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Griffin, Oklahoma squeak out tough win over USC

Dec 5, 2008 - 5:13 AM NORMAN, Oklahoma (Ticker) -- Blake Griffin took some hits, but kept right on ticking.

Griffin scored 25 points as sixth-ranked Oklahoma pulled out a 73-72 victory over Southern California in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood series on Thursday.

Austin Johnson had 17 points and Taylor Griffin added 10 and nine rebounds for the Sooners (7-0), who continued their best start since beginning 10-0 in 2003-04.

"We feel fortunate to get this win and I thought USC was terrific," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "It is very rare that you beat a team that shoots 50 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the 3-point line. But again we found a way to pull out a win. So we are pleased with the win, not necessarily with how we played, pleased to be 7-0 and look forward to getting back to work tomorrow."

The Trojans (5-3) were able to give the Sooners fits thanks to Dwight Lewis, who had three 3-pointers and scored 25 points.

They also attempted to muscle around Blake Griffin, a tactic that got a little out of hand in the second half.

USC freshman forward Leonard Washington was ejected with 13:54 remaining after hitting Blake Griffin below the belt.

After a basket by Taylor Griffin that gave Oklahoma a 52-44 lead, Washington applied a low blow to Blake Griffin prior to setting up in the lane, sending the sophomore star crashing to the floor.

After reviewing the video, the officials tossed Washington from the contest with a flagrant foul.

Blake Griffin was clearly shaken up, missing both of the ensuing foul shots.

The Oklahoma star was also intentionally fouled on the break by Daniel Hackett with 6:22 remaining. He made one of two free throws for a 63-59 lead.

"I didn't see the play, but I will look at it on film," USC coach Tim Floyd said of Washington's ejection. "Those guys are a crew that has a lot of experience, they look at the monitor and have great 20/20 vision and didn't like what they saw.

"I wasn't as in favor of the other flagrant because it was an open-floor play, and he (Griffin) went through the guy's hands as he was trying to lay the ball up. Maybe he (Hackett) came hard, but if he came soft then it's a three-point play. It's a matter of opinion and a judgment call, and those guys have good judgment."

Those were three of the four misses from the stripe for Blake Griffin, who ended up 9-of-13.

Despite the hard knocks, Blake Griffin got fired up, scoring 11 of his 14 second-half points after the cheap shot by Washington.

He scored seven straight points for the Sooners at one point, giving his club a 65-61 lead on a jumper with 4:48 left.

"Oklahoma has a fine team, they really have a special player in Blake Griffin," Floyd said. "They did a great job of utilizing him, especially in the second half when they got the ball in his hands. We tried a variety of different things in order to try and stop him."

However, that did not shake USC, which got a 3-pointer from both Keith Wilkinson and Hackett within a span of two minutes, pulling the Trojans within 69-68 with 2:40 to play.

The Sooners also had a 73-72 edge with 3.4 seconds left after Hackett made a pair of free throws for the Trojans. Cade Davis was then fouled on the ensuing inbounds, but missed both free throws and USC's last-second heave fell short of the rim.

While USC only fired up Blake Griffin on the offensive end, it did manage to contain him on the boards, limiting him to a season-low six. Prior to Thursday, the 6-10 sophomore had no less than 15 rebounds in a contest.

"They did a good job of blocking out," Blake Griffin said. "They really made an effort to and did a good job of getting the rebound."

With Blake Griffin held in check, Oklahoma lost the battle on the boards for the first time this season, 34-25.

"I didn't think we did a good job pursuing the ball today and I don't think we did as good of a job as we have done blocking out," Capel said. "That is an area of concern for me because that really has not happened with us this year."

"We have a very good rebounding team," Floyd said. "I don't know what our margin is but I have never had a team that rebounds like this. We technically had a guy behind him (Griffin) and did a great job of blocking out. Our guards are big and they came back to the boards tonight."

Early on, the Trojans were able to limit Blake Griffin, as they scored the first nine points and took a 12-3 less than three minutes in. However, Johnson picked up the slack for the Sooners, netting 11 of the team's first 14 points.

Johnson had 15 points in the first half, including a reserve layup that tied the score at 14-14 with 15:19 left before the break.

Oklahoma had been ready for USC to leave someone to help on Blake Griffin, the same strategy the Trojans used in last year's matchup.

"We actually prepared for that all week, because last year they sagged someone off," Blake Griffin said. "They actually didn't guard David Godbold last year. We practiced that and thankfully A.J. (Johnson) did a great job of stepping up and hitting some shots. I think he (scored) our first eight or something like that."

Blake Griffin did not take his first shot until nearly five minutes into the game, and scored six points on an 11-5 run that gave the Sooners a 42-33 lead with 53 seconds left in the first half.