March 21, 2002
By ANNE M. PETERSON
AP Sports Writer
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Superstition gave Hollis Price his new hands and Oklahoma its chance to advance.
Price, off target during the pregame warmups, had 26 points and a season-high six 3-pointers as Oklahoma beat Arizona 88-67 Thursday night in the West Regional semifinals.
"I've got a superstition. If I'm not hitting in warmups, I'll come in the locker room, and I'll wash my hands," Price said. "I came out with a new set of hands."
Second-seeded Oklahoma (30-4) will play the winner of the game between UCLA and Missouri in the Sooners' first regional final since 1988.
Third-seeded Arizona (24-10), which lost to Duke in last year's NCAA championship game, could not overcome the Sooners' tough defense or Price, whose accurate outside shooting kept Oklahoma in it early before a sustained second-half rally.
"In the end I don't think there was any question," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "Oklahoma was quicker and a whole lot more explosive."
With Duke's loss to Indiana on Thursday, both participants in last season's final were knocked out within 30 minutes.
Aaron McGhee finished with 21 points and eight rebounds for Oklahoma, with 19 points in the final 7 minutes as the Sooners turned a close game into a blowout.
The Wildcats singled him out after he averaged 25.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in the Sooners' first two tournament games.
"When I was on the inside, I wasn't really hitting anything," McGhee said. "It was like there was a lid on the basket."
Arizona apparently forgot about Price.
"Early in the game he was feeling his shot - and you can't let a player like that get his stroke on," Walton said.
Oklahoma jumped out to an 8-2 lead, as Price made two 3-pointers. But the Sooners went scoreless for more than five minutes, and the Wildcats narrowed the gap before taking a 10-8 lead on Rick Anderson's jumper.
The Wildcats shut down McGhee, and Oklahoma had to rely on its perimeter shooting. Price carried the Sooners, with 22 of their 33 points before halftime.
The Wildcats took a 28-23 lead on freshman Will Bynum's acrobatic layup with 5:31 to go, and the Wildcats stretched their lead to as many as seven points on the way to a 37-33 halftime edge.
"I was really disappointed with our competitiveness in the first half," Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. "I got into them a little bit at halftime. I said, 'This isn't about winning and losing. This is about our identity.' You're always known for something, and in the first half, we didn't do the things we're known for."
Price made a mistake when he lost the ball at midcourt, and Gardner snatched it up as it rolled toward Arizona's basket. Gardner outran Price for the basket and got fouled to give the Wildcats a 44-40 lead.
But the Sooners went on an 11-0 run, capped by Ebi Ere's 3-pointer, to go up 51-44. They were able to slow down the speedy Wildcats during the spurt, and kept the game at their pace throughout the rest of the half.
"We've had a lot of games where we've had to battle," Olson said, "and in this one we got out-quicked and out-fought in the second half."