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November 1, 2007

Blake Griffin shines in OU opener

Blake Griffin's debut at Oklahoma was a successful one Oklahoma's newest men's basketball superstar poured in a game-high 19 points in the Sooners' exhibition opener against Rockhurst during a 93-59 drubbing at Lloyd Noble Center on Wednesday night.

Griffin displayed quickness and athleticism all night long with dunk after dunk on an outmanned opponent.

"I thought he did some very good things. Obviously he made some highlight plays but I expect a lot of Blake and Blake expects a lot of himself," said Jeff Capel. "Blake came here to be really good and to help this team be really good."

The Sooners returned several promising starters from last year's team which finished 16-15 such as Tony Crocker who put up 17 points of his own. Crocker was 6-of-7 from the field including a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point range.

But most Sooner fans attending the season opening exhibition game were in attendance to catch a glimpse of several newcomers such as Griffin as well as guards Tony Neysmith and Omar Leary.

Neysmith showed athletic flashes throughout the game and finished with seven points in 22 minutes of action.

Austin Johnson was also perfect from behind the arc scoring 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from three-point range.

But with so much young talent, the Sooners will be a much different team in 2007. Capel expects all youngsters to contribute in his second year as the Sooners' head coach.

"I don't see anyone redshirting. Not right now," said Capel. "Hopefully we don't have any kind of injury where we are forced to redshirt someone. We recruited these guys to be good basketball players for us and I think all of them are capable of doing that."

Keith Clark also saw his first action s]ince suffering a major knee injury last season. Clark spent most of the night behind the arc hitting on 2-of-5 from behind the three-point line. Clark only took six shots on the night.

"We want to see him get inside a little bit more," said Capel. "I know he was 2-for-6 and five of them came from three. We want to see him get inside a little bit more because I think he can be effective, not just as a scorer but as a passer.

"Moose is a playmaker and I don't really know what position he is. He's just a guy that I think can be a good player. I thought you saw a little bit of rust in a game, in a real, live game situation."

But overall, the night was a success because of the play and potential of Blake Griffin.

The McDonald's All-American showed great promise for the future, even if his head coach sees plenty of room for improvement.

Griffin was two rebounds short of a double-double against Rockhurst in only 21 minutes of play.

"I thought Blake did some good things but there's some things he has to work on. He knows it, we know it and he'll get better with it," said Capel. "He has to get better defensively. At times he can be very, very good defensively but at times he kind of relaxes defensively. He stands up and he kind of goes back to how he was a little bit in high school.

"He had eight rebounds and I think he can rebound more. He had one offensive rebound and I think he should get more than that. A couple of plays early in the game he was leaking out and we need him to get every rebound," said Capel. "I told him there in the second half to get every rebound and he started doing it."

The Sooners continue their exhibition schedule with a Friday night matchup against Fayetville State in the Lloyd Noble Center before their season opener November 8th against San Francisco.

"We'll look at throwing a couple of more wrinkles in there and doing some different things offensively. We won't have a lot of time to practice it but really what I want to see is some improvement from what I did today," said Capel. "I want to see improvement in our energy and defense. I want to see us sitting down in our stance and playing hard every second we're out there. I want to see us cutting harder on offense.

"I still think we can be a lot better."


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