NORMAN – When Willie Warren fouled out with 46 seconds remaining Monday night, leaving Oklahoma shy one guard on the floor, Jeff Capel didn’t reach for Tony Crocker or Austin Johnson to fill the void. No, Capel left his sitting starters seated, instead subbing in walk-on freshman T.J. Franklin, who’d played all of five minutes in the Sooners’ first dozen Big 12 games. A message sent from Capel, who benched the struggling duo for the final 10:40 of OU’s 87-78 loss to Kansas? "I’m not big into messages,” Capel said. "The guys that weren’t in the game didn’t deserve to play. If they want to read a message into that, that’s on them.” One clear message drawn from Monday night: Without Blake Griffin — and there’s still no set return date for the Sooner star — OU requires maximum effort from everyone to maintain a contender look and feel. When the energy was optimum against the Jayhawks, OU competed. The Sooners led by 14 early. And after a lull sent them into a 20-point hole, they found energy in reserves Cade Davis and Omar Leary who led a charge back to within three points late. "I think at times, especially in the second half, we showed we can still play with almost any team in the country (without Blake),” Taylor Griffin said. "Kansas is a very good team. The way we fought back showed a lot.” But the reasons for having to fight back also revealed something not at all surprising. Griffin makes everyone around him better. When he’s not on the floor, no one — save for Willie Warren — is quite the same. And when Griffin is missing, that makes it even more imperative that everyone work together, and work hard. "I was disappointed for a while in our effort, really at the start of the second half,” Capel said. "I finally got it right in getting some guys out of there and getting some guys in who wanted to play and compete at a high level – the level that we needed to play. "I’m sorry I didn’t figure that out quicker. Maybe they would have given us a better chance.” Davis and Leary combined for 18 points and six 3-pointers — all during a five-minutes stretch of the second half when the Sooners made their final run. Davis also had a big block on the defensive end, just before Leary drilled a 3 to make it 71-68 with 3:36 to play. It was a rough night for Crocker and Johnson, which happens in a long season. Johnson, who’s been battling a variety of ailments, has barely practiced, saving himself instead for games. Crocker can be inconsistent. Already short a superstar, Capel didn’t much care for the tone of the rough outings by his veteran guards, who combined for 11 points and five turnovers, with one assist. "One of the things that happens when you haven’t lost as much, is that losing is difficult,” Capel said. "It’s easy to be together when everything is good and you’re winning. "We hit a stretch when it wasn’t going so well, and (Kansas) started playing well, I just didn’t like the looks I saw on some of our guys’ faces. "We’ll fix it.”
BLOG: No moral victories for OU.
BLOG: Chill out, Jayhawk fans