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Some Defensive Things to Look For in the Oklahoma Game

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Defensively, Texas is going to have to play a game of pick your poison tonight, as many teams have to do when facing Oklahoma. Allowing Blake Griffin to operate unencumbered all over the floor is an exercise in futility and is quite frankly begging for the super soph to foul out your entire frontcourt. So, to defend Blake Griffin, and Oklahoma as a whole look for the Horns to do the following.

Let Blake Dominate the Basketball
As is common with most stars, Griffin has a tendency to dominate or hold the basketball to the detriment of his team in the halfcourt. Movement of the other floor players becomes minimal as players stand and watch while BG surveys the defense and waits for the double that almost always comes. It's in Texas' best interest to allow Blake to hold the basketball when he's 15 ft away from the bucket. If he wants to shoot it, fine. If he wants to turn and back down my big, cool. I've got something for him. Texas needs to allow Blake to catch the ball away from the basket and then keep from doing anything overly aggressive to force his hand. Let him catch it. Play sound. Wait for him to make his move when he's on the perimeter. If he takes his time doing so, even better. Which leads me to my next key...

Help Big and Quick Down Low, Help Slow and Small On the Perimeter
If Griffin does get post catches in the scoring area, the double must come quickly, aggressively, and hopefully from the small forward position or bigger. The double has to come from a player that has a fighting chance to bother Griffin while not allowing BG to split the double team. Look for Texas to attack BG with a double team on the block from Damion James or Gary Johnson. They're big and athletic enough to make a difference.

As I alluded to in point number 1, when BG catches the ball facing up I wait for him to declare before I bring help. And when he does declare my help is coming only after he's put the ball on the floor and hopefully turned his back on the double. When he's backing down my big, I've got a 1 or a 2 coming to steal the basketball at best, or force Blake to pick up his dribble at worst. When getting help, however, Griffin's defender must create a solid enough base to keep BG from getting the baseline and neutralizing the double team. This is done with a power step that puts one foot out of bounds along the baseline so if Griffin tries to get baseline, it's either a charge or BG is out of bounds. Too often defensive players relax when receiving double team help and we've also seen it result in a quick Griffin spin to get baseline followed by a tomahawk yoke.

Know Who You're Guarding
OU is going to use Griffin as a ball screener and a baseline screener to free up dribble penetration and shooters in an effort to punish defenders that are hesitant to hedge or show for fear of losing Griffin. Texas needs to play smart in these scenarios and show or hedge differently depending on the offensive player's skillset. For instance, if Willie Warren is getting a ball screen from BG 30 feet from the basket and Dex is helping the screen, Dex has to know that the biggest threat is allowing Warren to turn the corner or split the hedge. Instead of worrying about Warren rising up and hitting a 25 footer, Dex needs to show for a count to stop penetration allowing Warren's man to recover. That's it. If Warren shoots the deep jumper it's a win for Texas regardless of outcome.

If BG is setting a baseline screen to free up Johnson, BG's man must show aggressively enough to chase Johnson off the 3 ball because Austin wants to catch and shoot instead of penetrating to the rack. The rest of the defense then needs to be prepared to help to Griffin who will almost assuredly be diving to the goal.

Two screening scenarios, one is helped aggressively and the other is not based on the offensive capabilities of the opposing players.

Bumping Cutters
With so much help and recover going on, sometimes the most dangerous player on the court is the player cutting on defensive help. Taylor Griffin has killed teams by cutting off of Blake's interior double teams. Pattilo is new to the party, but he's a player with great athletic ability that can thrive cutting to the goal. Texas' rotation must realize that it simply isn't enough to rotate to the pass out of the double team. Guards and the small forward off the ball need to know when a double is coming and then bump the OU cutter off his path to the goal. This is one of the most difficult assignments in defensive basketball because it requires anticipation of the rotation as well as the discipline to not be caught ball watching.

Use All 15 of Your Big Fouls
Griffin is a poor foul shooter who plays almost the entire game. Texas can take advantage of BG's foul shooting and hopefully wear down the star forward giving Hill, Pittman, and Chapman the green light to be as physical as they can be for stretches in the game.

Pressure the Ball
If there's one weakness on this Oklahoma club it's their lack of having a true playmaking point guard. Johnson has performed admirably in this role for the better part of the season, but I'm still not sold on his ability to make plays for teammates, while protecting the basketball when faced with terrific ball pressure. I think Doge Balbay can really bother Austin and get him out of rhythm because Austin isn't the low to the ground water bug that seems to give Balbay fits. Austin dribbles the ball relatively high, and doesn't have the elite quickness or strength to dislodge Doge. If I'm Texas I've got to take my chances getting in Austin's jock all 90 feet to keep ou out of their offense for as long as possible.

It should be a great game. A must win.

Thoughts?