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January 29, 2008

Blake Griffin shines in first Bedlam outing

Oklahoma endured a slugfest inside Lloyd Noble Center during the first round of Bedlam basketball on Monday night as the Sooners fought their way to a 64-61 victory over Oklahoma State thanks in large part to more big-time plays from Blake Griffin.

Griffin's layup putback with just 0:54 remaining the game broke a 57-57 tie. He was also fouled on the play and his free throw gave the Sooners a 60-57 lead. It was the biggest play on the night for a player who is starting to get used to making every play the Sooners need down the stretch of tight ballgames.

"It's not like the first time we've seen it," said his brother Taylor Griffin, who led the Sooners in scoring with 20 points of his own. "It's just the type of player he is. I couldn't be prouder of him. He's put in the work and when you put in the work and you have the opportunity in big moments to step up, all your hard work take over."

Griffin is still not fully recovered from his sprained knee suffered earlier this month. He's not recovered because he's still not in the type of shape he was in before the injury.

His 27 minutes against Oklahoma State was up from the 22 he played in Waco.

His 15 points were impressive at well, but after playing two games in three days on a sore knee, it's possible the younger Griffin is having to fight through a few issues in getting himself back to his old self.

"Just not being out there and not being in the shape I was kind of affected me tonight," he said. "I got tired pretty easily. I wasn't rebounding as well and I think that might have been it but I don't know."

But even a tired and sore Blake Griffin was too much for the Cowboys on Monday night.

Griffin had been struggling from the free throw line all night for the Sooners. Blake actually made the free throw line 15 times on the night. He only made nine of those fifteen shots.

But the final two were the ones that mattered most. And that's when Blake Griffin is at his best.

With the Sooners clinging to a 60-59 lead with 0:18 remaining in the game, Blake Griffin went to the line for two free throws.

He sank both of them as if he had been doing it all night. And in the process, he iced the victory for OU.

It was a victory that didn't appear so easy after OSU's Obi Muonelo scorched the Sooners for 17 points in the first half.

His three point basket at the buzzer gave the Cowboys a 32-27 halftime lead.

But after the break, the Sooners came out and delivered a 13-2 run to start the second half.

It was a game defining run that kept the Cowboys playing catch up all evening long.

"I challenged our guys at halftime," said Jeff Capel. "I thought they out-toughed us, I thought they were hungrier than us and I really challenged our guys and I was proud of how they really responded."

The run was precipitated by the most Bedlam of all plays - Taylor Griffin and Martavius Adams were battling for position under the basket during a Longar Longar lay in with 18:41 remaining in the game.

But Adams put his arm around the neck of Taylor and dragged him to the ground.

The official called Adams for a technical foul and Griffin received two free throws while the Sooners also received the ball.

Griffin's two free throws tied the game at 32-32. A Tony Crocker three-pointer at the 15:46 mark gave the Sooners an almost commanding lead at 40-34.

From that point on, the Sooners were able to keep their distance throughout the second half until the Cowboys went on a late run thanks to the re-emergence of Obi Muonelo.

"I don't know how long they went, but we went at least three or four possessions where they didn't score to start the half and then we were able to convert on the offensive end and get baskets and we were able to get a lead," said Capel.

"We've been in so many situations this year. I think when they tied it up late, it reminded me of us against Arkansas here, us against Gonzaga, us at West Virginia, us at Baylor - Baylor took a lead on us with a little bit over two minutes left after we were up 16 and our guys responded."

The Sooners response to Oklahoma State's late game push is a 3-2 record in the Big 12 Conference. The Sooners are once again in striking distance of the league leaders after starting the conference season 0-2.

Now they move on to face their next challenge in Texas A&M next Saturday in College Station.

With plenty of momentum and a major playmaking force in Blake Griffin.

"It's good," said Capel of where his team stands now. "We feel good about it but we still have a lot of work to do. There's a lot of season left. We battled back after losing our first two."


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