OU vs. USC: The Hardwood Version

Oklahoma gets its first true road game of the season on Thursday when it heads west to take on USC as part of the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Challenge. The game will feature two of the country's top freshmen in Oklahoma's Blake Griffin and the Trojans' O.J. Mayo.

Think of all the statewide attention and excitement surrounding Oklahoma freshman forward Blake Griffin during his spectacular high school campaign and subsequent commitment to the Sooners.

Now, multiply it, put it on a national scale and you've got USC freshman O.J. Mayo.

Two of the country's top freshmen will lead their respective team's Thursday night when Oklahoma (5-1) visits No. 22 USC (5-1) at the Galen Center. Tipoff is set for 10 p.m. CST. The contest is part of the inaugural Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series.

Thursday's game will air on the Sooner Radio Network (KOKC-AM 1520 in Oklahoma City; KMOD-FM 97.5 in Tulsa) with Bob Barry Sr. and Mike Houck announcing (it will also air on Sirius Channel 181 with USC's broadcast). The contest will be televised by FSN (Cox 37 in OKC; Cox 27 in Tulsa) with Ted Robinson, Marques Johnson and Michael Eaves announcing.

As highly-touted and well-known as Griffin was, especially in these parts, his "celebrity" pales in comparison to that of Mayo, who began playing varsity basketball as a seventh grader in Kentucky.

Widely regarded the No. 1 player in the country, Mayo, a 6-foot-5 guard, has lived up to expectations for the Trojans thus far. He leads the team with 21.8 points a game and also averages 4.8 boards and 3.3 assists.

He's one of four Trojans to score in double figures. Sophomore guard Daniel Hackett scores 12.8 a game; forward Taj Gibson pours in 11.7 and 9.3 rebounds; and guard Dwight Lewis adds 10.7 points.

Since a season-opening 96-81 loss to Mercer, USC has rattled off five consecutive wins, including last Sunday's 70-45 win over Southern Illinois.

USC is projected to start a two guard, three forward rotation with the 6-foot-9 Gibson being the Trojans' tallest starter.

Though the Trojans have a more proven, albeit young, backcourt, the Sooners will try to offset that in the frontcourt with Griffin (6-foot-10) and Longar Longar (6-foot-11).

The pair leads OU in both scoring and rebounding on the year, with Griffin averaging 15.0 and 9.2, respectively, and Longar averaging 12.0 and 7.5. Griffin has led the Sooners in scoring in four of OU's six games this year while Longar has done it the other two.

That's not to say Oklahoma is at a huge disadvantage in the backcourt.

Sophomore guard Tony Crocker is averaging 11.3 points and is shooting 50.3 percent from beyond the arc. Omar Leary (8.2 points and 60.7 field-goal percentage) has shown improvement as well.

Oklahoma is playing its first true road game of the season. It's only other games outside Lloyd Noble Center were against Memphis and Gardner-Webb at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The Sooners will play TCU at 7 p.m. Sunday in Fort Worth, Texas, before returning home to play Tulsa on Dec. 5.


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