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Warren, Oklahoma hold off big challenge from Iowa State

Jan 31, 2009 - 11:52 PM AMES, Iowa (Ticker) -- Freshman Willie Warren is proving to be a very valuable secondary option to Blake Griffin.

Warren scored 29 points as fifth-ranked Oklahoma held off an upset bid by Iowa State to secure a 78-68 Big 12 victory on Saturday.

Griffin added 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Sooners (21-1, 7-0 Big 12), who won for the 22nd time in their last 23 games against unranked teams.

Although it remained one of two undefeated teams in Big 12 play, Oklahoma's latest win was not the easiest, as struggling Iowa State (12-9, 1-5) stepped up its effort.

"We knew they were a tough team," Griffin said. "You have to give them credit, they played really well."

Warren, however, helped the Sooners shake the Cyclones, scoring in a myriad of ways en route to reaching 20 points for the fifth time this season. He shot 9-of-18 from the field, including 5-of-10 on 3-pointers.

"We knew Willie Warren could shoot, but I didn't respect his range," Iowa State coach Greg McDermott said. "The level of skill he was shooting with is the reason Oklahoma is going to be number two when we wake up (Monday) morning. Blake Griffin is a phenomenal player, but they have a wonderful supporting cast as well."

After failing to hold an 11-point lead in the first half, Oklahoma found itself trailing 66-65 following consecutive 3-pointers by Jamie Vanderbeken and Lucca Staiger with 5:07 left.

Warren attempted a quick answer, but missed a 3-pointer. Austin Johnson grabbed the offensive rebound, but Warren was later blocked on a drive by Vanderbeken after slipping in under the basket.

The third time was then the charm on the possession for the Sooners, as Johnson took the inbound pass and drove before flipping an alley-oop to Griffin for a dunk.

After Iowa State's Craig Brackins missed a layup, Warren swept in for a basket and a 69-66 edge with 3:43 to play.

Despite the mini-burst, Oklahoma still was only up one possession when it had the ball nearly two minutes later. Griffin wanted to add to it, but was harassed by a double-team when trying to drive the left baseline.

After fumbling the ball, Griffin kicked out to Johnson, who hit a 3-pointer that made it 72-66 with 1:48 remaining. It was just the second basket for the senior guard, who scored 22 points in Monday's road win at Oklahoma State.

"We were locked in on the double-team in the first half," Brackins said of the defense on Griffin. "He started reading it better in the second half and he is really great against the double-team. He's a great player and great players make great plays."

Vanderbeken had a putback for Iowa State, but Griffin answered with the back-breaker, hitting a fadeaway jumper from the left baseline as the shot clock expired for a 74-68 advantage with 45 seconds left.

"Griffin made a couple of really tough plays, and the back-breaker was that fadeaway shot," McDermott said. "That's what All-Americans do. I told the guys that there have been several games where Griffin has seven or eight points at the half, then ends up with 27 for the game."

The Sooners finished the game on a 13-2 run. Warren and Griffin both had four points during that span.

Griffin finished 10-of-13 from the field and pulled six offensive boards as the 6-11 sophomore posted his fourth straight double-double and 18th on the season.

Still, Griffin credited Warren and the perimeter players for much of his offense.

"I feel like my points are a tribute to how well the guards were playing, especially Willie Warren," Griffin said. "They did a great job and it kind of made my job easy, took a lot of pressure off me."

Juan Pattillo scored 10 points for Oklahoma, which shot 51 percent (30-of-59) and finished with a 37-28 advantage in rebounding.

Brackins scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Diante Garrett netted 17 and handed out 10 assists for Iowa State, which lost for the fourth straight time.

"It's a really good win for us against an Iowa State team that played terrific today," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel. "I thought it was the best that Diante Garrett played. He put a lot of pressure on us by driving and kicking, and getting to the basket.

"I have so much respect for Craig Brackins, and how good he is. I've been telling people since before the season started about how talented he is."