The 15th-seeded Bears quickly learned a lesson that the bruised Big 12 absorbed all season: Griffin is one of the few players in the country capable of eviscerating an opponent on his own.
The sophomore forward scored 28 points and added 13 rebounds while shooting 11-for-12 from the floor as second-seeded Oklahoma cruised to an 82-54 victory in a South Region first-round game at Sprint Center.
With little hope of containing Griffin, the Bears resorted to tactics usually reserved for the realm of professional wrestling. Morgan State’s Ameer Ali got tangled with Griffin chasing a rebound, then reached behind and slammed Griffin to the ground to earn an immediate ejection with 7:41 remaining.
The Sooners (28-5) advanced to a second-round meeting with 10th-seeded Michigan (21-13) on Saturday.
Reggie Holmes scored 14 points to lead the Bears (23-12), the MEAC champions whose first NCAA appearance coincided with coach Todd Bozeman’s return. He was just a few years removed from a decade in exile from the college game after incurring a show-cause penalty for infractions committed at California.
Griffin worked it off the glass. He made midrange jumpers. He eventually soared in for an alley-oop from his brother Taylor. Morgan State had answers for none of them, though they’re hardly in poor company since Griffin averaged 21.9 points and 14.3 rebounds in the regular season.
No. 10 MICHIGAN 62, No. 7 CLEMSON 59: The Wolverines (21-13) stymied the Tigers (23-9) with their 1-3-1 defense and survived a late scare in their first NCAA tournament game in 11 years, beating Clemson in Kansas City.
Michigan showed little sign of nerves in its first NCAA game since a booster scandal rocked the program in the 1990s, handling Clemson’s frenetic press to move on to the second round. Manny Harris scored 21 points and Stu Douglass added 12 for the Wolverines.
The Tigers didn’t quite get the hang of Michigan’s defense and ended up shooting 32 percent, including 5-for-22 on 3-pointers. Trevor Booker led Clemson with 18 points.
No. 4 GONZAGA 77, No. 13 AKRON 64: Josh Heytvelt scored 22 points, and the Bulldogs (27-5) rallied to get past the determined Zips (23-13) in Portland, Ore.
Micah Downs added 15 points for Gonzaga, which won for the 19th time in 20 games.
No. 8 LSU 75, No. 9 BUTLER 71: Marcus Thornton scored 30 points, and the hot-shooting Tigers (27-7) held off a late rally to beat the Bulldogs (26-6) in Greensboro, N.C.
Tasmin Mitchell had 14 points, and Chris Johnson added 12 for LSU. Matt Howard scored 22 points before fouling out with 35.7 seconds left, and Shelvin Mack added 18 points for Butler.
No. 1 N. CAROLINA 101, No. 16 RADFORD 58: Tyler Hansbrough set the ACC career scoring record and finished with 22 points to help the Tar Heels (29-4) beat the Highlanders (21-12) in Greensboro, N.C.