Huskers' clinch Big 12 title

National Player-of-the-Year candidate Kelsey Griffin notched her 16th double-double of the year with 30 points and 13 rebounds and fellow senior forward Cory Montgomery poured in a season-high 24 points to power No. 3 Nebraska against No. 11 Oklahoma to clinch the Huskers' first-ever Big 12 title with an 80-64 win at the Lloyd Noble Center on Wednesday.

With the victory, Nebraska continued the best season in school history by improving to 26-0 overall and 13-0 in Big 12 action. The Huskers clinched their first conference crown since the 1988 Big Eight title. Oklahoma, the defending Big 12 champion and a program that has won 10 conference crowns since 1999-2000, slipped to 19-8 overall and 9-4 in the league. The Huskers clinched the outright title and the No. 1 seed in the 2010 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championships in Kansas City, Mo, March 11-15.

"This was an accumulation of a lot of hard work by not only all the players on this team, but the teams and players who have come before them," Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said after the game. "This game was a microcosm of our season. This team is the most mentally tough team I have ever coached, and the best practicing team I have ever coached, and the hardest working team I have ever coached. That all came together in the final 3:30 of that basketball game. Our players deserve all the credit, because they earned this win and this title."

The Huskers led by 10 on several occasions in the second, before the Sooners stormed back to take the lead. OU led 63-62 with with 3:29 left, before Nebraska claimed the title with an 18-1 surge down the stretch on OU's home court. Montgomery, who scored 19 points and hit 7-of-9 shots in the second half alone, scored seven points in the first two minutes of the stretch, including the go-ahead basket with 3:13 left.

Yvonne Turner, who managed just five points while being strapped with two early fouls, came up with a huge steal, a layup and a foul to convert a three-point play to push the NU edge to 67-63 with 2:57 to play. Montgomery then buried her fourth three of the game and third of the half to extend the margin to 70-63 with 2:18 left.

After an Abi Olajuwon free throw stopped NU's 8-0 run, Montgomery added a pair of free throws to make it 72-64 with 1:27 left. Dominique Kelley and Griffin then combined for the final eight points to complete Nebraska's first-ever season sweep of the Big 12 South teams with a 16-point victory.

The win was Nebraska's first for every player on the Husker roster, as NU had lost nine of its last 10 games against the Sooners. It was also NU's first win in Norman since 1998.

For Griffin, who sat out all of 2008-09 with a foot injury, it was a special victory.

"I love my teammates for giving me the opportunity to play with them every day," Griffin said. "This is a great moment for our team and this program. We have come along way together. We have been focused all season on our next practice and our next game. Tonight we are going to enjoy this victory. We have earned that. Tomorrow, we are going to be ready for our best practice of the year, because Saturday's game is the biggest game of the year."

Nebraska worked its way to a 52-42 lead with 11:18 play after a Lindsey Moore three. Moore finished with 10 points and four assists in a career-high 39 minutes. OU stormed back to take the lead before the two teams traded baskets for several possessions to set up NU's late-game run.

The Huskers hit 43.9 percent (29-66) of their shots from the field for the game, including 58.6 percent (17-29) in the second half, scoring on 11 straight possessions to end the game. NU also hit 15-of-19 free throws and 7-of-25 threes. The Huskers outrebounded OU, 45-38, while finishing plus-five in turnover margin (16-11).

OU hit just 39.3 percent (24-61) of its shots, including just 2-of-13 three-pointers. The Sooners were also 14-of-24 at the line.

Abi Olajuwon led the Sooners with 16 points and 14 rebounds, while Amanda Thompson and Danielle Robinson each pitched in 15 points.

Nebraska carried a 33-29 lead into the locker room at halftime despite hitting just 32.4 percent (12-37) of its shots from the field, including just 3-of-13 three-point attempts. The Huskers carried the lead thanks to 16 points, seven rebounds and an assist from Griffin in the opening half. Montgomery and Moore each added five first-half points, but senior guard Yvonne Turner played just the first 1:17 of the game before being whistled for her second foul.

NU was 6-for-6 at the foul line, with all six free throws coming from Griffin. The Huskers outrebounded OU, 24-20, and were plus-four in the turnover department (9-5) in the first half.

Oklahoma hit 37.9 percent (11-29) of its shots from the floor, but was 0-for-7 from three-point range. The Sooners hit 7-of-11 free throws, as Robinson and Olajuwon both finished with nine first-half points. Olajuwon added seven rebounds despite playing just seven minutes after being whistled for two early fouls. Thompson added seven points and four boards for OU in the first half.

Nebraska returns home on Saturday to play host to Missouri. Tip-off at the Devaney Center is set for 7:05 p.m., and tickets are available on-line at Huskers.com right now. Tickets can also be purchased in person during regular business hours Thursday and Friday at the Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office at the Stadium Drive Parking Garage or by calling 1-800-8-BIGRED. Saturday's game is part of a men's and women's basketball doubleheader at the Devaney Center, with men playing Texas Tech at 3 p.m. A ticket to the men's game will also get fans into the women's game (sections C-19 and above).


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