NCAA hoops: Sooners give cold shoulder to UNC
By Teresa M. Walker
MEMPHIS, Tenn. ó Blake Griffin found himself double-teamed early by North Carolina, so he passed the ball out to his open teammates.
The Oklahoma Sooners couldn’t knock down an open jumper. Not when they needed to, anyway.
By the time Willie Warren hit Oklahoma’s first 3-pointer, the Sooners had missed their first 15 attempts on their way to losing 72-60 in the South Regional final Sunday.
The Sooners came in averaging 79.2 points per game ó the 11th-best mark in the country ó and they left with their worst scoring performance this season. They finished with their worst 3-point performance as well, making only 2 of 19 tries.
“It came down to our inability to make shots,” Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. “Carolina had something to do with that, but we had some good looks and just missed it.”
The OU guards failed the most, and that stopped the Sooners (30-6) short of a fifth Final Four and first since 2002.
Junior Tony Crocker, coming off a career-high 28 points with six 3s in a regional semifinal win over Syracuse, was especially cold. He missed all three of his shots in the first half and played only seven minutes after picking up his second foul less than three minutes into the game. He finished with four points.
Crocker missed one try at the shot-clock buzzer on one possession, then the Sooners couldn’t even get a shot off before a violation on the next trip down the floor.
“We had open shots,” Crocker said. “We didn’t make shots, and we didn’t take shots we should have took. When we had open looks, we became passive, and it bit us in the butt.”
As a result, the Sooners trailed 32-23 with the fewest points they had scored in a half this season. The Sooners scored 26 in the second half of a 69-44 win over Tulsa on Dec. 7.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams liked his defense in that first half, especially with the shot clock violations.
“No question we were very lucky they missed some open shots,” Williams said.
The Sooners blamed themselves. They had been averaging 35.8-percent shooting from 3-point range, hitting 6.9 a game.
Sophomore guard Cade Davis said the Sooners didn’t cut as hard or run their plays to their potential.
“We were real lax,” he said. “We started doing that more in the second half.”
Warren finished with 18 points but was only 2-for-9 from 3-point range.
Without those outside shots, the Sooners couldn’t provide any help to Griffin, who still posted his 30th double-double and 15th with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds. He finished with 23 points and 16 boards.
“That’s what helped get us wins in the first three games. We made plays on the outside,” Warren said.
Now the Sooners must wait to see if they played their last game with Griffin, the sophomore who considered testing the draft waters a year ago.
Capel asked reporters not to pose that question to Griffin, not after this setback.
“It’s not a season lost,” Capel said. “This is foundation for what we’re building, and obviously Blake’s been a huge piece of it. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to reap benefits from what he’s meant to this program.”