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Sooners pull away from Missouri, 81-75

The Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Oklahoma rolled into the Final Four by knowing when to get tough and when to keep cool.

Hollis Price scored the last of his 18 points on two free throws with 6 seconds left, and the Sooners won their 12th straight game, beating Missouri 81-75 Saturday to reach the national semifinals for the first time since 1988.

Ebi Ere scored 17 points for Oklahoma (31-4), seeded No. 2 in the West. The Sooners made their reputation this season with hard-nosed play on both ends of the court and that made the difference against the 12th-seeded Tigers, who were looking for a historic upset.

When the Sooners were faced with their stiffest challenge of a fairly trouble-free run through the West Regional, they buckled down on defense to claim the lead, then kept their tempers in check and hit their free throws down the stretch. It was Oklahoma’s ninth straight victory over its Big 12 rival.

After the final buzzer, Aaron McGhee and Jabhari Brown collapsed in a hug on the court, followed by their teammates. Kelvin Sampson, who advanced to his first Final Four in 17 years of college coaching, was wrapped up in a joyous hug by Price, his junior shooting guard.

It was a technical called on Sampson with under 15 minutes left and Oklahoma leading by eight points that precipitated a 10-3 Missouri run that pulled the Tigers within 54-53.

But Oklahoma never trailed in the second half, although the Sooners also never pulled away fully from the pesky Tigers, the lowest-seeded team ever to advance to the round of eight.

With the depth and toughness Oklahoma exhibited in four convincing victories in the West Region, the Sooners should pose a stiff challenge for Indiana or Kent State in Atlanta next Saturday.