The Sooners finally got payback for a 2003 regional final dismantling by Carmelo Anthony’s national championship squad. The Sooners were impressive tonight. They never trailed in the game, and never led by less than 13 in the second half. The Sooners hit 9 of their first 18 three point shots, went 23-38 on two point FGs. The one weak spot was the 61% free throw shooting.
The vaunted Saltine Warrior zone defense lacked flavor against Crocker’s hot hand from outside and was unable to keep Blake Griffin from getting the ball in the lane. Griffin was 12-15 for the evening from the field. He made three dunks, three tip ins, and six layups while missing three layups. Griffin is now 37-47 from the field with 44 rebounds in the tourney.
The Crimson defense in the first half and first few minutes of the second half was stellar, as the Sooner guards contained Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf to below average shooting. On two separate occasions, Cuse guards lazily offered layups only to have them rejected by Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson. After that, I’m not sure if the Saltine Warriors found their stroke or if the Sooner D just put it in neutral – or both – the Cuse increased their offensive productivity after that.
Griffin ended up with another double-double, and had three outstanding dunks, including one from the baseline that resulted in Blake hitting his head on the side of the backboard. I’ve done that a couple of times myself, but only after lowering the goal to 7”.
I was very surprised that Crocker caught fire and posted a career high 28 points in this game. Most folks, me included, expected Willie Warren to assert himself in the game and be a premier contributor, but Crocker was on fire. At one point, Croker was 6-8 from outside the arc. He also added stellar defense on Rautins and Devendorf throughout the game.
I do have to tip my cap to Warren. For a kid that was an elite high school player just a year ago, he really does a good job of deferring to the hot hand and getting his shots in the flow of the game. As the game was winding down, Warren had the ball in semi-open floor on several occasions, but consistently slowed the tempo down and allowed some clock to wind down.
Capel did his normal outstanding job. He’s particularly good at getting Griffin maximum rest with minimal game time on the bench by maximizing the time around the TV timeouts. The Sooners more than held their own when the Terminator was getting his rest.
The one disappointing part for the game was the sideline coverage. During ESPN coverage throughout the year, the camera crews were overly fascinated with showing the Tommy and Gail Griffin, like they’d never seen an interracial couple before. Anyway, there was a gorgeous blond sitting behind Tommy tonight and the camera crew just didn’t seem to go there enough.
A curious point to me is the disappearance of Juan Patillo in the postseason. He’s played three minutes and scored zero points in the last two games, and Capel has seemed to “go small” with Blake not in the lineup.
Bring on the Tarheels. You have to go a little bit farther back for this revenge matchup, but I still recall the Sooners allowing Rick Fox to go baseline for the winning basket in 1990. The Heels were unranked, and the Sooners were top ranked but didn't make it to the Sweet 16 that year. The bitterness continued, as I had row 6 seats to the Regional finals and semi-finals in Dallas that year, and had to watch the Heels instead of my Sooners.