Oklahoma found out how difficult it will be playing without Blake Griffin.
After losing to nearly drop out of the Top 25, the No. 25 Sooners return to action Wednesday night when they meet San Diego in the Great Alaska Shootout.
Oklahoma (2-1) opened with two wins in 2009-10 without Griffin, the national player of the year and top overall draft choice by the Los Angeles Clippers. He averaged 22.7 points and 14.4 boards as the Sooners fell one game short of the Final Four last season.
The first road game for Oklahoma without him proved to be difficult - an 82-69 loss at Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday. The game was scheduled as part of coach Jeff Capel’s contract when he left the Rams to take over the Sooners four years ago.
Capel sounded grateful for the lesson his team received.
“I knew our team wasn’t as good as everyone had us,” Capel said. “This was a great game for us. I didn’t like the result but we’ll grow from this game.”
Oklahoma tumbled eight spots in the rankings after falling behind by as many as 17 points in the first half. The Sooners resorted to 3-point attempts and shot 5-of-26 (19.2 percent) from the arc.
VCU shot 46.7 percent for the game and made nine 3-pointers, including six straight during a key 20-8 first-half run.
“They shot the heck out of the ball,” Capel said. “We let our lack of making shots determine how the game went.”
Oklahoma will have to do a better job containing the perimeter attack of a team that made 13 3-pointers in its last game. San Diego (2-1) shot 52.0 percent from the arc in an 84-65 win over NAIA opponent Point Loma Nazarene last Wednesday.
The 13 three-pointers fell one short of the school record last accomplished against Pepperdine on March 5, 2005.
The Toreros, who opened with a 77-64 win over Stanford on Nov. 13, are led by De’Jon Jackson. The senior guard is averaging 17.7 points, and is best remembered for his winning basket in overtime in a first-round NCAA tournament upset of Connecticut in 2008.
San Diego uses a frontcourt of 6-foot-9 center Roberto Manfra and 6-7 forward Chris Lewis, and they could have trouble matching up with Oklahoma’s tandem up front of 6-9, 300-pound Tiny Gallon and 6-9, 238-pound Ryan Wright. The Sooners’ duo outweighs the Toreros’ pair by 88 pounds.
Gallon has taken Griffin’s place in the lineup, and the freshman has two double-doubles—including 15 points and 11 rebounds Saturday.
Oklahoma and San Diego have never met.
This is the first time that the Great Alaska Shootout, held every year since 1978, features a six-team field with two pools of three. The championship is set for Saturday.