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Nicole Griffin gives OU a threat in the middle

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 11, 2011 at 8:43 pm •  Published: March 11, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nicole Griffin didn't even play the first time the Oklahoma women faced Texas A&M. On Saturday, Griffin barely sat.

And that makes Sherri Coale's Sooners an intriguing team in the NCAA Tournament.

Hard to feel good about losing in the Big 12 semifinals, as OU did 82-69 Friday at Municipal Auditorium. But the Sooners should, anyway.

They no longer are a racehorse team dependent solely on point guard Danielle Robinson and her band of outsider shooters. These Sooners have a center.

Griffin continued her remarkable ascension. From barely playing, if at all, to indispensable in a mere month. Griffin had 12 points and eight rebounds against the Aggies, playing what Coale called “fantastic.”

Griffin didn't miss a shot (6-for-6) and made A&M All-American-to-be Danielle Adams look human. Which is not easy considering Adams had torched the Sooners for 62 points in two games this season but settled for 16 points Friday on 15 shots.

“A 6-6 kid makes a whole lot of difference,” A&M coach Gary Blair said of Griffin, a freshman from Milwaukee. “Since they put her in the lineup, I think Oklahoma will be very good in the NCAA Tournament.”

Through November, December and January, Griffin played a few minutes here, a few minutes there. Joanna McFarland and Lyndsey Cloman played more in the post, and Jelena Cerina played almost as much as Griffin.

But Coale finally sought more production from the interior, and it was Griffin's turn. Griffin had made “incremental improvement” but her playing time was not incremental.

In 10 games from Jan. 2 through Feb. 5, Griffin totaled 15 minutes. But in the 10 games since, she's averaged 24.8 minutes, 9.1 points and 5.0 rebounds.

Griffin's two-game totals in the Big 12 Tournament: 75 minutes, 22 points, 19 rebounds, 71-percent shooting.

“I'm really, really proud of Nicole,” Coale said. “She's really grown over the course of the year. Her presence impacted the game.”

It makes you wonder how much further along Griffin would be had Coale flipped the switch sooner. After all, Griffin was a 6-foot-6 high school all-American with skills.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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