Oklahoma vs. UAB NIT Preview

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma

 Oklahoma (4-0) vs. UAB (4-0) 
 Date & Tip Time  Wednesday, Nov. 26 at 8:30 p.m. CST
 Location  New York, N.Y. | Madison Square Garden 
 Tickets  OU Athletics Ticket Office


 Radio  Sooner Radio Network 
 KRXO FM-107.7 in Oklahoma City
 KTBZ AM-1430 in Tulsa
 Video Webcast  ESPN360.com
 Live Stats  None
 Game Info  Game Notes (PDF)

Photos  Tuesday OU Photo Gallery

Thanks to wins over Mississippi Valley State and Davidson last week, the Sooners will be spending Thanksgiving in New York City as participants in the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals and championship rounds.  No. 2 seed OU will meet No. 7 seed UAB on Wednesday at approximately 8:30 p.m. CST.  That game will follow a 6 p.m. meeting between No. 1 seed Purdue and No. 4 seed Boston College.  Friday’s consolation game will start at 12:30 p.m. and will be followed by the championship game at approximately 2:30 p.m.  All four contests will be televised by ESPN2 with Dave O’Brien, Steve Lavin and Allen Hopkins announcing.  OU’s games will air on the Sooner Radio Network (flagship KRXO FM-107.7 in Oklahoma City on Wednesday; flagship KOKC AM-1520 in OKC on Friday; KTBZ AM-1430 in Tulsa both days) with Ryan Ruocco and Mike Houck calling the action.

 UAB's Projected Starters
 2008-09 Stats
 Lawrence Kinnard
 15.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 40.9 3FG%
 Robert Vaden
 18.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.0 apg
 Aaron Johnson
 5.3 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 3.5 apg
 Paul Delaney
 17.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg
 Channing Toney
 4.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.8 apg

 Oklahoma's Projected Starters
 2008-09 Stats
 Blake Griffin
 26.0 ppg, 19.8 rpg, 74.5 FG%
 Taylor Griffin
 10.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.8 spg
 Tony Crocker
 5.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg
 Willie Warren
 15.3 ppg, 2.5 apg, 44.7 FG%
 Austin Johnson
 5.8 ppg, 4.5 apg, 1.8 bpg 

Blake Griffin registered a career-high 35 points, a career-high-tying 21 rebounds and a career-high-tying five assists against Gardner-Webb on Saturday, and Oklahoma needed all of the sophomore forward’s production to muster an 80-76 home win over the upset-minded Bulldogs.  OU, which jumped out to a 39-28 lead thanks to hot 3-point shooting (it started the game 6-for-11), settled for a 42-37 halftime advantage behind Griffin’s 18 points and 10 boards.  The Sooners extended their lead to seven early in the second half before Gardner-Webb used a 13-4 run to go ahead 51-49 with 14:23 remaining.  A Joshua Henly 3-pointer with 6:06 left gave the Bulldogs their largest lead of the game, 67-62, with 6:06 left, only to see OU to go ahead by two with just under three minutes to go.  Another Gardner-Webb trey, this time from Aaron Linn with 2:27 remaining, resulted in a 74-73 edge.  A Griffin basket and free throw 17 seconds later, though, triggered a game-ending 7-2 Sooners’ spurt as they posted the four-point triumph to move to 4-0.  Griffin was 14-for-20 from the field, hit his second 3-pointer of the season and added three steals while freshman guard Willie Warren netted 17 points and senior forward Taylor Griffin registered 12 points and seven boards.  Senior guard Austin Johnson recorded four assists, a career-high four blocks and had no turnovers.   Linn paced Gardner-Webb with 22 points while Grayson Flittner hit five treys en route to a 19-point day.  Henly finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

• Blake Griffin’s 35 points and 21 rebounds made him the first player in Big 12 Conference history to record consecutive games of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds.  He finished with 25 points and 21 boards against No. 21 Davidson four days earlier. 
• Griffin’s 35 points were the most by a Sooner since Jason Detrick netted 35 in an overtime game at Colorado during the 2003-04 season (a span of 139 games).  They were the most points by an OU player in a regulation game since Corey Brewer scored 36 against Missouri during the 1997-98 campaign (a span of 339 games).
• Griffin also became the fifth player in OU history to record four consecutive double-doubles (the others are Garfield Heard, Alvan Adams, Wayman Tisdale and Ernie Abercrombie). 
• Taylor Griffin’s two blocked shots gave him at least two for the third time in four games on the season.
• OU’s nine blocked shots were its most in 59 games and the team’s 13 steals were its most in 50 outings. 
• The Sooners started the game 6-for-11 from 3-point range but went 1-for-16 afterwards. 
• Sophomore guard Cade Davis did not play due to a sprained ankle. 
• The game marked the 500th for OU men’s basketball at Lloyd Noble Center.  The Sooners improved to 428-72 (.856) in the arena.

 Sooner to Watch 

 Blake Griffin | So. | Forward
 • Averaging 26.0 points, 19.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game
 • Has made 38 of 51 field goal attempts for a .745 season percentage
 • First player in Big 12 Conference history to register consecutive games of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds
 • First player in OU history to pull down at least 18 rebounds in four consecutive games


• Sophomore forward Blake Griffin is averaging 26.0 points and a staggering 19.8 rebounds per game while shooting .745 from the field (that’s not including the combined 16-for-16 performance from the field in OU’s exhibition games).  Griffin adds 2.8 assists and 2.8 steals a contest.  Each of Griffin’s four rebounding totals this year represented a career high at the time (18 versus American, 19 against Mississippi Valley State, 21 against Davidson and 21 against Gardner-Webb).
• Griffin has been especially hot over the last two games, averaging 30.0 points, 21.0 boards, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals while shooting .677 from the floor (21-for-31) and .708 from the foul line (17-for-24).
• Freshman guard Willie Warren has scored in double figures in all four games and ranks second on the team with his 15.3 points per outing.  He netted 20 points in 24 minutes of action against No. 21 Davidson. 
• After averaging 7.0 points and 4.5 rebounds over OU’s first two games, senior forward Taylor Griffin is averaging 14.0 points and 6.5 boards over the last two.  He was 10-for-14 from the field against Davidson and Gardner-Webb and 8-for-11 from the foul line.  Griffin added three blocks and four steals over the two contests.

• Oklahoma’s 4-0 start is the best of the three-year Jeff Capel era.
• Despite a not-so-stellar .669 team free throw percentage, the Sooners have made six more charity throws than their opponents have attempted this season.  OU is 83-for-124 while foes are 51-for-77.  That’s an average of 11.8 more attempts per game than its opposition.  Blake Griffin has attempted 37 percent of the team’s free throws (46 of its 124).
• OU has made at least six 3-pointers in each of its four games, but is shooting just .299 from long range on the season.  Last year, it posted a .348 season mark from the shorter 3-point distance.
• Junior guard Tony Crocker is averaging 5.8 points per game on .257 (9-for-35) field goal and .158 (3-for-19) 3-point shooting.  Last year, he averaged 11.3 points and shot .441 and .424, respectively.
• Opponents have had success on the offensive glass this season, with each of OU’s foes pulling down double-digit offensive rebounds.  American (12), Mississippi Valley State (14), Davidson (14) and Gardner-Webb (15) have averaged 13.8 offensive caroms.
• Sophomore Blake Griffin and his brother, senior Taylor Griffin, are a combined 52-for-72 (.722) from the field this year and lead the team with 11 steals each.
• Going back to last year, Blake Griffin has registered at least three assists in 13 out of 37 games (twice this year).  He has at least two assists in 22 career contests (three times this season).
• Sophomore guard Cade Davis missed his first career free throw last Tuesday against Davidson.  He made all 23 of his attempts as a freshman and his first three this year.
• Registering 54 blocked shots over the past two seasons (the most ever over a two-year period by a Sooner standing under 6-foot-8), Taylor Griffin has a team-high eight rejections already this year.

UAB, which posted a 23-11 record and advanced to the second round of the postseason NIT last year, is off to a 4-0 start this season despite not playing a home game.  The Blazers won at Troy (87-66), versus Santa Clara (64-61 in Tucson, Ariz.), at Arizona (72-71) and at Old Dominion (77-62).  They are shooting .464 from the field, .400 from 3-point distance and .769 from the free throw line, and have held opponents to .372 field goal and .228 3-point shooting.  An average of 9.0 treys made per game and only 10.3 turnovers per outing have helped their cause.  Four of the team’s top six scorers, including the top three, are seniors.  Below are individual player notes.

• Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year Robert Vaden is coming off a junior season in which he broke UAB records for points (695), 3-point makes (142) and 3-point attempts (355).  The guard/forward is averaging a team-high 18.8 points a game this year, to go along with 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists.  Over the last three games, Vaden is averaging 23.7 points and 6.7 boards while going 15-for-28 (.536) from behind the 3-point arc.
• Senior guard Paul Delaney averages 17.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.  He is shooting .514 from the field and has already attempted 34 free throws on the season (has made 27 for a .794 mark).  Delaney scored a season-high 24 points at Troy.
• Senior forward Lawrence Kinnard provides 15.3 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds a game, while shooting .409 (9-for-22) from 3-point distance.  He recorded 22 points and a career-high 13 rebounds to open the season against Troy.
• Sophomore guard Terrence Roderick began the year with a 17-point outing at Troy and is now averaging 8.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and a team-high 1.5 steals per contest.
• Fellow sophomore guard Aaron Johnson contributes 5.3 points and a team-high 3.5 assists per game.

Mike Davis, who directed No. 5 seed Indiana to a 73-64 win over No. 2 seed Oklahoma in the 2002 Final Four, is 42-27 (.609) in his third year as UAB’s head coach.  Davis, who played collegiately at Alabama (1980-83), owns a 157-106 career record (eighth year).

OU Fast Fact 
Out of its 31 regular season games this year, OU will play at least 20 against teams that made the 2008 postseason.  Fourteen of those contests are against NCAA Tournament teams, and it would play a 15th contest against an NCAA Tournament squad if it meets Purdue in the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday.

Wednesday’s game will mark the second meeting between Oklahoma and UAB in men’s basketball.  The other matchup took place in the 1983 NCAA Tournament, with the No. 7 seed Sooners posting a 71-63 win over the 10th-seeded Blazers in Evansville, Ind.  OU guard Chucky Barnett led the Sooners with 26 points while All-American Wayman Tisdale, then a freshman, added 17 points and eight rebounds.  The Sooners went on to lose to Isiah Thomas and the Indiana Hoosiers in the second round.

Oklahoma has traveled to New York City 17 previous times and now owns a 5-13 record inside Madison Square Garden.  The Sooners’ three most recent appearances in the building have come in the past six years.  OU lost to Duke (78-67) on Dec. 18, 2004, in the Dreyfus Classic, fell to Alabama (68-62) in the 2002-03 season opener in the AT&T Wireless Classic and split games with Memphis (lost 63-53) and Gardner-Webb (won 69-55) last season in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic.

The Sooners also played at the Garden in the 1992 postseason NIT when Billy Tubbs’ squad knocked off Colorado in the semifinals before falling to Stanford in the title game.  Tubbs’ 1981-82 team lost to Bradley inside MSG in the 1982 NIT semifinals.  Prior to that, all of OU’s Garden appearances took place between the 1939-40 and 1950-51 seasons.  The Sooners lost the 1947 NCAA championship game to Holy Cross there, 58-47.

Sophomore forward Blake Griffin was named Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 26.7 points, 20.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.3 steals in wins over Mississippi Valley State, 21st-ranked Davidson and Gardner-Webb.  He also shot .725 from the field.  The award was the second in two weeks for Griffin, who also picked up the league’s initial honor of the year for his 24-point, 18-rebound effort against American in the season opener.  Griffin earned the honor twice as a freshman last year.

Freshman guard Willie Warren picked up his first career Big 12 weekly award when he was named the league’s co-rookie of the week with Baylor freshman Quincy Acy on Monday.  Warren averaged 17.0 points and 2.7 assists in OU’s three victories, and nailed six treys.  The 6-4, 207-pounder from Fort Worth, Texas, scored 14 points against Mississippi Valley State, a career-high 20 against Davidson and 17 versus Gardner-Webb.  He made three 3-pointers in each of the last two contests.

The Sooners have scored with frequency in each of their first four games.  In fact, they have surpassed the 80-point mark in each outing, giving them four consecutive games of 80-plus for the first time since the 2003-04 season.  OU is averaging 84.8 points and is shooting .496 from the field after averaging 67.9 points and shooting .442 last year.  It shot .538 against American, .523 versus Mississippi Valley State and .521 against Davidson before posting a .418 figure Saturday against Gardner-Webb.