- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) - Blake Griffin hit the floor hard, bounced back up and finished off another dominant performance.

When Morgan State’s Ameer Ali flipped him over his shoulder after the two became entangled in the second half, Griffin protected his head, landing hard on his back.

Ali was immediately ejected, while Griffin stayed in the game, finishing with 28 points and 13 rebounds as Oklahoma rolled past Morgan State 82-54 Thursday night in the first round of South Regional.

The Sooners will play Michigan, a 62-59 winner over Clemson, on Saturday.

Griffin missed most of two games because of a concussion he sustained on Feb. 21. The second-seeded Sooners lost those two games and four of their last six before stumbling into the NCAA tournament.

Oklahoma (28-5) was never threatened by the No. 15 Bears (23-12), who were making their first NCAA appearance under third-year coach Todd Bozeman.

The game also marked the return to the national stage for Bozeman, the center of an NCAA scandal before being fired at California-Berkeley in 1996. He was out of coaching for eight years before resurrecting his career three years ago at Morgan State.

Griffin had 26 points and 12 rebounds when he went tumbling over Ali with 7:41 left and Oklahoma leading 60-44. It was the 27th double-double of the year for Griffin, extending the 6-foot-10 sophomore’s school record.

Bozeman went out and immediately started speaking to Ali. Griffin missed both free throws on the foul.

Griffin, the unanimous pick as Big 12 player of the year, hit mid-range jumpers, scored on thunderous dunks off alley-oop passes and made a couple of feathery tip-ins off his teammates’ misses.

He also made the crowd groan _ and showed he was human _ when he stepped to the free throw line in the first half and airballed his first shot.

Juan Pattillo’s dunk gave Oklahoma a 50-25 lead early in the second half, and Griffin had 22 of the Sooners’ points. Reggie Holmes and Rogers Barnes canned 3-pointers for the Bears and Rodney Stokes went inside for a bucket that sliced the lead to 50-33.

But Griffin, with many in the crowd yelling, “Air ball! Air ball!” calmly sank a pair of free throws to stop the momentum of the Bears.

Willie Warren, the Big 12’s freshman of the year, had 16 points for the Spooners and Taylor Griffin, Blake’s older brother, had 18 points, five rebounds and four steals.

Holmes had 14 points for Morgan State while Marquise Kately had 11 and Stokes had nine.

It was the 14th time Warren had 15 or more points.

The Sooners dominated in just about every way, outrebounding the Bears 45-36, shooting 60 percent while holding Morgan State to 29 percent and drawing only 11 fouls to Morgan State’s 24.

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