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Missouri prepares for Sooners' star

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 | 6:29 p.m. CST; updated 8:23 p.m. CST, Tuesday, March 3, 2009

COLUMBIA — Missouri men's basketball coach Mike Anderson doesn't generally talk about special defensive strategies.

But when the best player in the country comes to visit Mizzou Arena, it's hard to avoid the topic. Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin leads the Big 12 Conference with nearly 22 points and 14 rebounds per game, and he is the heavy favorite to win National Player of the Year honors and be selected No. 1 in June's NBA draft.

Wednesday's game

No. 5 Oklahoma (26-3, 12-2 Big 12)
at No. 12 Missouri (24-5,11-3)

WHEN: 8 p.m.

WHERE: Mizzou Arena (15,061)

RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM

TV: KMIZ/Channel 17



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"Do we have somebody to match up with him one-on-one?" Anderson asked rhetorically. "I don't think so, so it's going to be a team effort."

The Tigers' guards will have to be even more active than usual to help forwards DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons double-team Griffin and still contain Oklahoma's outside shooters. The Sooners are 37 percent from three-point range this season, which is third in the Big 12.

"We’ve been doing it all season long," junior guard J.T. Tiller said. "It’s just another game, a really good player, but we’ve got to just keep playing as one team. One and a half men is what we guard."

Griffin's 6-foot-10, 251-pound frame has wreaked havoc all season long against double and even triple-teams in the Big 12. Texas Tech attempted to guard the versatile sophomore 1-on-1 earlier this season in Norman, Okla., and the results were disastrous for the Red Raiders. Griffin finished with career highs of 40 points and 23 rebounds in Oklahoma's 95-74 victory.

Even though Okahoma suffered losses to Kansas and Texas in the two games where Griffin was sidelined with a concussion, his teammates are important his teammates are to his success. Freshman guard Willie Warren leads all Big 12 freshmen with 15.1 points per game and all five starters have scored 22 points at least once this season.

"It helps me a lot to have guys that can score in so many different ways, not just from outside, but penetrating and dishing it off," Griffin said in a phone interview.

The Oklahoma City native leads the conference with a 62.7 field goal percentage, and the Sooners are the Big 12's third-best scoring team with nearly 80 points per game. Anderson knows he can only do so much to prepare his team defensively, and he said he will try to make whatever adjustments are necessary.

"We always pride ourselves on being unpredictable, so we’ll do something crazy, I guess," Anderson said following a barrage of questions about how his team could contain Griffin. "I don’t know."

SENIOR NIGHT: Wednesday's game against Oklahoma will be the last home game for four Missouri seniors, including Carroll and Lyons, the team's two leading scorers. It will also be the last game at Mizzou Arena for the coach's son, Mike Anderson Jr., and Matt Lawrence, who is only four 3-pointers away from tying Kareem Rush for second all-time at Missouri.

"It’s going to be very emotional," Lawrence said. "We’ve been through a lot together and we’ve been battling on the floor in practice, too, so it’s going to be hard but, we still have a couple more games left so hopefully we'll take care of business on Wednesday."

A win would give Missouri a perfect 18-0 record at Mizzou Arena this season and its first win over a top 10 team.


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