NORMAN — Three times in the second half of Bedlam, Nicole Griffin fought her way into scoring position on the post, caught the ball and turned to launch a jump hook shot that floated so gracefully, it wouldn't have cracked eggs had they been lined along the rim.
Time was, the 6-foot-6 OU center was soft. Now, only her shot is Charmin-like.
Griffin scored a career high 21 points Sunday to lead the Sooner women to an 80-61 rout of OSU, and this is what Sherri Coale envisioned when she beat out the likes of Stanford, Duke and Louisville for Griffin three years ago.
“So happy for Nic, to have that kind of day on this stage,” Coale said of a victory earned before a crowd of 10,567 in Lloyd Noble Center. “Nic has gone up against great post players all year. Her confidence is continually growing, because of that.”
A skilled 6-6 center in women's basketball is a weapon of mass destruction, unless she can't handle the physical strain. To some degree, that described Griffin in her first year or so as a Sooner.
But the days are over of pushing Griffin away from the basket, of roughing her up in the paint.
“She's long and she has gotten a lot better over the last couple of years,” said State coach Jim Littell. “She shoots that little jump hook and keeps it high. Has a nice touch on it.”
Then Littell gave Griffin one of those inside compliments that come from knowing the game.
“She does her work before the ball comes in there on sealing you, getting the ball down there in the paint,” Littell said. “She's a handful there.”
Doesn't Toni Young know it. OSU's leading scorer and rebounder picked up two fouls in the first six minutes, the second trying to defend Griffin in the post. Young sat the rest of the half, and though OSU hung tough, trailing just 31-28 at halftime, Young never was much of a factor in the second half.
Griffin made nine of 13 shots, particularly pleasing Coale by not always settling for the jump hook but going to the basket, where twice in the second half she scored with her left hand.
Griffin, as always, was a factor on defense. She blocked two shots but had the Cowgirls concerned about shooting over her. Littell said this game turned late first half when OSU, with a slight lead, missed close-in shots “right at the rim … maybe saw somebody out of the corner of our eye.”
That somebody was Griffin.
“She's looking for me to perform like this more often,” Griffin said. “Why can't I do this all the time, not just today?”
Griffin is too hard on herself. She's been playing solid basketball all season. Came into the game averaging 10.9 points and 4.7 rebounds.
“I've been playing good,” Griffin said. “I played really good today.”
Thus the Sooners retained second place in the Big 12. They're not a great team. Too injury-depleted and too thin to be Final Four contenders.
But they're scrappy enough and skilled enough that they can do some damage come March, especially with a 6-foot-6 center who is soft only with her shot.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.