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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Memphis v. Oklahoma Game Preview

Oklahoma (3-0) plays its first game away from home this season when it faces No. 3/3 Memphis (2-0) on Thursday at 8 p.m. CST in a 2K Sports College Hoops Classic semifinal inside New York's Madison Square Garden. The event, which benefits Coaches vs. Cancer, will feature another semifinal contest (Thursday at 6 p.m.) between Connecticut and Gardner-Webb. Thursday's winners will meet Friday at 7:30 p.m. CST while the consolation game will begin at 5:30 p.m. All four championship round games will be televised by ESPN2 with Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale and Doris Burke announcing.

OU's games in New York will air on the Sooner Radio Network with Bob Carpenter and Mike Houck announcing. Thursday's contest against Memphis will be heard on KRXO-FM 107.7 in Oklahoma City and KMOD-FM 97.5 in Tulsa. Friday's OU game will air on KOKC-AM 1520 in Oklahoma City and KTBZ-AM 1430 in Tulsa.

• OU's top five scorers are all shooting at least .565 from the field. It's sixth-leading scorer (Keith Clark) is shooting an even .500.
• OU has issued double-digit scoring runs in each of its first three games (15-0 against San Francisco, 16-0 versus Denver and 11-0 against Alcorn State).
• Oklahoma held opponents to 59.6 points a game last year, the lowest figure since the 1977-78 season (a span of 29 years). Through three games this year, OU is surrending 54.7 points a contest.
• The Sooners are 19-for-38 (.500) from 3-point range over the last two games. Omar Leary (6-for-9) and Tony Crocker (5-for-8) are a combined 11-for-17 (.647) on the year.
• The last time OU beat a team ranked as high as Memphis (the Tigers are ranked No. 3 this week's AP poll) was Jan. 7, 2003, when the ninth-ranked Sooners beat third-ranked Connecticut 73-63 in Norman.
• OU has recorded 26 consecutive winning seasons, more than any other Big 12 program. Kansas ranks second (24) and Oklahoma State ranks third (19).

Jeff Capel's Oklahoma team enters Thursday's game against Memphis with a 3-0 record after notching home victories over San Francisco (71-55), Denver (80-50) and Alcorn State (99-59). The Sooners have shot the ball extremely well thus far, as evidenced by their season marks of .535 from the field, .418 from 3-point range and .714 from the free throw line (last year they shot .435, .326 and .720, respectively).

Four Sooners average double figures in scoring, three of them members of the frontcourt. Freshman forward Blake Griffin, the sixth McDonald's All-America signee in school history, is averaging team highs of 16.3 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting .655 from the field. He posted double-doubles in OU's first and third games (he had 12 points and 10 rebounds by halftime of the opener against San Francisco). Griffin, who is playing 24.5 minutes a game, leads the squad in free throws made (11) and attempted (16). His older brother, junior forward Taylor Griffin, averages 11.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists an outing while shooting .565 from the floor. The elder Griffin has been steady, with scoring efforts of 13, 12 and nine. Senior center Longar Longar scored an OU-season-high 20 points in 20 minutes off the bench Monday against Alcorn State and is averaging 11.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in 18.3 minutes a game. Longar is the team's leading returning scorer and rebounder from last season (10.4 ppg and 7.1 rpg) and owns a career .586 field goal mark.

Leading the way in the backcourt have been sophomore wing Tony Crocker and junior point guard Omar Leary. The pair has been lethal from the field, going a combined 24-for-32 (.750) overall through three games and knocking down 11 of their 17 attempts (.647) from behind the 3-point arc. Crocker has scored in double figures each outing (10, 12 and 16 points) to rank second on the team with his 12.7 average. He is 5-for-8 from 3-point range and also averages 4.0 boards. Leary, a first-team All-American last year at Northeastern (Colo.) Junior College, is shooting a team-high .769 from the floor (10-for-13) and a team-best .667 from long distance (6-for-9). He is averaging 9.3 points in 17.3 minutes a contest and has reached double figures in each of the last two games (14 and 11).

Four more Sooners -- sophomore forward Keith Clark (7.0 ppg), freshman wing Cade Davis (5.7 ppg), junior combo guard Austin Johnson (5.3 ppg) and senior wing David Godbold (4.0 ppg) -- all average at least 15.0 minutes a contest.

Memphis heads to New York with a 2-0 record thanks to home wins last week over Tennessee-Martin (102-71) and Richmond (80-63). The Tigers, ranked No. 3 in both major polls, outrebounded their two foes by an average of 7.5 boards and forced an average of 20.0 turnovers. They are shooting .463 from the field, .333 from 3-point range (20-for-60) and .623 from the free throw line (38-for-61) while holding opponents to .343 field goal and .305 (18-for-59) 3-point shooting.

Junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts is averaging a team-high 23.5 points a contest to go along with 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals. He is also the team's leader in free throws made (16) and attempted (22). Douglas-Roberts recorded 28 points, eight boards and four steals against Tennessee-Martin. Freshman point guard Derrick Rose averaged 19.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in Memphis' first two games while going 14-for-24 from the field (.583). A consensus top-five national recruit who was regarded as the country's best high school point guard last year, Rose is also averaging 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocked shots. The Tigers' chief 3-point threats, sophomore guards Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack have come off the bench to average 10.5 points a game each. Kemp is shooting a team-high .545 from long range (6-for-11) while Mack owns a .333 mark from beyond the arc (6-for-18). Junior forward Robert Dozier averages 9.5 points and 9.0 boards an outing and sophomore forward Shawn Taggart, an Iowa State transfer, averages 5.5 points and a team-high 10.0 rebounds.

John Calipari is in his eighth season as Memphis' head coach and owns a 183-63 (.744) record at the school. He is in his 16th year as a collegiate head coach and sports a 376-134 (.737) career mark. The former Kansas assistant also compiled a 72-112 (.391) record in two-plus years as the head coach of the New Jersey Nets (1997-99).

Memphis leads the all-time series against Oklahoma, 5-0. The Tigers posted wins in 1983-84 (69-65 at Memphis), in the 1985 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight (63-61 in Dallas), in 1996-97 (61-47 in Memphis), in 1997-98 (80-78 in Norman) and last year in the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational (77-65).

• In Oklahoma's third game of last season (Nov. 20), 12th-ranked Memphis beat the Sooners 77-65 in the opening round of the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational.
• OU shot just .356 from the field and committed 21 turnovers (Memphis shot .490 and committed 18 turnovers itself).
• OU trailed 39-32 at halftime but got down by as many as 19 points in the second half (63-44) before a 9-0 run brought it to within 10 (63-53).
• Taylor Griffin registered his first career double-double with a career-high 16 points and 10 rebounds.
• Griffin was 6-for-6 from the free throw line and helped the Sooners to a season-best .950 performance (19-for-20).
• Every player from both teams who saw action in the game registered at least one turnover.

The Sooners, who have never faced Gardner-Webb, own a 3-1 series lead against Connecticut, with all four games taking place within the last six seasons. The series began when fifth-ranked OU posted a 69-67 win on Jan. 7, 2002, in Hartford. Exactly a year later, No. 9 Oklahoma beat No. 3 UConn by a 73-63 count in Norman. In Storrs the following season, the top-ranked Huskies handed the No. 6 Sooners an 86-59 defeat. And in 2004-05 in Norman, No. 25 OU fended off the 12th-ranked Huskies, 77-65.

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