for this game

Griffin, Oklahoma survive scare from Gardner-Webb

Nov 22, 2008 - 11:59 PM NORMAN, Oklahoma (Ticker) -- Gardner-Webb once again was threatening to topple one of the nation's best. However, the Runnin' Bulldogs had to deal with Blake Griffin.

Griffin had a key three-point play late in the second half Saturday as No. 14 Oklahoma rallied for an 82-76 victory over upset-minded Gardner-Webb.

Last season, the Runnin' Bulldogs became one of the top early stories when they went into Rupp Arena and knocked off then-No. 20 Kentucky, 84-68. They had a serious opportunity for another big win after taking a hold of the lead midway through the second half Saturday.

"We feel very fortunate to get this win," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "I thought Gardner-Webb was tremendous all afternoon long and I thought they played with a sense of urgency. They played like a team who was desperate and hungry for a win. We played like a team that just thought we had to show up."

After Taylor Griffin's two free throws put Oklahoma ahead, 47-41, less than three minutes after halftime, Gardner-Webb ripped off a 14-4 run to take a 55-51 edge following a jumper by Auryn MacMillan with 11:42 remaining.

Although the Sooners managed to tie the score at 57-57, the Runnin' Bulldogs rebuilt a 67-62 lead on a 3-pointer by Joshua Henley with 6:06 left. However, Oklahoma (4-0) rallied again thanks in part to Blake Griffin, who finished with 35 points and 21 rebounds.

"They played and executed really well," Blake Griffin said about Gardner-Webb. "For the first 36 minutes they wanted it more than us. But we did a good job in the last three to four minutes of actually bearing down and playing, and hopefully learned a lesson."

Blake Griffin scored eight points down the stretch, including the clutch three-point play after he followed up his own missed jumper to make it 76-74 with 2:10 remaining.

Gardner-Webb then missed five of its next six shots, and Austin Johnson and freshman Willie Warren combined to sink four free throws for Oklahoma down the stretch.

Griffin finished 14-of-20 from the field with eight offensive rebounds, five assists and three steals to continue an eye-popping start to the season.

Widely considered an excellent candidate for the top pick in next year's NBA draft if he opts to leave school early, Griffin has averaged 26 points and 19.8 rebounds over the first four games.

"Today's game came down to too much Blake Griffin on the court," Gardner-Webb coach Rick Scruggs said. "We just couldn't handle him and didn't have anybody that could match up with him. I thought our guys put a great effort together.

"Oklahoma - they answered the call. When they got down we were hoping they would panic but they didn't. They kept it cool and calm and showed what a well-coached team they are and what kind of competitors they are."

Aaron Linn scored 22 points and Grayson Flittner added 19 for Gardner-Webb, which dropped to 0-3 on the season.

The result was not that much different from last year's matchup, as Oklahoma needed an early second-half run to post a 69-55 victory in the third-place game of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic at Madison Square Garden. Blake Griffin had 17 points and eight rebounds.

"They played us tough in New York last year," Capel said. "It was a back-and-forth game for the majority of the first half. It was a very similar game like last year. They were terrific and we got a really big-time performance from Blake."

Despite struggling from the field throughout the contest, Warren scored 17 points and handed out four assists. The 6-4 guard had missed nine of his first 10 shots midway through the second half before finishing 5-of-15 with three 3-pointers.

Taylor Griffin added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Sooners, who were able to rally despite shooting 12-of-31 (39 percent), including 1-of-12, after intermission.

"We have to do a better job making shots," Capel said. "I thought we got some clean looks today, but we have to do a better job making shots."

Henley ended up with 15 points and 12 rebounds for the the Runnin' Bulldogs, who were bitten by turnovers, committing 17 that the Sooners turned into 25 points. Gardner-Webb had just 14 points off miscues.