Final - OT
  for this game

Frequent free throws seal NIT Tip-Off title for Oklahoma

Nov 29, 2008 - 2:49 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Blake Griffin and Oklahoma's constant trips to the free-throw line were the road to an NIT title.

Griffin scored 18 points, including three clutch free throws in closing minutes, as No. 13 Oklahoma captured the NIT Season Tip-Off championship with an 87-82 victory over ninth-ranked Purdue on Friday.

With the Sooners (6-0) down by a point with 52 seconds remaining in regulation, Griffin was fouled on an alley-oop play off a pick-and-roll. The sophomore front-rimmed the first, but converted the second to knot the contest at 74-74.

Although Griffin could only make one free throw, the foul seriously hampered the Boilermakers as leading scorer Robbie Hummel fouled out. He finished with only 10 points.

Purdue (5-1) had a chance to end the game in regulation after Nemanja Calasan grabbed an offensive rebound on a missed 3-pointer by Marcus Green with 30 seconds left. However, E'Twaun Moore was stripped of the ball by Tony Crocker on a drive to the lane in the closing moments.

In the extra session, Purdue took an 80-76 lead on a jumper by Calasan with just over a minute expired, but Oklahoma made that deficit go away with a game-ending 11-2 run.

Warren started the spurt on a jumper with 2:51 remaining. He also added a key offensive rebound before the Sooners took trip after trip to the free-throw line.

The 6-4 guard kept alive a possession with just under two minutes left with his rebound, one that ended with Crocker going to the line to split a pair. Griffin converted two more free throws 38 seconds later, giving Oklahoma an 81-80 lead with 1:05 left. That was the last lead change in the game.

Cade Davis, Crocker and Warren also made a pair of free throws down the stretch as the Sooners finished with a dominant 33-of-46 effort from the stripe. The Boilermakers, on the other hand, had just five attempts from the line.

"They were huge," Griffin said of the late free-throw shooting. "That's what we always practice, and we have guys that do hit foul shots step up. Last year, Cade Davis didn't miss the ball the whole year and that's why we wanted the ball in his hands and also Willie stepped up to kind of seal it. Crock (Crocker) did too. We just did a great job."

"I talked to our guys afterwards about how things get called in a game," Purdue coach Matt Painter said about the free throw disparity. "It's kind of like injuries, and you can't control it, so you gotta keep a positive attitude and stay out there and just battle, and like I said, we got into foul trouble, and I thought we had some guys come off the bench, play very well and do some good things."

Griffin and Warren both reached the free-throw line 13 times.

"Willie Warren was tremendous attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said.

Griffin also matched a career-high with 21 rebounds, recording his sixth straight game with at least 18 points and 15 boards.

"I really don't think about it," Griffin said about his rebounding numbers. "It's one of those things every game I'm just trying to go after every rebound and coach tells me that he needs me in there every single time, so that's what I'm going to do. And I don't know, I hope it keeps up. We'll see."

Warren finished with a season-high 22 points and Taylor Griffin added 19 points and six rebounds.

Moore scored 22 points and Calasan added 20 and eight boards for Purdue, which struggled with turnovers, committing 19.

The Boilermakers were trailing 83-80 with under 10 seconds remaining when freshman Lewis Jackson threw the ball away after driving the ball into the lane and looking to kick out to Keaton Grant for a 3-pointer.

"Well, with 16 seconds to go we were looking to attack and get to the basket or get those guys a wide open shot," Painter said. "But we really wanted to put Jackson, let him use his speed, get to the rim and get a layup with 10, 11, 12 seconds.

"We just said if he gets stuck, you're going to have a trail. We popped the other guy to the other side. If they stop you from getting your layup, look for him, but he kind of just (rushed) the pass there at the end of the game and it's a good learning lesson to him."

One area that Purdue did have success in was its 3-point shooting, connecting on six each in both halves of regulation.

In a 4 1/2-minute stretch in the second half, the Boilermakers made five baskets from the arc to turn a 52-48 deficit into a 67-58 lead with 8:15 remaining. Moore and Grant both hit a pair of 3-pointers in that span.

"They were in such a great rhythm offensively," Capel said. "And they have guys that can make shots. Obviously you know about E'Twaun Moore and Hummel but then Grant got going and starting making shots. So I'm thinking on the sidelines, goodness, this is going to be one of those days."

Yet, Oklahoma came right back minutes later, as Austin Johnson had four of his 11 points on an 11-0 run, giving the Sooners a 73-69 edge with 2:29 left.

"Our guys kept responding," Capel said. "They kept throwing punches, and we'd get dazed a little bit, but we'd get right back up and we kept fighting, and we found a way to get it done, and I'm really proud of this group."

Purdue answered right back, as Moore had a layup and Calasan completed a three-point play to grab a 74-73 lead with 1:20 to play before Blake Griffin once again found his way to the line.