No. 16 Oklahoma 62, No. 9 Kansas 57

Saturday, March 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ It's not always how many 3-pointers you hit. Sometimes what counts the most is when you hit them.

No. 16 Oklahoma, scuffling all day offensively, got two timely 3-pointers from Kelley Newton in the final five minutes Saturday. That sparked the Sooners past No. 9 Kansas 62-57 in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament.

``It was fortunate we knocked down those shots,'' Newton said in terse understatement.

Oklahoma (25-6), which also hit 13 of its last 14 foul shots, will face Texas (25-7) in Sunday afternoon's title game. The Sooners swept both games from Texas in the regular season, including an embarrassing 75-54 romp at Austin that was the Longhorns' last loss before their current eight-game winning streak.

``They were struggling offensively and then Kelley made a couple of 3s,'' said Kansas coach Roy Williams. ``That's the thrill of the 3-point line, what makes college basketball great.''

Kansas (24-6) held a 48-47 lead when Newton connected with his first 3-pointer. Then with 1:40 to go, he hit a go-ahead long one that made it 57-54.

Kansas wasted a big height advantage, even misconnecting on three straight lob passes in the second half.

``I'd outlaw the dunk if I could,'' said Williams. ``For every lob that works, there's about 20,713 that stink the place up. It was bad decisions and bad execution. If they didn't watch SportsCenter, they wouldn't do that.''

It was 58-56 when Kansas' Drew Gooden made one of two free throws. Nolan Johnson answered a moment later for Oklahoma with two foul shots for a 60-57 lead.

Kirk Hinrich missed a 3-point attempt, got the rebound and put up another. But the ball bounced out of bounds on the second try, giving the Sooners the ball with a three-point lead and five seconds to go.

``Those were almost prayers at that point and those prayers weren't answered,'' Williams said.

Hollis Price, fouled immediately, sank two more foul shots, denying what would have been Kansas' fourth trip to the Big 12 final in five years.

Altogether, the Sooners shot just 32 percent but made 20 of 24 from the line.

``We shoot 100 free throws every day after practice,'' said Nolan Johnson. ``Then we just get in the game and make them.''

Former walk-on Jeff Ballard, who hadn't even averaged one point a game during the season, put in a driving layup with 1:13 left that sliced Oklahoma's lead to 58-56, then stole the ball. But Newton tied up Jeff Boschee, and with 32 seconds to play, Oklahoma got the ball on the alternate possession.

Newton had 17 points and Johnson had 16. Kansas, which shot just 37 percent, got 12 points from Hinrich and 11 from Boschee and Kenny Gregory.

Newton sank two foul shots to give the Sooners their biggest lead of the day at 52-48. Nick Collison erased it with a short jumper and a pair of free throws that tied it with 3:44 left.

Johnson, saddled with four fouls, put Oklahoma back on top with two free throws, and then Collison worked inside for another bucket and another tie.

Gregory, who averaged almost 16 points all season, fouled out with 5:05 remaining, taking away one of the Jayhawks' main weapons.

Kansas, an 82-66 winner over Oklahoma in their only other meeting this year, grabbed a 30-24 lead when Boschee hit a 3-pointer in the final minute before intermission.

The Sooners shot a miserable 8-of-30 in the first half, but Kansas was just 12-of-30.