Longhorns now a No. 1 seed in NCAA?

Sunday, March 9th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ After he helped bring his team back from a 15-point second-half deficit to beat Oklahoma, Texas guard T.J. Ford was asked whether the Longhorns expected to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

``I don't know how they pick who is a No. 1 seed or not,'' Ford said. ``As long as we're in the tournament, that's all that matters.''

The fourth-ranked Longhorns are a tournament lock, of course, and Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson has no doubt they will be a top seed.

``Texas is a 1 seed, and they should be,'' Sampson said Saturday. ``To come into this gym and win the game today, they should be a 1 seed.''

The Longhorns (22-5, 13-3 Big 12) trailed 58-43 with just under 14 minutes to play and it looked as though No. 5 Oklahoma was headed toward a 38th straight home victory and a No. 1 seeding.

But the Longhorns scored nine straight points to cut the lead to six, then stayed in striking distance before finally taking advantage of an Oklahoma cold streak in the final minutes.

The Sooners led 71-65 with 4:19 remaining, after a 3-pointer by Quannas White, but they didn't score the rest of the way. His basket represented Oklahoma's only points in the final six minutes as the Sooners were outscored 17-3.

``Coach said if we tie the game in the last four minutes, we will win it,'' said Texas guard Royal Ivey, who scored 16 points including two big baskets in the late rally. ``We knew we had 'em on the ropes.''

Ford, who led Texas with 18 points and 10 assists, scored all 14 of his second-half points in the final 10 minutes. After a short jumper by Ivey tied the score at 71, Ford made a free throw to give the Longhorns the lead.

He missed his second try from the line, but teammate Brian Boddicker grabbed the long rebound and got the ball to Ford, who dribbled time off the clock before driving to the right of the lane and hitting a fallaway jumper over White for a 74-71 lead.

Oklahoma had three chances to score in the final 20 seconds. Hollis Price missed a jumper, but Oklahoma got the rebound. After a timeout, Kevin Bookout missed a chip shot after catching a lob pass near the rim. Finally, De'Angelo Alexander's open shot from the top of the key bounced off the rim.

James Thomas grabbed the rebound, got fouled and made both free throws to seal the victory.

``We just stayed together. We stayed together and played together,'' Ford said. ``Everyone did their part.''

Texas coach Rick Barnes refused to read too much into the victory, his first in Norman in four years.

``Proud peacock today, feather duster tomorrow,'' he said. ``We've got to take it and do something with it.''

Oklahoma (22-6, 12-4) was left to wonder what had happened. The loss spoiled senior day festivities, which were held after the game. It made the Sooners the No. 3 seed in the upcoming conference tournament and likely cost them their shot at being a top seed in the NCAA tournament.

Sampson said he was disappointed in not being able to finish as the best team in the Big 12 South for the third straight year.

``I didn't know whether we could win the Big 12,'' he said. ``But I think it's significant to be the best in the south. We've been that for a while and I wanted to be again this year. We were a few plays down the stretch away from it.''

The Sooners missed five free throws in the final 4:03, including the front end of a 1-and-1, and were 0-for-8 from the field.

``You have a 15-point lead at home, you shouldn't lose,'' Sampson said. ``We had our opportunities. We have no one to blame but ourself.''