If teams think that the way to beat Oklahoma is to focus solely on Sooners’ star sophomore Blake Griffin, they are learning that Austin Johnson is another talented player they need to account for.
Griffin, Johnson and No. 6 Oklahoma goes for their sixth straight win on Wednesday night as they host a Nebraska team that’s one of the stingiest defensive squads in the nation.
The Sooners (17-1, 3-0 Big 12) return to Lloyd Noble Center following their 69-63 win at Texas A&M on Saturday. Griffin, averaging 22.0 points and a Div. I-leading 13.4 rebounds this season, had 16 points and tied a season low with six boards against the Aggies. Johnson, though, scored a season-high 19 points and handed out seven assists as Oklahoma matched the fourth-best one-loss start since the Big 12 began in 1996-97.
“This win should give all our guys confidence, but the person it should give the most confidence is Blake because he doesn’t feel like he has to do it himself,” Sooners coach Jeff Capel said. “I have a lot of confidence in them and they should be confident in themselves.”
Named Big 12 Player of the Week for the first time on Monday, Johnson scored seven points in the final 1:36 on Saturday after Texas A&M trimmed Oklahoma’s lead to 59-57. Johnson had 15 points and four assists in a 78-63 win over then-No. 11 Texas on Jan. 12.
“I’m used to stepping up late and making shots,” Johnson said on Saturday following his highest scoring output since having 19 points in a 92-91 overtime win over Baylor on Feb. 19, 2008. “I work on shooting deep 3s and when they left my hand (today) they felt good.”
Johnson also does a nice job taking care of the basketball. He’s turned the ball over just five times during the Sooners’ five-game winning streak.
“He does so many things,” Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. “He doesn’t turn the ball over. You can’t rattle him. He makes big shots. Him starting at Oklahoma for four years speaks for itself. You don’t continue to do that year in and year out without being pretty good.”
In four career games against the Cornhuskers, Johnson is averaging just 6.5 points, but is shooting 53.3 percent (8-of-15) from beyond the arc.
Although Oklahoma goes for its fifth straight home win against Nebraska, the Sooners have dropped three of the past four meetings with the Cornhuskers. In the teams’ last matchup on Feb. 27, 2008, Nebraska held Oklahoma to 37.0 percent shooting in a 63-45 victory.
This season, the Cornhuskers are holding teams to 40.1 percent shooting and 55.8 points per game—second in the nation. The Sooners, meanwhile, are limiting opponents to 37.7 percent shooting from the field in 2008-09.
Coming off a 73-51 win over visiting Kansas State on Saturday, Nebraska (12-4, 2-1) looks to snap a three-game road losing streak on Wednesday night. The Cornhuskers, though, have lost four straight in Norman by an average of 19.0 points. Nebraska’s last win at Oklahoma was 96-81 on Jan. 20, 1999.
Senior guard Paul Velander hit 6-of-10 from 3-point range and matched a career high with 20 points on Saturday for the Cornhuskers. He is shooting 48.9 percent on 3-pointers, and hit 3-of-3 from long distance and scored 11 points in the win against the Sooners last season.