Saturday, March 21, 2009
Griffin's thunderous dunk lifts Sooners
KANSAS CITY -- Blake Griffin had been flipped, popped, prodded and tugged the past two games here.
The national player of the year favorite had enough.
He caught a pass off a Tony Crocker steal, had the angle on the break and needed to flush his frustrations. So he powered a one-handed dunk over Michigan's Zack Novak to give Oklahoma a 13-point lead after a free throw.
Before he got to the line, though, he did pose. He flexed his guns. Griffin held the position for a few moments.
"We needed it," Griffin said of a momentum shift play. "The biggest part of that was Crock's steal. That turned everything for us."
Griffin finished with 33 points and 17 rebounds in Oklahoma's Sweet 16-bound 73-63 win over the Wolverines on Saturday at the Sprint Center.
The last player to go for 33 points and at least 15 boards in the NCAA tournament was Kansas' Nick Collison, who put up 33 and 19 boards in a win over Duke in the Sweet 16.
"That [dunk] extended the lead and got the crowd back into the game," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "It energized our guys. It was one of those plays where everyone says, 'Wow.' I haven't seen him flex and I didn't see it [Saturday]. I wasn't looking."
Griffin's brother, Taylor, a senior on the Sooners, said the dunk was a typical Blake Griffin play. The frustration let loose from this weekend was released.
"He's really having fun now and enjoying this part of the season, enjoying the tournament now," Taylor Griffin said. "He takes care of business."
Blake Griffin said the dunk made him feel like he was "in practice, playing a pickup game or just messing around."
The Sooners were no joke in the second half. Michigan made the game tense for the Sooners, who were desperate to get to the Sweet 16 after bowing out to Louisville in the second round a year ago. Crocker defended Michigan's Manny Harris well, limiting him to 3-of-9 shooting in an 11-point outing. OU's guards, led by Willie Warren's three 3s and Austin Johnson's dozen points, provided some balance.
"[The guards] were solid and we need them to be solid, not turn the ball over and defend," Capel said.
Capel said he didn't feel the pressure on himself to get the No. 2 seed Sooners to the Sweet 16. But he did feel some angst for Griffin.
Capel said he would have been sad if Griffin didn't at least get to the Sweet 16.
"He has a chance to do something that some of those guys like [Kansas State's Michael] Beasley and [Texas' Kevin] Durant didn't in leading their teams to the Sweet 16," Capel said. "The way he responded was tremendous. He played with determination. He was a warrior on the floor, like he's been all year long."
Blake Griffin said reaching the Sweet 16 "feels good. It would have been disappointing after missing out last year. But at the same time the teams are only going to get tougher and the basketball will get more intense. But I'm ready for that."