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Oklahoma 86, Duke 71
Posted: Saturday March 30, 2002 01:47 AM
Oklahoma
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Norman
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Duke
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Raleigh-Durham
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SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- Oklahoma is one win away from putting the ultimate finish on the most remarkable rebuilding job in women's basketball.

Rosalind Ross had a career-high 26 points and 10 rebounds and Stacey Dales scored 17 points as Oklahoma advanced to its first championship game with an 86-71 triumph over Duke in the Final Four.

In a sport that is dominated by an elite group of programs, coach Sherri Coale has brought the Sooners from relative obscurity into the national spotlight in just six seasons.

Oklahoma is the first Big 12 Conference team to compete in the Final Four but showed no signs of inexperience against one of the hottest teams in the nation.

The Sooners led by as many as 17 points in the second half before the Blue Devils rallied to pull within 64-62 on Michelle Matyasovsky's layup with 7:50 remaining. Caton Hill responded with a 3-pointer to spark a 19-3 Oklahoma run highlighted by eight points from Ross.

"I wanted the ball," Hill said of her clutch 3-pointer. "We really needed it then and I was glad to get the opportunity. It was open. I'll shoot anytime." "It was like a dagger for us to cut it to two and have Caton Hill hit that shot," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "You could just feel the momentum, because it took so much energy to get there. Unfortunately I think that was our big push, and they countered, which great teams do." Dales capped the burst with a layup for an 83-65 cushion with 3:09 remaining. Ross buried a pair of free throws with 1:48 left to give the Sooners their largest lead, 86-67.

Ross, who was averaging just eight points per game in the Tournament, made 7-of-14 shots, including 4-of-8 3-pointers.

The Sooners shot 46 percent (28-of-61) from the floor and made 21-of-24 free throws.

Hill finished with 14 points and LaNeisha Caufield was limited to 12 and four steals for Oklahoma, which advanced to a meeting with top-ranked Connecticut in Sunday's national championship.

Duke's Alana Beard had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists but was held in check by Oklahoma's defense throughout the game.

Beard made just 3-of-10 shots in the first half and took just five shots in the final 20 minutes.

"I don't think they did anything special defensively," Beard said. "Offensively we didn't execute like we needed to." Iciss Tillis had 19 points and nine rebounds and Wynter Whitley added 14 and eight for the Blue Devils, who had a school-record 22-game winning streak snapped and failed to reach their second championship game.

Duke (31-4) shot just 38 percent (28-of-73) and made just 4-of-20 shots from beyond the arc.

The Blue Devils had a 13-7 lead after Whitley completed a three-point play less than five minutes into the game, but the Sooners scored 20 of the next 22 points.

"We had to get a feel for the game and I think it took longer than expected," Hill said. "We were fortunate we didn't get any further behind than we did. But once we started sharing the ball, we were in control." Jamie Talbert scored the first four points of the burst before Dales sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give OKlahoma the lead for good, 14-13 with 13:42 to go.

Dales capped the stretch with a layup for a 27-15 edge and the Sooners carried a 40-28 cushion into halftime.

Dales buried another 3-pointer just four minutes into the second half to give Oklahoma a 54-37 advantage, but Duke responded a 25-10 run to close the gap.

Tillis scored 10 points and Whitley added five during the rally but Duke scored just nine points in the final 7 1/2 minutes.

 


 
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