MEN'S BB: Sooners Win Big; Capel Unhappy

You wouldn't know it by listening to their coach, but the Oklahoma Sooners blew out Alcorn State 99-59 at home Monday. Unhappy with his team's play, especially in the early goings, Capel said the Sooners will have to show improvements in every phase of the game or they'll be blown out of the gym Thursday when they take on No. 3 Memphis at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

NORMAN – Alcorn State served its purpose Monday night, even if the Oklahoma Sooners didn't live up to their coach's expectations.

The Braves gave Oklahoma little more than a glorified scrimmage at Lloyd Noble Center three days before the Sooners are scheduled to tangle with a more dangerous foe at the basketball mecca.

Oklahoma outscored Alcorn State 26-6 to start the second half, blowing wide open an already lopsided affair en route to a 99-59 victory.

The Sooners improved to 3-0 against a who's who of college basketball also-rans.

That won't be the case Thursday when Oklahoma plays No. 3 Memphis in the semifinals of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic at New York City's Madison Square Garden.

"We're going to be playing against a team of pros," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "This will be the biggest challenge for us on this young season. It may be the biggest one we have all season."

Against Alcorn State, the Sooners had a decided advantage in nearly every aspect of the game. Whether it was talent, size, bench play, points in the paint, free throws or shooting percentage, OU dominated.

Yet Capel found little good to say about his team's performance.

"I'm glad we got the win and that's about it," he said afterwards. "I'm not happy with how we played; with how we performed offensively, defensively, execution."

Asked if his Sooners have a chance against Memphis with a similar performance, Capel was quick to answer.

"No," he said. "We have no shot."

The Sooners' intensity to start the game, especially on the defensive end, is what drew most of Capel's ire. The former Duke standout said he and his staff aren't yet sure what makes this team tick.

"We're trying to put our finger on it, what it is with our guys," he continued. "It's hard for them to understand when they see (a different story on) the stat sheet or look at the scoreboard and see the scores of the games."

But Capel sees it from the sidelines.

"We're not getting better right now," he said.

Alcorn State got off to the quick start and led the Sooners 7-4 early.

Although Oklahoma took the lead for good midway through the first half, the Rams were able to hang around, trailing by only four points with 8:40 remaining in the opening stanza.

That's when the Sooners set off on one of their trademark runs, scoring 11 straight to break open the game.

"We're doing it in spurts," Capel said. "But I want that to be the way we play all the time. We played in spurts last year and it got us a 6-10 record in this league and 16-15 record overall because (of that)."

Bench play and the Sooners' size in the frontcourt were the difference, especially early.

One player who fit that definition on both fronts was center Longar Longar.

The 6-foot-11 11 senior scored 12 points and pulled down five boards in the first half. He finished the night with a game-high 20 points and eight rebounds.

Oklahoma's bench outscored Alcorn State's 38-19, including 25-3 in the first half.

The Sooners' frontcourt trio of Longar, Blake Griffin and Taylor Griffin, combined for 45 points and 21 boards.

Longar was a huge factor, though he deflected any credit away from himself.

"I had the opportunity to have a good game tonight because the guards found Blake, Taylor and myself," Longar said. "I give all the credit to the guards; they played excellent and gave us big men a chance to score."

Blake Griffin, a 6-foot-10 freshman, had his usual night. Despite a slow start, he still shot 50 percent and finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

But it also didn't look like the same Griffin who wowed the crowds while winning MVP honors of the 2K Sports Norman regional.

"We need to come out and play with more energy and a sense of urgency," he said. "That is something coach tells us every game. After a while we buckled down on defense and played well, but we have to do a better job."

Defense, whether Capel liked it or not, did put up good numbers. The Sooners held the Braves to 33.9 percent from the field.

Alcorn State also committed 21 turnovers.

"We're still giving up too many straight line shots," Capel said.

Troy Jackson, the Braves' leading scorer, was held to nine points, 11 below his average, and he committed six turnovers.

The Braves were led by guard Richard Griffin's 18 points.

Oklahoma sophomore Tony Crocker continued to play well. He scored 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He also pulled down seven rebounds.

Crocker has been visibly more aggressive offensively since coming back from a preseason leg injury.

"I'm looking for my shot when it comes," he said. "But I'm not going to rush it."

Omar Leary, who got the start at point guard, turned in his best performance as a Sooner. He scored 11 points and added three assists and two steals without a turnover.

"He showed in pick-up he could play, but I think he's had a hard time adjusting because of his size. It's different in the Big XII than it is in JUCO," Crocker said. "But I think he's adjusting and he's going to turn into a player for us."

Oklahoma outscored the Braves 50-22 in the paint and won the rebounding battle, 44-30.

However, Thursday offers a different beast in the Tigers.

"It's a great positive for us and it's an incredible opportunity," Capel said.

The Sooners and Memphis met up a year ago in the Maui Classic. The Tigers pulled away in the second half for an easy win.

This year, Capel hopes to see a deeper Sooner team compete the entire game.

"As a player, you should want to compete against the best," he said.

To win, Capel said the Sooners will have to play an entire 40 minutes, not just in spurts. If the inspiration hasn't been there with Oklahoma's first three opponents, maybe Memphis will bring it out.

"I'm constantly telling the guys we're playing for something bigger," he said. "Hopefully Thursday will inspire us."

Game notes: This time around, the Sooners went with the starting five of Taylor and Blake Griffin, Crocker, Omar Leary and Austin JohnsonDavid Godbold led the Sooners in assists with five. Blake Griffin tallied four…Oklahoma was 25-of-33 from the foul line. On the other end, the Braves attempted just 15 free throws, making 12…The Sooners, who had 12 steals on the night, scored 32 points off Alcorn State's 21 turnovers…Oklahoma's biggest lead was 43 points at the 5:04 mark of the second half…The announced attendance was 4,589.

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