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NCAA TOURNAMENT: SOUTH REGIONAL

Oklahoma disposes of Syracuse, 84-71

Blake Griffin scores 30, but it's the play of Tony Crocker that helps the Sooners reach the Elite Eight.

March 28, 2009|David Teel

MEMPHIS, TENN. — The national player of the year scored 30 points, snared 14 rebounds and knocked the left side of his head on the backboard.

Yet Blake Griffin was eclipsed Friday night. By a teammate.

Oklahoma guard Tony Crocker entered Friday's NCAA tournament South Regional semifinal having missed 14 of his last 15 attempts from beyond the three-point arc. He had contributed 21 points in the Sooners' five most recent games.

Against Syracuse's renowned 2-3 zone defense, Crocker made six three-pointers and scored a career-high 28 points as Oklahoma cruised to an 84-71 victory.

Give Griffin that kind of perimeter support and the Sooners are a load, so much so that they slowed the Big East's domination of this NCAA tournament.

With the way Big East teams were bullying opponents the last two weeks, would anyone have been surprised if the conference nabbed all four slots at the Final Four?

Crocker and Griffin ended the chances of that history.

"It takes our team to another level," Griffin said of Crocker's outside shooting. "They had to respect him all game long because he was making shots all game long."

Indeed, Crocker's three-pointer on Oklahoma's first possession came after five rapid-fire passes against a zone that had stifled opponents for much of the season. But Oklahoma (30-5) ranks second nationally in field-goal percentage at 49.2, and Friday the Sooners were even better at 54.2.

Crocker began the night with a 9.2 scoring average, and in 10 games since a seven-for-11 effort against Colorado, he had missed 26 of 33 three-pointers. Friday he made six of 11.

Griffin's three-point play gave Oklahoma its first double-digit lead at 36-26, and after a Paul Harris miss, Crocker's left-wing three-pointer in the waning seconds of the half gave the Sooners a tidy 13-point cushion at intermission.

When Oklahoma sustained its run by scoring on its first six possessions of the second half, Syracuse (28-10) was done.

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dteel@dailypress.com.

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