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Sooners enjoying a turnaround

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 3, 2001


Back in 1990, things had gotten so dismal with women's basketball at Oklahoma that the administration briefly considered scrapping the program altogether.

In fact the program was canceled, although just for 24 hours.

At the time, Sherri Coale was a high school coach in Norman, Okla., teaching five classes a day.

Eleven years later, the Sooners have risen from the ashes, and the majority of the credit goes to Coale. Five years ago, Coale took over a floundering program and began engineering an impressive turnaround. After going 5-22, 8-19 and 15-14 in her first three seasons, Oklahoma finished 25-8 and reached the NCAA Sweet 16 last year.

This season, the Sooners earned the Big 12 regular season championship for the second season in a row and enter the league tournament with a 24-4 record and a No. 8 ranking.

Friday, the 36-year-old Coale was named Big 12 Coach of the Year for the second time in three years.

"Coach of the Year is just a reflection of the people who get on the court and make plays," Coale said Friday morning. "It should be renamed staff of the year. I don't know how you differentiate what we do for this team. And I don't win this award unless our players play well."

One of those players is junior guard Stacey Dales, who Friday was named Big 12 player of the year. Dales averaged 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds. Coale said Dales has been invaluable, especially aiding in the team's undefeated conference road record.

"When I talk about our team's balance, that is our strength," Coale said. "Our chemistry as a unit has made us special. But you don't go undefeated on the road if you don't have a go-to player -- somebody whom you can put the ball in their hands and know they'll take care of it. We've known that about her all along, but this year Stacey has proven that."

STILL BATTLING: Because the Pac-10 does not have a conference tournament, the league championship remains undecided with two weeks remaining in the regular season. Washington and Arizona State are tied for first at 11-4, followed by Stanford (9-6), California (9-7) and Arizona (9-7).

Without a tournament, the Pac-10 regular-season records become crucial. In 14 years of Pac-10 play, every team that has posted a 13-5 conference mark or better has received a bid into the NCAA Tournament.

WITH AN ASTERISK: Although Jackie Stiles of Southwest Missouri State earned the spotlight and the NCAA Division I scoring record Thursday night (with 3,133 points), there should be an asterisk next to Stiles' name and the record.

Kansas star Lynette Woodard scored 3,649 points between 1977-81, the AIWA large school record. But when the NCAA took over administering women's basketball in 1981, it began keeping its own records. In essence, the AIWA records no longer count.

Many basketball purists are using Stiles' accomplishment to rally a cause -- demanding that the NCAA consider adding AIWA records to acknowledge the accomplishments of women who excelled prior to 1981.

THIS AND THAT: Despite its 14-13 record and the fact that it's playing in the first round of the ACC Tournament, North Carolina can take comfort in this: the Tar Heels have advanced to the ACC Championship game in six of the past seven seasons. ... Duke enters the ACC Tournament having won three of the past four regular season titles and boasting National Freshman of the Year Alana Beard. ... Tulane's Janelle Burse remains the only player to rank among the NCAA statistical leaders in four categories -- scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots. ... Oregon has defeated two Top 25 opponents in its last four games (No. 23 Washington and No. 22 Arizona State).

- Antonya English covers women basketball. She can be reached at (813) 226-3389 or english@sptimes.com

South Florida at Southern Miss

WHEN/WHERE: 7, Green Coliseum, Hattiesburg, Miss.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports Florida (tape delayed 11 p.m.); WQYK AM-1010.

RECORDS: USF 17-11, 9-6 C-USA; USM 20-7, 10-5.

COACHES: USF -- Seth Greenberg (73-71, fifth season; 178-141 overall). Southern Miss -- James Green (85-61, fifth season).

KEY PLAYERS: USF -- Altron Jackson, F, 6-6 Jr. (20.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg); B.B. Waldon, F, 6-8 Jr. (17.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg); Cedric Smith, F, 6-6 Sr. (10.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Artha Reeves, F, 6-8 Sr. (6.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg). Southern Miss -- David Wall, G, 6-5 Sr. (14.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg); Vandarel Jones, C, 6-9 Sr. (12.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Elvin Mims, G/F, 6-6 Jr. (10.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg); Kilavorus Thompson, F, 6-7 Sr. (7.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg).

NOTES: After back-to-back losses to Memphis and Cincinnati, the Bulls try to regroup in their final regular season game before the C-USA Tournament. ... A win guarantees the Bulls a first-round bye. ... South Florida has lost three of five. ... The Golden Eagles are 11-2 at home. ... Southern Miss is coming off a win against Memphis which kept the Golden Eagles in a tie for first place in the National Divsion. ... South Florida is one game out of first place, tied with Charlotte and Marquette in the conference. ... With a start tonight, Cedric Smith will be one game shy of tying the USF all-time record for games played in a career (118) held by Charlie Bradley from 1981-85. ... On Friday, Jackson was among 150 players named to the Second Team, District 6 NABC /Chevrolet All-District Team, making him eligible for the All-American team to be announced after the season. ... Southern Miss leads the series 12-9, but lost by 10 on Jan. 6 at the Sun Dome. -- Compiled by Antonya English

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