No. 3 Oklahoma 78, No. 16 Colorado 67

Thursday, January 3rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma wasn't at its sharpest against No. 16 Colorado. The third-ranked Sooners committed 22 turnovers and had stretches where they played poorly.

Even so, Oklahoma won 78-67 Wednesday night, which was all that mattered to coach Sherri Coale.

``You learn in a league like this, that is so loaded with so many talented teams, to not ever take one of them for granted,'' she said. ``They can't all be pretty. We can't go through this thing and have 16 games that are perfectly executed. You win 'em how you can win 'em.''

The Sooners (11-1) won this one with their athleticism and versatility. They weren't as big as the Buffaloes, but still won the rebound battle 46-33 and got scoring from all parts of the floor.

Rosalind Ross, who struggled in an 86-72 loss to No. 1 Connecticut on Dec. 22, came back with a career-high 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds. LaNeishea Caufield had 16 points and eight rebounds, and Caton Hill had 14 rebounds to go with her 16 points.

It didn't matter that All-American Stacey Dales had just six points on 2-of-12 shooting, and had as many turnovers (five) as assists.

``They can score pretty consistently from all five positions, but definitely consistently from four positions,'' coach Ceal Barry said. ``If Dales wants to, she can score. That's what makes them tough.''

Ross was 10-of-16 and sparked several runs that gave the Sooners control of the game.

She scored six during a 14-0 first-half run that made the score 30-16. Colorado pulled within eight early in the second half, but Ross scored seven during an 11-2 run that pushed the lead to 53-34 at the 12:30 mark.

The Buffaloes, who struggled with their shooting and ball handling much of the night, scored on four straight possessions to cut the deficit to 58-50 with 5:40 remaining. Ross ended the run with a jumper, and moments later Caufield had six points in an 8-0 run that made it 68-52. The Buffaloes got no closer than nine in the final four minutes.

``Coach Coale got on to me. She said I needed to go out and play my game,'' Ross said. ``Not to be cocky or anything, just to go out and play the way I'm capable of playing, and I know my team is behind me.

``I had a good shooting game and when I was hot, everybody was looking for me.''

Mandy Nightingale scored 20 and Tera Bjorklund had 16 for Colorado (10-4). The Buffaloes have lost four in a row to Oklahoma after having beaten the Sooners in 10 of 11 meetings before that.

The Buffaloes shot just 26 percent in the first half and 40 percent for the game. They also turned it over 24 times.

Wednesday's game was the start of a stretch in which five of Oklahoma's first six conference games are against ranked opponents. The Sooners travel to No. 9 Texas Tech on Saturday.