- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) - Blake Griffin picked up a head of steam and launched himself skyward. He soared over Michigan’s Zack Novak for a monstrous one-handed slam, then stood there for a second, chest heaving.

Even the Michigan fans rose up to cheer _ Griffin is that good.

Bulling through double teams and soaring in for vicious dunks, he finished with 33 points and 17 rebounds to power Oklahoma to a 73-63 victory over Michigan on Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Still sore from being dumped by Morgan State’s Ameer Ali, Griffin dominated the undersized Wolverines to help the second-seeded Sooners (29-5) advance to next week’s South Regional semifinals against the Syracuse-Arizona State winner in Memphis, Tenn.

The 10th-seeded Wolverines (21-14) pulled off a mild upset in the opening round by withstanding Clemson’s relentless pressure, but couldn’t handle Griffin’s tenacity to make it two in a row.

DeShawn Sims and reserve Anthony Wright had 14 points each for Michigan, which reached the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since a booster scandal rocked the program in the 1990s.

It could have been a better outcome if Michigan could have found a way to stop Griffin.

The Wolverines tried a variety of tactics, doubling him, sagging in the lane, bumping him around. None of it worked.

Griffin had 13 points _ two on a tomahawk dunk over Laval Lucas-Perry _ and nine rebounds by halftime, then opened the second half with a putback and a power move through a triple team under the basket. He added two more scores by powering through double teams, then brought the crowd to his feet with the did-he-just-do-that dunk over Novak.

Griffin finished 14-for-20 from the floor and tied Michael Beasley’s Big 12 record with his 28th double-double to send Oklahoma into the NCAA’s round of 16 for the first time since Hollis Price led the Sooners to the East Regional final in 2003.

Willie Warren added 16 points and Austin Johnson 12 for Oklahoma, providing support from the perimeter when the Wolverines surrounded Griffin.

Michigan shot well early, but struggled against Oklahoma’s zone late in the first half, scoring one point during a 7 1/2-minute span that spilled into the second half. The Sooners pushed the lead to 13 midway through the half, but the Wolverines had one last gasp, cutting the Sooners’ lead to 58-55 with just over two minutes left.

Griffin was just too much.

He scored on a putback and two free throws to put the Sooners up seven with just over 6 minutes left, then sealed the victory with yet another power move through a double team.

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