Hoops Preview: Nebraska (1-21-09)

Oklahoma owns a 103-81 all-time record against Nebraska and holds a 59-20 advantage in games played in Norman. OU is 9-5 against the Huskers since the formation of the Big 12 Conference, but NU has won three of the series' last four games. Jeff Capel is 1-1 against Nebraska as OU's head coach.

GAME SPECIFICS 
Teams: No. 6/5 Oklahoma (17-1, 3-0) vs. Nebraska (12-4, 2-1)
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 21
Tip: 8:05 p.m. CST
Site: Norman, Okla. (Lloyd Noble Center)
Radio: Sooner Radio Network 
(KRXO 107.7 FM in OKC; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa)
TV: ESPNU
Series: OU leads 103-81
PREVIEWING WEDNESDAY'S GAME

Tied for the most wins in the country, No. 6/5 Oklahoma (17-1, 3-0) plays host to Nebraska (12-4, 2-1) on Wednesday at 8 p.m. CST. The Sooners, who are off to their best start since 1985-86, have won five straight outings and are coming off a 69-63 win at Texas A&M on Saturday. Nebraska, which is 1-3 in road games, defeated Kansas State 73-51 at home over the weekend. Wednesday's game will be nationally televised by ESPNU with Mike Gleason and Fran Fraschilla announcing. It will air on the Sooner Radio Network (flagship KRXO FM 107.7 in OKC; KTBZ AM 1430 in Tulsa) with Bob Barry, Sr. and Mike Houck calling the action.

TICKET INFORMATION

Reserved seats are available at the OU Athletics Ticket Office (800-456-4668) and online at SooonerSports.com. Lloyd Noble Center ticket windows will open at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

NEBRASKA'S PROJECTED STARTERS            
F  32  Chris Balham (6-8, 235, Jr., 2.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg)    
G  4   Steve Harley (5-11, 180, Sr., 12.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg)     
G  5   Sek Henry (6-3, 200, Jr., 9.4 ppg, 3.4 apg)      
G  11  Ade Dagunduro (6-5, 200, Sr., 10.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
G  24  Cookie Miller (5-7, 165, So., 6.6 ppg, 4.0 apg)
            
OKLAHOMA'S PROJECTED STARTERS     
F  23  Blake Griffin (6-10, 251, So., 22.0 ppg, 13.4 rpg)    
F  32  Taylor Griffin (6-7, 238, Sr., 9.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg)     
G  5   Tony Crocker (6-6, 206, Jr., 10.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg)      
G  13  Willie Warren (6-4, 207, Fr., 15.5 ppg, 2.9 apg)
G  20  Austin Johnson (6-3, 176, Sr., 7.7 ppg, 4.4 apg)
"NOTE"WORTHY

• At 17-1, Oklahoma is off to its best start in 23 years (the 1985-86 team won its first 17 games). The only team in OU history that won its first 18 games was the 1927-28 squad.

• OU's 17-1 start ties for the fourth best with one loss in Big 12 history (the conference began play in 1996-97). Only Kansas has posted better one-loss starts (34-1 in 1996-97, 23-1 in 2007-08 and 20-1 in 2004-05).

• The Sooners never trailed in their last two games against Texas and Texas A&M. Their last deficit was in the first half of the league opener at Kansas State on Jan. 10 (trailed 26-23 with 1:21 remaining).

• OU owns a 103-81 series lead against Nebraska and is 9-5 against the Huskers since the inception of the Big 12 Conference. Nebraska has won three of the last four meetings, however.

• Senior guard Austin Johnson averaged 17.0 points, 5.5 assists and 1.5 blocked shots against Texas and Texas A&M to earn Big 12 Player of the Week honors Monday. He was a combined 12-for-21 (.571) from the field and went 4-for-7 (.571) from 3-point range and 6-for-7 (.857) at the foul line. Entering the week, Johnson averaged 6.6 points and 4.3 assists.

• OU is 19-1 since the start of the 2007-08 season when Johnson scores in double figures.

• The Sooners have held their first three Big 12 opponents to a combined .358 field goal percentage. Kansas State shot a season-low .327 against OU, Texas shot a season-low .338 and Texas A&M shot .420.

• Oklahoma leads the league (all games and Big 12 games only) in field goal percentage defense (.377 and .358).

• OU has held eight of its last 11 foes to a field goal figure under .360 and four to a mark under .333.

• Blake Griffin leads the Big 12 in scoring (22.0 ppg) and rebounding (13.4 rpg), while ranking second in field goal percentage (.632), fourth in blocks (1.4 bpg) and 11th in steals (1.4 spg). The 6-10 sophomore also averages 2.4 assists per contest, more than any other league player taller than 6-5. He has recorded at least two assists in 14 of 18 games.

• Nationally, Griffin ranks first in rebounding and double-doubles (14), second in free throw attempts (9.7), ninth in field goal percentage and 13th in scoring.

• Griffin has already tied the Big 12 single-season record for number of 20-point, 15-rebound games (seven). With 13 games remaining on the regular season schedule, he shares the record with Texas' Kevin Durant (2006-07) and Kansas State's Michael Beasley (2007-08). Griffin also has an 18-point, 21-rebound game and a 21-point, 13-rebound outing.

• Over the last eight games, the Sooners are shooting .397 from 3-point range and averaging 7.5 treys. Over the first 10 games this season, they shot .311 from behind the arc and averaged 6.4 3-pointers.

• Tony Crocker and Willie Warren have combined for 39 treys over the last eight games. Warren is 19-for-39 (.487) in those outings while Crocker is 20-for-48 (.417). Prior to the six-game stretch, each owned a .273 season 3-point figure (12-for-44).

• Despite a modest .673 team free throw percentage (they rank ninth in the Big 12), the Sooners have made five more foul shots than their opponents have attempted. OU has shot 170 more free throws than its foes, good for an average of 9.4 more per game. Griffin has attempted 35 percent of the team's free throws (174 of its 504).

SATURDAY'S TEXAS A&M RECAP

• With Blake Griffin battling foul trouble much of the afternoon, Austin Johnson recorded game highs of 19 points and seven assists in a 69-63 road win over Texas A&M Saturday. His 19 points were one shy of his career high.

• Johnson was 6-for-12 from the field, 3-for-6 from long range and 4-for-4 at the free throw line while adding three rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal.

• The Sooners scored the game's first nine points, led 30-25 at halftime and were up by as many as 14 in the second half (48-34 and 51-37). Texas A&M drew to within two, 59-57, with 2:06 remaining, but Johnson's 3-pointer 30 seconds later put the Sooners back up by five and the Aggies never got closer than four the rest of the way.

• The Sooners went 6-for-12 from behind the arc to mark their third game of the season that they shot at least .500 on 3-pointers.

• Griffin, who played only 24 minutes, recorded 16 points and a season-low six rebounds. He was 4-for-5 from the free throw line and extended his streak of games with at least one assist this year to 18 (he had one).

• Taylor Griffin finished with 11 points, four boards and two assists. His point total was his highest in eight outings. Griffin was also a major factor on the defensive end, registering two blocks and three steals.

Ryan Wright provided a valuable 16 minutes off the bench with five points, three rebounds and two blocked shots. He was 2-for-3 from the field.

• OU improved to 27-4 all-time against Texas A&M and to 11-3 in College Station. The Sooners also moved to 133-52 all-time against Big 12 teams from the state of Texas (Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech).

WHO'S HOT

• A strong candidate for national-player-of-the-year honors, sophomore forward Blake Griffin has scored at least 20 points in 12 of 18 games this season, at least 25 on six occasions and at least 30 points twice. The 6-10, 251-pounder has registered 14 double-doubles (last year he had 10) and has led OU in rebounding 16 times. Griffin now leads the Big 12 in scoring (22.0 ppg) and rebounding (13.4 rpg). Big 12 players who rank second in the respective categories are Kansas' Sherron Collins (18.3 ppg) and Cole Aldrich (9.7). Griffin also ranks second in the Big 12 in field goal percentage (.632), fourth in blocks (1.4) and 11th in steals (1.4).

• After averaging 6.6 points and 4.3 assists per game in non-conference play, senior guard Austin Johnson is averaging 13.3 points and 5.3 assists in three league games. He is 5-for-10 from 3-point range.

• Freshman guard Willie Warren, who has scored in double figures in 14 of 18 outings, is averaging 16.8 points and 3.5 assists over the last 11 games while shooting .540 from the field and .460 (23-for-50) from 3-point territory. His .497 season field goal percentage is tops among the team's guards and eighth among all Big 12 players.

• Over the last seven games, Warren is averaging 18.7 points and 3.6 assists while shooting .539 from the field and .472 (17-for-36) from deep.

• After scoring in double figures once in OU's first seven games, sophomore guard Tony Crocker has done it in eight of the last 11. He is averaging 12.9 points over the 11 outings and is shooting .400 from 3-point range (24-for-60). By comparison, Crocker averaged 6.6 points and shot .250 from 3-point territory over OU's first seven games this year.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

• Oklahoma has used the same starting lineup in all 18 games (Austin Johnson, Willie Warren, Tony Crocker, Taylor Griffin, Blake Griffin).

• Despite its solid .397 3-point field goal mark over the last eight games, OU ranks ninth in the Big 12 in season percentage (.347).

• Oklahoma has made at least one 3-pointer in 402 consecutive games (last one without a trey was at Memphis on Dec. 23, 1996).

• OU ranks fifth in the country in free throw attempts per game (28.0).

• Freshman guard Willie Warren is shooting .497 from the field on the season. The last OU guard to shoot at least .500 from the field for an entire campaign was Nolan Johnson (.559) in 1999-00.

• Brothers Blake and Taylor Griffin are shooting a combined .587 from the field this year and have teamed to pull down 20.0 rebounds a game (55 percent of the team's boards on the year).

• Blake Griffin has accounted for 28 percent of OU's points, 37 percent of its rebounds and 41 percent of its defensive boards in 16 percent of the team's minutes played.

• Blake Griffin has registered at least three assists in 20 of 51 career games (nine times this year). He has recorded at least two assists 33 times in his career (14 times this season).

• Registering 54 blocked shots over his sophomore and junior seasons combined (the most ever during a two-year period by a Sooner standing under 6-foot-8), Taylor Griffin has 22 blocks already this year.

Cade Davis made all 23 of his free throw attempts last year as a freshman and canned his first three attempts this year before finally missing against Davidson on Nov. 18. He is now 36-for-41 (.878) in his career.

• OU will play 21 of its 31 regular season games against teams that made the 2008 postseason (15 against NCAA Tournament teams, four against NIT squads and two against College Basketball Invitational teams). As of Tuesday, the Sooners are ranked No. 4 nationally by CollegeRPI.com.

NOTING OU'S 30-POINT PERFORMANCES

• Sophomore Blake Griffin and freshman Willie Warren have each posted back-to-back 30-point performances this season. Griffin netted a career-high 35 points against Gardner-Webb Nov. 22 before scoring 32 four days later against UAB. Warren went for 31 at Rice on Dec. 22 before pouring in a career-high 35 on Dec. 30 at Arkansas. No other team in the country has had a player combo accomplish the feat this season.

• The last time two Sooners each had back-to-back games of at least 30 points in the same season was in 1993-94 when senior forward Jeff Webster and junior guard/forward Calvin Curry did it.

• The last OU player to register two 30-point games his true freshman season was Tim McCalister in 1983-84. The last OU true frosh to register at least three 30-point games was Wayman Tisdale in 1982-83 (he had a freshman-record nine).

PREVIEWING NEBRASKA

• Nebraska enters Wednesday's game with a 12-4 overall record and a 2-1 Big 12 mark following Saturday's 73-51 home win over Kansas State. The Huskers also beat Missouri (56-51) at home and lost to Iowa State (65-53) on the road in Big 12 play.

• Playing its second ranked opponent of the year (it lost 64-44 at Arizona State Dec. 7), Nebraska is outscoring opponents by 11.1 a game but is getting outrebounding by 4.5 per contest. NU is shooting .463 from the field (ranks seventh in Big 12), .385 from 3-point range (second) and .685 from the free throw line (eighth). The Huskers, who lead the Big 12 by surrendering only 55.8 points a contest, are allowing opponents to shoot .401 from the field and .308 from 3-point range.

• Nebraska's top eight scorers are guards. Senior Steve Harley leads the team with his 12.3 points per game in a team-high 31.2 minutes a contest. Harley is also averaging 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals while shooting .429 from the field.

• Senior Ade Dagunduro is averaging 10.8 points, 3.8 boards and 1.4 assists while shooting a team-high .543 from the floor. In Big 12 play, Dagunduro averages a team-high 13.7 points and is shooting .583 from the field (14-for-24).

• Senior Paul Velander has come off the bench in all 16 contests to average 9.6 points. One of the Big 12's best perimeter shooters, Velander ranks second in the league in 3-point field goal percentage (.489) and fifth in 3-point makes (2.9 per game). He is coming off a career-high-tying 20-point performance against Kansas State in which he went 6-for-10 from behind the arc.

• Junior Sek Henry averages 9.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He ranks second on the team with his 17 treys and is shooting .405 from long distance.

• Sophomore Cookie Miller averages 6.6 points and team highs of 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals per outing.

• Doc Sadler is in his third year as Nebraska's head coach and owns a 49-31 (.613) record there. The 1982 Arkansas graduate is in his fifth season as a collegiate head coach (he was at UTEP for two years) and owns a 97-49 (.664) career mark.

SERIES WITH NEBRASKA

Oklahoma owns a 103-81 all-time record against Nebraska and holds a 59-20 advantage in games played in Norman. OU is 9-5 against the Huskers since the formation of the Big 12 Conference, but NU has won three of the series' last four games. Jeff Capel is 1-1 against Nebraska as OU's head coach.

LAST YEAR AGAINST THE HUSKERS

• Nebraska won the only meeting between the teams last year, a 63-45 decision on Feb. 27 in Lincoln.

• Oklahoma, which committed five turnovers before it attempted its second field goal, struggled offensively throughout the contest. OU shot .370 from the field, .250 (5-for-20) from 3-point range and .545 (6-for-11) from the free throw line.

• Trailing 14-10, the Sooners watched Nebraska use a 15-2 first-half-ending run to take a 29-12 lead at the break.

• Blake Griffin led OU with 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists while Tony Crocker added 11 points and Cade Davis 10 off the bench. Griffin and Davis (both freshmen) combined for 60 percent of the team's points. The pair went a combined 11-for-15 (.733) from the field (Griffin was 7-for-8) while the rest of the team was 6-for-31 (.194).

• Nebraska was led by Steve Harley's 17 points. Aleks Maric registered 16 points and a game-high 11 boards while Ade Dagunduro contributed 13 points and seven caroms.

MORE BLAKE

• Blake Griffin scored at least 18 points in each of the season's first nine games, marking OU's longest such streak since guard Corey Brewer netted at least 18 in 15 consecutive outings during the 1997-98 season. Griffin's lone three games under 18 points this year were an 11-point performance against Utah when he played a season-low 23 minutes (attempted only three field goals), a 14-point effort against Coppin State on Jan. 3, and a 16-point afternoon Saturday at Texas A&M. He registered double-doubles in the Utah and Coppin State contests.

• Lost in Griffin's gaudy scoring and rebounding statistics are some pretty impressive assist numbers. The forward ranks third on the team with 2.4 assists per game this season and has registered at least one handout in all 18 outings. Last season, Griffin became the first Sooner standing 6-foot-10 or taller to ever dish at least three assists in a game 11 times. He has recorded at least three assists nine times already this year.

• Griffin (13.4 rpg) is on pace to shatter the school record for rebounding average in a season. The standard of 13.3 boards per game was set by Alvan Adams in 1974-75. Griffin is also averaging 9.7 free throw attempts a game (ranks second nationally), a figure that would break Stacey King's 1988-89 school record of 8.9 foul shots per outing.

• Griffin has three games of at least 20 rebounds this season. Only one other player in the country (Gardner-Webb's Joshua Henley) has more than one (he has two).

• Griffin has 48 dunks on the season, good for an average of 2.7 per game.

• Griffin owns the best vertical leap (no step) on the team at 37.5 inches, as well as the best max leap (no limit on steps) by reaching 27 inches above the rim. He also owns an 84.5-inch wingspan (seven feet and one-half inch).

UNDERRATED AUSTIN

A Sooner who tends to get lost among OU's higher-profile players is senior point guard Austin Johnson. The 6-3, 176-pounder ranks just fifth on the team with his 7.7 points per outing but ranks among the Big 12's leaders in several other categories. Johnson leads the league (ranks sixth nationally) in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.2-to-1) and ranks seventh in assists (4.4), 11th in steals (1.4) and 13th in blocked shots (1.0).

DEFENSE, DEFENSE

• Oklahoma has held its last 11 opponents to a combined .352 field goal mark. Eight teams in those 10 games shot below .360.

• OU leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense (.375) and ranks third in steals per game (8.8) and fourth in blocks per contest (4.6).

AWARDS CENTRAL

Blake Griffin couldn't be off to a better start in terms of turning his Big 12 Preseason-Player-of-the-Year honor into the league's postseason player-of-the-year award. The sophomore forward was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week on Dec. 1 for the third time in three weeks to start the season and picked up a fourth honor on Jan. 12. Griffin, who is only the second player in conference history to earn the weekly honor three straight times (Texas Tech's Andre Emmett did it during the 2003-04 campaign), averaged 25.0 points, 18.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in wins over UAB and Purdue to help OU claim the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off title. Similarly, freshman guard Willie Warren has been named Phillips 66 Big 12 Rookie of the Week four out of a possible nine times (Nov. 24, Dec. 1, Dec. 29 and Jan. 5). Warren was the unanimous choice as Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year. Senior guard Austin Johnson picked up his first career Big 12 Player of the Week honor on Monday.


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