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Kansas Seniors Are Perfect


Paul Pierce scored 31 points, including 13 straight during a remarkable surge in the second half, and No. 4 Kansas capped a fourth straight unbeaten home season Monday night with an emotionally charged 83-70 victory over Oklahoma.

Pierce, a 6-foot-7 junior, had the sellout crowd chanting "One more year! One more year!" in the final minutes after he took charge of the game, which was preceded and followed by ceremonies honoring the team's three seniors. Pierce, a preseason All-American along with senior Raef LaFrentz, might enter the NBA draft and not return for his senior season.

The Jayhawks (30-3, 14-1 Big 12), who clinched the Big 12 championship on Saturday, ran their unbeaten home streak to 60 straight, a school record, as seniors LaFrentz and guards Billy Thomas and C.B. McGrath ended their home seasons with the distinction of never having lost at Allen Fieldhouse.

THE SENIORS PLAYED IN 58 of the 60 straight home wins and won four conference championships, the last two Big Eight and first two Big 12 titles, and posted back-to-back 30-win seasons for the first time in Kansas history.

Oklahoma (19-9, 10-5) trailed 48-33 early in the second half after Thomas hit a 3-pointer. But then Cory Brewer, held to three points in the first half, sank three free throws and ignited a 12-2 run which Robert Allison capped with a 3-pointer that sliced the lead to 50-45.

It was 55-45 with 9:29 remaining when Pierce drove the lane for a short jumper and took the game in his hands. A moment later, he drilled a 3-pointer, then popped in a pair of medium-range jumpers before launching two more 3-pointers that both found nothing but net.

AS PIERCE RACED back on defense and the crowd came to its feet, Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson reached out and patted him on the back. A moment later he capped his amazing streak with a rebound and putback that gave the Jayhawks a 70-55 lead.

LaFrentz, No. 2 all-time on Kansas' scoring and rebounding charts, had 15 points and 10 rebounds while Thomas finished with 17 points. Evan Wiley and Brewer each had 15 for Oklahoma.

With Pierce hitting six of his first eight shots, the Jayhawks went on a 17-2 run to seize a 36-17 lead and seemed on the way to a rout. But the Sooners, whose first six baskets came on dunks, began hitting from the outside and went on a 9-0 spree, capped by a 3-pointer from Brewer that sliced the lead to 36-26. A few minutes later Allison's 3-pointer shaved the lead to 37-31 before Billy Thomas connected at the buzzer to give the Jayhawks a 39-31 halftime lead.

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