In its last game, Oklahoma proved it could win without a dominating performance from Blake Griffin. The Sooners, though, may need a better effort from their preseason All-American against their next opponent.
The fourth-ranked Sooners look to open a season with 11 straight victories for the first time in 19 years on Saturday when they meet surging Virginia Commonwealth in the All-College Classic at Oklahoma City’s Ford Center.
Oklahoma (10-0) matched its best start since 2003-04 last Saturday with a 70-52 home win over Utah. Griffin didn’t make a field goal for just the second time in his two seasons with the Sooners, going 0-for-3, but he went 11-of-14 from the free-throw line and grabbed 11 rebounds.
The only other time Griffin didn’t make a shot from the field was when he injured his knee 5 minutes into a loss at Kansas last season.
“He had a tough go because of foul trouble,” Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. “… But our guys stepped up. Certainly we don’t want to play without Blake in the game for us for extended minutes, but we showed today that we beat a good team and we were able to find a way. We feel like we have some other good players and I think they’re starting maybe to find their groove a little bit.”
All five starters scored in double figures for Oklahoma. Austin Johnson had 14 points, Willie Warren 12 and Taylor Griffin and Tony Crocker 11 each.
“It was hard because it felt like I was getting fouled every time I got the ball,” said Griffin, ninth in the nation in scoring with 23.1 points per game. “But it helped that everyone else was playing good. … It’s easy to forget how you are doing personally when all your teammates are there to pick you up.”
Oklahoma’s ranking is its highest since the final poll of the 2002-03 season, when it was the No. 3 team in the nation heading into the NCAA tournament as a top seed.
The Sooners haven’t started a season with 11 straight wins since opening 12-0 in 1989-90. Standing in their way is VCU, Capel’s former team which enters on a four-game winning streak.
Capel’s first head coaching job was with the Rams, and he went 79-41 with them from 2002-06. His 23-8 team in 2003-04 advanced to the NCAA tournament as a No. 13 seed.
This season, VCU is off to a 7-3 start after going 24-8 last year and winning the regular-season title in the Colonial Athletic Association under Capel’s successor, Anthony Grant.
The Rams are led by senior point guard Eric Maynor, who’s sixth in the nation with 24.4 points per game. Maynor scored 19 of his 30 points in the second half Wednesday to lead VCU to a 73-69 home victory over Akron.
“Coach is just telling me to lead, and I’m trying to do my best with that,” said Maynor, who has scored 30 or more points three times this season.
These teams have split their first two meetings, with VCU winning the most recent matchup 98-82 on Jan. 20, 1994, in Richmond.