March 3, 2009

Slowing Down Griffin

Missouri readily admits that the best player on the floor Wednesday night is not going to be wearing a black and gold uniform.

"Do we have somebody to match up with him one on one?" Mike Anderson said when asked about Oklahoma forward >Blake Griffin. "I don't think so."

"I'll guard him," joked freshman guard Kim English before admitting that probably wouldn't be much of a strategy. "He's great. It will definitely be a team effort. No one in the country can guard him one on one so that's not a slap in the face."

Griffin enters Wednesday's game at Mizzou Arena as the Big 12's top scorer and the nation's leading rebounder. Missouri just saw one of the league's better interior players in Cole Aldrich of Kansas. What is the difference in facing Aldrich, who burned the Tigers for 19 points and 15 rebounds, and defending Griffin?

"You're talking about the best player in the country," Anderson said. "That's the difference. He's a manchild."

Griffin is the leading candidate for National Player of the Year honors. He averages 21.9 points and 13.9 rebounds a night. Slowing him down is job number one if Missouri is to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time all season.

But there is also a concern of paying too much attention to Griffin.

"Sometimes you can focus in on just the one guy, then you've got other guys," Anderson said. "I think they have a tremendous cast. Willie Warren is obviously probably one of the top freshmen in the country. Then you have a guy like Austin Johnson who I think is like the quiet assassin. He's quietly had a very, very big year. I think he's been instrumental in what they're doing. You got Tony Crocker who's capable of scoring some big numbers for them. With that team, if you're keying on Blake, they've got some other options."

With the attention and publicity showered on Griffin, the supporting cast is often lost in the shadows. But nine other Sooners have scored in double figures this season. Every starter has had at least one game of 22 points or more.

Yes, the Sooners have other weapons in the arsenal. But the simple fact is this: With Griffin in the lineup, Oklahoma is 26-and-1. Without him, they are 0-and-2.

"You stop Blake, you mostly stop their team because they get a lot of open shots through him with the double team and triple teams," Ramsey said. "If we just cut everybody else off and Blake happens to have his 20 and 14 game, I think we're going to win."

Easier said than done. Only Arkansas has beaten Oklahoma when Griffin played the entire game. The Hogs got a 96-88 win over the Sooners way back on December 30th. The sophomore had 21 points and 13 rebounds in that contest. Warren and Crocker combined for 53 points, but the Razorbacks had six players score in double figures. The question then is how does a team slow Griffin down?

"He's unstoppable one on one pretty much. You've got to put not only one body, maybe two bodies on him," Anderson said. "We always pride ourselves on being unpredictable, so maybe we'll do something crazy. I don't know."

The Tigers and Sooners tip off at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The winner holds the inside track to the No. 2 seed in next week's Big 12 tournament.

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