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.