Sooners Griffin-Less
Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin
Phog.net Senior Writer
Posted Feb 23, 2009


The stage is set tonight for KU’s biggest basketball game this season.

Kansas and Oklahoma meet at 8 p.m. (CST) on ESPN Big Monday in Norman with Big 12 championship implications. KU (22-5, 11-1 Big 12) and OU (25-2, 12-0) are tied for first place in the conference and a win would put either KU or OU in the driver's seat with just three more Big 12 games to play in the regular season.

The Sooners, though, will have to play tonight without likely National Player of the Year Blake Griffin. The 6-10, 251-pound forward suffered a concussion in the last game against Texas and was held out the second half.

Oklahoma issued a press release today on soonersports.com about Griffin’s status.

“University of Oklahoma men's basketball head coach Jeff Capel announced this afternoon that sophomore forward Blake Griffin will miss tonight's game against Kansas. After visiting with OU's medical staff early this afternoon, Capel said that Griffin, who leads the Big 12 in scoring and leads the nation in rebounding, is still recovering from a concussion sustained in Saturday's game at Texas. Griffin's return to action is not known.”

Without Griffin, who also leads the nation with 22 double-doubles, Capel will turn to big men reserves Ryan Wright (6-9, 234) and 6-6 Juan Pattillo. Wright is averaging 2.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in just 8.7 minutes per game, while Pattillo is averaging 6.9 points and 3.4 boards in 15.4 minutes per game. OU has another big body in 6-11 sophomore center Orlando Allen, who’s played sparingly this season with averages of 2.5 points and 1.0 rebound in just 5.5  minutes per game.

No. 15 KU has won 11 of its last 12 games and is coming off a 70-53 victory over Nebraska in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, while No. 3 OU had won 13 straight before being upset by Texas on Saturday in Austin, 73-68. The Sooners would have likely been ranked No. 1 in the polls for the first time since 1990 had they won.

Super freshman guard Willie Warren led Oklahoma with 27 points, including 6 three-pointers. He was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Rookie of the Week for the seventh time this season, which is the second most honors in Big 12 history. (Former K-State star Michael Beasley earned eight Rookie of the Week honors last year.)

While losing Griffin is a huge blow, OU has other players like Warren to pick up the slack.

“The reason why they’re 25-1 (before Texas game) is because guys around (Griffin) are playing well and he makes the game easier for them,” Self said after KU’s victory over Nebraska. “Willie Warren, I read something the other day that somebody had him the second best freshman in American and the 12th best shooting guard in America overall. That’s pretty good as a freshman. Austin Johnson (senior guard) is having a great year and Taylor (senior forward Griffin) is having a great year, and Pattillo is an ingredient they didn’t have that’s doing great. Those guys are really good players.”

OU, which is 15-0 at home this season and tied for the nation’s third-longest home court winning streak at 19 games (KU is No. 1 at 39), leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 48.9 percent. The Sooners average an impressive 80.1 points per game and allowing just 66.6. Oklahoma is also outrebounding foes 39.1 to 34.1.

Warren, a former KU recruit, is OU’s No. 2 option who leads all Big 12 freshmen in scoring (15.4 ppg), steals (1.3 spg), and is tied with KU frosh Tyshawn Taylor with 2.96 assists per game. Warren is also tied with junior guard Tony Crocker for a team-high 50 three-pointers. The 6-6 Crocker is Oklahoma’s third player in double figures at 10.2 ppg, followed by Taylor Griffin (Blake’s brother) at 8.8 points per game. Taylor also ranks second on the team with 5.9 rebounds per game while recording 34 steals.

Johnson is next in scoring at 8.7 points per game (he leads OU with 36 steals and 119 assists), followed by Pattillo (6.9 ppg and 14 blocks in 10 games) and sophomore guard Cale Davis (5.2 ppg).

The Jayhawks can’t wait to battle Oklahoma and take sole lead of the Big 12 race. KU has home games left against Missouri and Texas with a road game in between versus Texas Tech. OU, meanwhile, plays next at Texas Tech and Missouri before concluding the regular season at home against Oklahoma State.

Self said after the Nebraska victory that he was hoping Texas would upset OU later that night “so we can go in there tied.”

The Longhorns did just that, and now the the Jayhawks have to seize the moment.

“We do have a great opportunity in front of us,” Self said. “We do play pretty good away from home, but we’ll have to play even better than we’ve played. They’re good. But on the flip side, I think we’ve shown up and been pretty consistent. We’ll have to have a pretty great performance, but I’m proud of our kids that 13 games into the conference we can say we’re playing for first place.”

Don’t count on KU letting up with Griffin out. This game is too important and the ‘Hawks are too hungry. They know OU almost beat Texas Saturday with Griffin playing just 11 minutes the first half and Warren becoming a one-man scoring machine.

With four straight Big 12 championships, KU can take a big step in earning No. 5 with a victory in Norman.

“They have a lot of good pieces on that team,” junior guard Sherron Collins said. “We are just going to have to hold our own. It is going to be a man’s game. We are going to have to come out ready to play.

“It is going to be one of those games where if you don’t show up ready to play then you will get blown out. But I think that Coach will get us ready and we will be pumped for a game like that.”


Related Stories
Blake Griffin to Miss Tonight's Game
 -by SoonersIllustrated.com  Feb 23, 2009
KU Still Preparing For OU's Griffin
 -by Phog.net  Feb 23, 2009
Sooners in the Midst of Special Run?
 -by SoonersIllustrated.com  Feb 21, 2009

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