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November 28, 2007

Oklahoma Preview

The Trojans exceeded expectation with a systematic 70-45 thumping of a ranked Southern Illinois team. The Trojans blistered the nets, shooting 60% against an outstanding defensive basketball team.

They also held the normally efficient Salukis to 32% shooting. After playing for the first six minutes without O.J. Mayo and Taj Gibson, the Trojans dominated the game when those two entered the game. Davon Jefferson also gave them a huge lift with some offense.

Click here for photos of the win over Southern Illinois

Now USC continues its killer stretch with a game against the Oklahoma Sooners. I watched their game with Memphis in its entirety, and some of their game with Gardner-Webb. They are tough to get a read on. Here's my opinion of them.

Things To Know About Oklahoma

They have dominated their lesser opponents with size, defense, and offensive rebounding. They beat San Francisco by 16, Denver by 30, Alcorn State by 40, Gardner-Webb by 14, and Morehead State by 32. Their one loss came to #3 Memphis by ten points, in a game that was never really close or interesting. Memphis has a collection of athletes that are even more impressive than SC's. Oklahoma played great defense against the Tigers, but got hammered on the offensive glass. They also looked horrible in their halfcourt sets. In fairness though, Memphis is an oustanding team.

Offensively, they like to try to pound it down low to the post, and get points in the paint or kick outs for jumpers. Their offense starts with true freshman Blake Griffin, a highly recruited 6-10 power forward. Griffin has showed flashes of a face up game, but he gets most of his points down low. He's shooting 58% on the season, averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds. Memphis stifled him though, and he looked frustrated in that game.

In the last two games, head coach Jeff Capel started center Longar Longar, an African kid who is an excellent athlete at 6-11. He's a good rebounder and he runs the floor well. He averages 12 points per game, but his offense is very raw. He is a force to be reckoned with though as far as offensive rebounds and blocked shots.

In the last two games as well, Oklahoma started three guards, and I suspect that they might do the same against SC. The Sooners play a 2-3 zone for the most part, and I think that Capel saw what Memphis did to his baseline players with their quickness on offense. Omar Leary runs the point for them. He's a little guy at 5-10 who is still refining his skills at the position, but he has been deadly from behind the arc this season (53%), and is shooting 60% from the guard position! He has taken less than five shots per game though, and was very passive in the Memphis game.

Tony Crocker is the team's third leading scorer and its best option on the perimeter. He has made 50% of his threes and leads the team in assists. He could be the key to the game. He was awful against Memphis, and that allowed them to sit in Blake Griffin's lap. The starting line-up will likely be rounded out by 6-3 guard Austin Johnson. He is not an offensive threat, and has struggled with his outside shooting.

The Sooners do have some depth. 6-7 forward Taylor Griffin is a part time starter and the brother of Blake. He can shoot from the outside and has a decent mid range game. Keith Clark is another big guy at 6-8 who likes to shoot from the outside, although he has not shot well from three point land this season. David Godbold comes off the bench in the backcourt, but he has had a rough season so far. Cade Davis is a freshman who can shoot from the outside.

In general, the Sooners try to use Blake Griffin and sometimes Longar Longar to free shooters outside. They would be a tough team to play zone against because of some of their shooters. However, Memphis slowed them quite a bit with their brand of man to man, and their shooters just could not get good looks. Joey Dorsey was all over Griffin as well, making it tough for them.

Final Analysis

I think the match-up between Oklahoma's offense and SC's defense is a good one. The Trojans will have a much bigger crowd at the Galen Center this time around so that the intensity level will be higher, and Oklahoma did not show good cohesiveness and execution against a team that could match their athletes and defend them one on one. The Trojans could have a tough time with Griffin, and it will be interesting to see who Tim Floyd starts alongside Mayo, Gibson, Hackett, and Lewis to combat Oklahoma's size. But the Sooners do not have the kind of guards who can dribble penetrate to create shots or open opportunities, especially if Leary plays passive.

The game will come down to how the Trojans attack Oklahoma's 2-3 zone and whether they can keep from getting decimated by second chance points. The Trojans have played well against zone defenses so far because they have been patient. I think they will continue that patience and you'll see a lot of open three point baskets. Oklahoma will do enough on the offensive glass to keep the Trojans from pounding them as they did to SIU, but SC will frustrate the Sooners with tough man to man defense and patience on offense. The home crowd will help the Trojans bring home their sixth straight win.

Trojans-64, Sooners-56

Questions, comments, or info? Contact me at tvenegas@comcast.net

Click here for photos of the win over Southern Illinois


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