The national player of the year scored 30 points, snared 14 rebounds and doinked the left side of his head on the backboard.
Yet Blake Griffin was eclipsed Friday night. By a teammate.
Oklahoma guard Tony Crocker entered Friday's NCAA South Regional semifinal having missed 14 of his last 15 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc. He'd contributed 21 points in the Sooners' five most recent games.
Against Syracuse's renowned 2-3 zone defense, Crocker made six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 28 points as Oklahoma cruised to an 84-71 victory.
Give Griffin that kind of perimeter support and the Sooners are a load, so much so that they slowed the Big East's domination of this NCAA tournament.
With the way Big East teams were bullying opponents the past two weeks — did you see Louisville's demolition of Arizona and Villanova's of Duke? — would anyone have been surprised if the conference bogarted all four slots at the Final Four?
Crocker and Griffin ended the chances of that history.
"It takes our team to another level," Griffin said of Crocker's outside shooting. "They had to respect him all game long because he was making shots all game long."
Indeed, Crocker's 3 on Oklahoma's first possession came after five rapid-fire passes against a zone that had stifled opponents for much of the season. But Oklahoma (30-5) ranks second nationally in field-goal percentage at 49.2, and Friday the Sooners were even better at 54.2.
Crocker began the night with a 9.2 scoring average, and in 10 games since a 7-for-11 game against Colorado, he had missed 26-of-33 from beyond the arc. Friday he made 6-of-11.
"When you're struggling, making that first shot always makes it better," said Crocker, a 6-foot-6 junior. "The zone gave us a lot of open spots."
Crocker's scoring created space inside for the sublime Griffin.
Griffin's statistics — he averages 22.5 points and a national-best 14.5 rebounds — are imposing enough, but in person you get a better sense of his "feel" for the game, how quick he is to pass out of an oncoming double-team, how patient he is maneuvering one-on-one, how well he times his rebounding efforts.
His highlight moment came in the final minute of the first half when Syracuse pressured full-court. Griffin gathered a long inbounds pass at midcourt and dribbled to the bucket, where he absorbed contact from Jonny Flynn, converted the layup and made the subsequent free throw.
Poor Flynn. He sacrificed his 185 pounds trying to draw a charge from the 251-pound Griffin, only to have Dick Cartmell's whistle go against him. Moreover, Flynn bruised his back on the play.
Griffin's three-point play gave Oklahoma its first double-digit lead at 36-26, and after a Paul Harris miss, Crocker's left-wing 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the half gave the Sooners a tidy 13-point cushion at intermission. When Oklahoma sustained its run by scoring on its first six possessions of the second half, Syracuse (28-10) was done.
The lone reason for Sooners concern came with three minutes remaining, when Griffin conked the left side of his head against the backboard as he dunked off a baseline feed from his brother, Taylor.
"Blake was, again, incredible, like he's been all year," said Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, a former VCU coach and Duke point guard.
Capel was a year old when Jim Boeheim took over Syracuse's program in 1976, and this was Capel's sixth NCAA tournament game as a coach, Boeheim's 67th. But Capel more than held his own.
When Blake Griffin committed an early foul, Capel employed a zone of his own to protect Griffin defensively. The strategy worked as Griffin scored 16 first-half points and Syracuse missed all 10 of its first-half 3s.
"We went to a 2-3 zone, played some 1-3-1, gave them some different looks," Capel said. "One of the things … that I kind of noticed watching on tape was Jonny Flynn is so good that you can't give him a steady diet of the same thing because eventually he's going to pick it apart."
Capel also had his Sooners prepared for the nuances of the Orange zone. Oklahoma had 19 assists, and half of its points came inside the lane.
Credit Crocker's revival.
"If I would have sat him or benched him, that could have destroyed him where you don't get him back," Capel said.
"So we stuck with him because I believe in him."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime