Kansas, Oklahoma avoid upset bug

Sunday, January 6th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Throughout college basketball over the weekend, it was hardly safe to be highly ranked.

Being in the crowd at Oklahoma State's Gallagher-Iba Arena was more dangerous still.

While five of the highest-rated teams got infected by the upset bug, two who escaped were in the Big 12 _ No. 2 Kansas and No. 10 Oklahoma.

But one who did not slip away was No. 5 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys lost a big chunk of dignity while dropping a 70-61 verdict to Texas.

With about 18 seconds left in Oklahoma State's always-raucous Gallagher-Iba, Longhorn players T.J. Ford and Royal Ivey leaped into the crowd after a loose ball.

Ford collided with a pregnant woman, who toppled to the floor. Then a man next to the woman grabbed Ford and began choking him.

``Me and T.J. were just going for the ball,'' Ivey said. ``T.J. lost his balance and fell into the girl, then the guy grabbed him by the head and all hell broke loose.''

Before order was restored, other Texas players rushed to support their teammates.

Replays of the ugly scene will be seen for weeks. It means embarrassment for the school and the Big 12.

Said athletic director Terry Don Phillips, ``Something like that taints everything else. So we're just not going to let that happen.''

Said Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton, ``It's disappointing. Our fans, I don't care, you have to act better than that.''

Faring better were the Kansas Jayhawks and the hottest player in the Big 12. Drew Gooden, on the heels of a 30-point game against Valparaiso, scored 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead Kansas past Colorado for the 25th straight time. A sellout crowd of 11,076 turned out to see Kansas win 97-85.

Oklahoma had an even easier time with Texas A&M, beating the Big 12's perennial doormat 89-63 for its 10th win in a row.

Another ranked team that managed to win on Saturday was No. 17 Missouri. Even with Kareem Rush mired in a shooting slump, the Tigers got the best of Nebraska 60-53. Rush had only eight points, the first time he missed double-figures in 18 games.

Elsewhere as Big 12 teams tasted their first conference action, Wendell Greenleaf had seven points in a crucial 21-second span of the second half to lead Baylor past Iowa State 79-74.

And on Sunday, Bob Knight made his long-awaited Big 12 debut as his Texas Tech Red Raiders beat visiting Kansas State 74-49. Andre Emmett scored 23 points and Tech's defense produced 15 steals.

Oklahoma State's all-Big 12 guard Maurice Baker, slowed by a groin injury, played only 11 minutes and finished with 6 points.

``I think it's very evident Mo carries such a big load for us offensively,'' Sutton said. ``It seemed our guys kind of got out of rhythm and really didn't do some things we kept telling them to do.''

Adding to the Longhorns' happiness was the fact they were without their top player, Chris Owens, who was lost to a season-ending knee injury a week earlier.

``It's a whole lot harder losing a guard as opposed to a post player, especially when you count on a guy (like Baker),'' Texas coach Rick Barnes graciously said in victory.

``Mo Baker may be the player of the year in this league.''

While Gooden was enjoying another virtuoso performance, teammate Kirk Hinrich was having one of his best games as a Jayhawk with 19 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.

``He's a white guy, but he's athletic,'' Gooden said. ``That's a gift. We needed rebounds tonight, and he got them.''

The Sooners have won 16 straight at home.

``That's a Final Four caliber-type team right there,'' said Texas A&M coach Melvin Watkins. ``They're a very talented basketball team. They execute. They can rebound and shoot the basketball. They can score inside-out. Too much for us.''

Calling his Sooners a Final Four team did not seem to sit well with coach Kelvin Sampson.

``I'm sure people were saying the same thing about (about upset victims) O-State, Virginia, Miami and all those other undefeated teams. ... There's probably nine, 10, 11, 12, 14 Final Four teams.''