," said Thompson, a team captain."We've got to learn from those little things and just kind of link up tighter when we're in those positions," she said.Griffin fought through double teams much of the night before finding room to operate at the high post. She finished one point shy of her career high and scored at least 30 points for the third time this season.The Sooners were only the fifth team to get to the foul line more frequently than Nebraska but couldn't capitalize, going 14-for-24."This was very much a microcosm of our season, this game," Yori said. "We have found ways to win, we have shown incredible toughness, we have shown incredible focus and desire."
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||29-66 (.439)||24-61 (.393)|
|3P Made-Attempted||7-25 (.280)||2-13 (.154)|
|FT Made-Attempted||15-19 (.789)||14-24 (.583)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||19 (0/0)||17 (0/0)|