On This Day in OU Hoops History: Griffin dominates, Crocker explodes as Sooners advance to 2009 Elite Eight

Parker Thune

Oklahoma’s 2020 college basketball season came to an unceremonious and premature end when the NCAA declared this year’s tournament would not be played due to measures intended to stop the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Sooners just might have assembled the kind of team — a Big Three scoring triumvirate and a collection of young, athletic talent — that could have possibly made a good postseason run.

This team’s resume will always be incomplete.

Instead of using three weeks this spring to witness OU basketball history, SI Sooners will relive it. From now until April 4 — the date that was supposed to be this year’s Final Four semifinals — we’ll look back on Oklahoma’s most memorable NCAA Tournament games from that date in history.

MARCH 27, 2009

(2) Oklahoma 84, (3) Syracuse 71

It was never a secret that the Sooners’ 2008-09 season rested on the shoulders of future NBA superstar Blake Griffin. It was also never a secret that night in and night out, Griffin would get his.

For those Sooners, the perpetual question was who Griffin’s wingman would be. Who would step up in any given situation to relieve the pressure from big No. 23 and lift OU to victory? Would it be freshman standout Willie Warren? Shooting guard Austin Johnson? Or would it be senior forward Taylor Griffin, Blake’s older brother?

In a Sweet 16 contest that pitted the Sooners’ vaunted offense against Jim Boeheim’s legendary 2-3 zone defense, it was none of the above. Junior Tony Crocker - fresh off a clean zero points in the Sooners’ Round of 32 win over Michigan - played Robin to Griffin’s Batman.

Crocker’s career-high 28 points catalyzed a convincing 84-71 victory, and helped send Oklahoma to the Elite Eight for the first time in seven years. The Sooners never trailed, thanks in large part to Crocker’s 6-of-11 shooting from downtown.

"It makes our job so much easier when [Crocker’s] playing like he did today,” said Griffin after the game. “They can't sink down in the zone. They had to respect him all game long because he was hitting shots all game long. It takes our team to another level when he plays like he did today.”

Crocker’s performance was outstanding by any measure, but as always, Griffin was the one that truly stole the show. He posted 30 points and 14 rebounds, with an astonishing eight of those boards coming on the offensive end. The Orange simply couldn’t contend with Griffin’s sheer athleticism inside, and their poor shooting on the other end of the floor didn’t help matters. Only Jonny Flynn (22 points) and Andy Rautins (12) notched double digits for ‘Cuse.

With the victory, the Sooners would advance to face Tyler Hansbrough and eventual national champion North Carolina in the regional final.

Yes, Blake Griffin was superhuman at the collegiate level, and Sooner Nation will always remember his days in the crimson and cream. But on March 25, 2009, it was Tony Crocker who truly captured the “One Shining Moment” magic of the NCAA tournament.

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