Commentary

Instant Analysis: Syracuse-Oklahoma

Originally Published: March 27, 2009
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

MEMPHIS -- ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach provides instant analysis from Oklahoma's 84-71 win over Syracuse in Friday's South Regional Sweet 16:

GAME ANALYSIS: The Sooners were worried about cracking Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone. But the Orange couldn't handle Oklahoma's one-two punch of All-American forward Blake Griffin and suddenly-hot shooting guard Tony Crocker, who combined to score 58 points. The Sooners grabbed momentum from the start and were patient against the Orange's 2-3 zone. After Syracuse cut Oklahoma's lead to 18-17 in the first half, the Sooners went on a 10-2 run to make it 28-19. Oklahoma then scored the last six points of the first half and the first nine of the second to go ahead 48-26 with 17:46 to play.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Crocker came into the game mired in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career. The junior from San Antonio had made only one of his past 15 3-point attempts, including 0-for-6 combined in the previous two NCAA tournament games. But Crocker made a 3-pointer on Oklahoma's first possession against Syracuse and seemed to regain his confidence with every shot. He scored a career-high 28 points and went 6-for-11 on 3-pointers.

PLAYER OF THE GAME II: Griffin had another double-double, scoring 30 points with 14 rebounds. The Orange threw forwards Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson at him on nearly every possession, but they simply couldn't stop him. Griffin has averaged 30.3 points and 14.7 rebounds in three NCAA tournament games. Griffin added an exclamation point with about three minutes to go, when he drove the baseline for a Michael Jordan-like tomahawk dunk -- and hit his head on the backboard.

STAT OF THE GAME: Oklahoma made 32 of 59 shots from the floor, or 54.2 percent, after Syracuse held its past two NCAA tournament opponents (Stephen F. Austin and Arizona State) to only 31 percent shooting combined.

STAT OF THE GAME II: Blake Griffin made 12 of 15 shots against the Orange. The sophomore from Oklahoma City has made 37 of 47 shots in three NCAA tournament games.

SCARY MOMENT OF THE GAME: With less than a minute to go in the first half, Griffin drove for a breakaway layup. Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn, who is about 70 pounds lighter than the Oklahoma All-American, tried to draw an offensive foul under the basket. Flynn was knocked to the floor and called for a foul, and Griffin made the layup. Flynn lay on the floor for a few seconds, and later limped to the Syracuse bench with a back injury. He returned to the game and finished with 22 points.

SCARY MOMENT OF THE GAME II: Despite holding a comfortable lead, Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel left his starters in the game until the final minute and nearly paid for it dearly. With about one minute to go, Griffin got tangled up with Syracuse guard Andy Rautins and fell hard to the floor near midcourt. Capel took his star player out of the game a few seconds later.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE SOONERS: Oklahoma will play the winner of Friday night's game between No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 4 seed Gonzaga in Sunday's final of the South Regional. The winner of Sunday's game will advance to the Final Four in Detroit.

Mark Schlabach covers college basketball and college football for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

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