It’s no secret that Oklahoma is difficult to beat when Blake Griffin is dominating the post. Add in the long-range shooting of Austin Johnson, and it becomes a mystery how to slow down the Sooners’ potent inside-outside attack.
The No. 4 Sooners go for their ninth straight victory on Saturday afternoon as they travel to Hilton Coliseum to face an Iowa State team that has dropped 12 in a row to ranked opponents.
Oklahoma (20-1) improved to 6-0 in the Big 12 for the first time on Monday with an 89-81 win at Oklahoma State. Griffin posted his third straight double-double and Division I-leading 17th of the season with 26 points and 19 rebounds. The Cowboys grabbed just 18 rebounds.
Griffin, averaging a conference-best 22.3 points, will likely get a tougher test on the boards Saturday as he faces Iowa State sophomore Craig Brackins. The current Big 12 player of the week is fourth in the Big 12, averaging 9.1 rebounds.
“When he’s in the game, he’s just great for us rebounding,” Johnson said of Griffin, who leads the nation with 14.0 rebounds per game. “We know that he’ll get almost every rebound if he’s down under the goal. He just does a tremendous job for us night in and night out.”
Lately, so has Johnson. The senior guard hit five 3-pointers and scored a career-high 22 points on Monday. Johnson, averaging 15.8 points and shooting 51.9 percent (14-of-27) from beyond the arc in the last five games, hit a three-pointer with 6:57 remaining after the Cowboys trimmed a 51-37 deficit to 64-63.
“He’s playing at a very high level for us right now, and when he plays that way, it makes us a different basketball team,” Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. “Hopefully it’s something he can continue to be consistent with.”
The Sooners’ lone loss this season saw Johnson score only two points and shoot 1-of-8 from the field in a 96-88 defeat at Arkansas on Dec. 30.
Johnson hit a pair of 3s and scored 13 points in Oklahoma’s 76-64 win over Iowa State on Feb. 13 in the most recent meeting between the teams.
While the Cyclones look to snap a three-game losing streak on Saturday, they also go for their first win over a Top 25 team since defeating then-No. 12 Iowa 72-60 on Dec. 9, 2005.
Iowa State (12-8, 1-4) dropped its 11th straight conference road game on Tuesday with a 55-49 loss to Colorado. Brackins was the only Cyclones player with more than six points as he scored 24 on 11-of-16 shooting. In the last two games, Brackins is scoring 56.9 percent of Iowa State’s points.
“We have to understand if there’s only one guy scoring baskets, then the ball needs to go to him every possession,” Cyclones coach Greg McDermott told the Big 12’s official Web site. “We don’t shoot it until he touches it.”
Brackins, second in the conference in scoring behind Griffin with 19.6 points per game, missed nine of 12 shots and scored only six points in last season’s loss to the Sooners.
If Cyclones sophomore guard Lucca Staiger hits a 3-pointer on Saturday, it will be his 15th straight game with a 3, matching the fourth-longest streak in program history.
The Sooners have dropped three of four at Hilton Coliseum, including twice when they were ranked in the top 15.