KU Still Preparing For OU's Griffin

Oklahoma's Blake Griffin suffered a concussion Saturday night in the first half of the Sooners' 73-68 loss to Texas, but that doesn't matter to the Kansas Jayhawks. They're still planning on having to slow down the nation's best big man when KU and OU meet in a Big Monday contest in Norman.

The 6-10, 255-pounder took a shot to the head with about four minutes left in the first half in Austin and left the  game with just two points and three rebounds in 11 minutes work. Even with those numbers, he's still averaging 22.4 points and 14.2 rebounds this season.

KU coach Bill Self didn't mince words about Blake Griffin Saturday afternoon when his thoughts turned to the Sooners.

"I think Blake is the best player in the country," he said. "We held Beasley to 39 and we held Durant twice to, like, 35 and 37 last season, and I'm really high on those guys, but I think Blake's a more complete guy. He impacts the game more than those guys do. Running, rebounding, passing, he's very skilled, and he loves to jump. He loves to show off his athletic ability. He's got  has great energy and bounce. The reason they're 25-1 (prior to Saturday night's Texas game) or whatever, guys around him are playing well. He makes the game easier for everyone."

Jayhawk Cole Aldrich will have the dubious honor of trying to keep Griffin in check Monday night. He's played against the Sooner stud before and he's impressed with Griffins fire and athleticism.

"I've known Blake for awhile," Aldrich said, "and he can do it all. He tries to dunk everything around the rim and grab every board."

Previous experience doesn't seem to have helped the KU center much, though. When asked how he planned to contain Griffin, he smiled and asked right back, "You got any ideas?"

Aldrich, who readily admits he's still a work in progress, said that what makes Griffin so good are his natural instincts and polish. As a result, he's a rarity in college basketball.

"There are very few people that have played ball in the last few years like that. There's DeJuan Blair out at Pittsburgh. He's a beast. That's one thing that makes Blake (Griffin) so good, is knowing where the ball is coming and then going to the hole strong and dunking it."

Griffin's Allen Field House debut last season was cut short when he tweaked a knee just five minutes into an 85-55 Jayhawk rout of the Sooners. The freshman was averaging 15 points a game heading into that contest.

"He was similar to what he's doing now," Aldrich said. "Last year when we played them, it was unfortunate that he screwed up his knee a little bit at our place. It's going to be a whole new game down there because it's on the road for us. It's a really big game."

Self said that from a personal standpoint, he felt badly about Griffin's injury. From a competitive standpoint, though...

"I like Blake a lot. I was disappointed that he was hurt and he was going to have to miss games. But I'll be honest with you: I like it when the other team's best player gets two early fouls and they have to sit him. But in that situation, you never want to see a player go out  the game because of an injury."

As good as Griffin was last season, Self doesn't think the outcome would have been different.

"We played so good that game. That was a game we were really, really good, in tune and focused, so he would've impacted the game differently but I don't know if he would've impacted it in a way that would have meant a different result."

This season, KU and Oklahoma are tied at 11-1 in the Big 12 race heading into Monday's game. The winner claims the head-to-head tiebreaker and becomes the likely front runner for the conference regular season crown. Winning such a game on the road would be huge for this young Jayhawks team.

"We have a great opportunity in front of us," Self acknowledged. "We do play pretty good away from home, but we'll have to play even better than we've played. They're good and they've got a marvelous player. But on the flip side, I think we've shown up and been pretty consistent. We'll have to have a pretty great performance, but I'm proud of our kids that 13 games into the conference we can say we're playing for first place."

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