No. 2 seed Sooners to face MEAC champion Thursday in NCAA Tournament first round.
March 17, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Not long after the NCAA selection show on Sunday, Oklahoma's Blake Griffin and Taylor Griffin logged onto the Internet to look for information about the Sooners' first-round opponent, Morgan State.
The brothers learned Morgan State is located in Maryland, found out a little about the Bears' roster and read some articles about their recent games, but acknowledged Monday afternoon they still have much to learn about the team the seventh-ranked Sooners will play in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday night.
"We haven't watched any film on them yet," Blake Griffin said before the Sooners' second practice on Monday, "but we will."
Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel already has looked at film of Morgan State, spending a good chunk of Sunday night doing so. He came away impressed, noting the Bears have won 13 of their last 14 games and own a road win at major-conference foe Maryland, which also made the NCAA field of 65.
"They have good guards. I think they defend well and play really, really hard," Capel said. "They're a really good basketball team. They've gotten better. They've got a win at Maryland earlier this season. They played Washington close on the road, so they're a team that's certainly not going to be intimidated by the moment of the NCAA tournament because of what they've had to go through (in) nonconference."
Morgan State also has a well-known coach: Todd Bozeman, who guided California to three NCAA tournament berths in four years before he resigned in 1996 amid an NCAA investigation. The NCAA subsequently banned him from coaching for eight years after he admitted paying a recruit while coaching at Cal. He's in his third season as Morgan State's coach.
"There's definitely a reason they're in the tournament," Taylor Griffin said. "...They're obviously a good team. They're someone we'll have to prepare for like any other team."
Blake Griffin, a leading candidate for national player of the year honors, said he surfed around Morgan State's Web site and learned that two of the Bears' top three scorers are guards. They would be junior Reggie Holmes, a first-team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference pick who is averaging 16.9 points per game, and senior Jermaine Bolden, who averages 9.2 points and 5.0 assists per game.
Capel said Bolden "doesn't make a lot of mistakes."
While searching for who he might match up against, Griffin saw that senior forward Marquise Kately averages 11.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for Morgan State (23-11), which won the MEAC tournament after also capturing that league's regular-season title for the second straight season.
Second-seeded Oklahoma (27-5) played two MEAC teams in Norman in January, beating Coppin State 93-62 and Maryland-Eastern Shore 100-64, but both Griffin brothers and Capel dismissed any thoughts that having done so would give them an edge against 15th-seeded Morgan State.
"It has nothing to do with this one," Capel said. "They're a different team. They won their league, so obviously they're better than the two teams we played."
The Sooners say a primary focus in preparing for the game will be trying to rediscover the edge that had them at 25-1 and on the cusp of the No. 1 ranking before Blake Griffin suffered a concussion in a loss to Texas. He's since returned, but Oklahoma has lost four of its last six games and fell to Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Conference tournament.
"Since yesterday, the focus has been on taking care of us right now," Taylor Griffin said. "...We're just trying to get back to what made us successful throughout the season, getting back to defensive principles, moving the ball on offense, being tough and playing hard every possession."
Capel said that while he knows the Sooners would play either No. 24 Clemson or Michigan in the second round, he's not looking ahead to potential tournament matchups but is devoting his energies to developing a game plan to beat Morgan State.
"I don't want to concentrate on any other thing ... or what anyone else is doing," he said. "I don't want to be a fan during this tournament. If I become a fan, that means we're done. ... I'll just be a fan of OU."