"He stuck with me,” Crocker said. "He’s been there encouraging me and asking what he can do to help throughout the whole season, really.”
And to Crocker’s credit, he never gave up on himself. Didn’t seem to have a conscience, which usually is a description reserved for great shooting, but this time showed that Crocker never stopped believing in himself.
"When you’re marked as a shooter, you have to keep shooting,” Crocker said. "If you’re missing, you’ve just got to think it off and just go to the next shot and keep going because you can’t just not shoot when you’re wide open.”
Shooting like this opened the middle for Griffin, who got 15 shots and made 12. Shooting like this will keep North Carolina coach Roy Williams awake deep into the night, trying to figure out a way to slow a Sooner offense that can be very, very efficient.
Crocker has been playing well otherwise. His defense last Saturday against Michigan was a key to victory. Heck, his defense Friday night was instrumental. On the game’s opening possession, Crocker knocked the ball loose from Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku, who was trying to back down Griffin in the lane. And late in the game, when Crocker missed two shots on one trip down the floor, he swiped a Syracuse pass before the Orange crossed midcourt.
"He’s grown so much where he understands that his game is not defined solely by offense,” Capel said. "And that’s what made it easier for me to stick with him.
"If he would have not reacted that way and pouted and things like that, then I probably would have had no choice. But because he was still trying, it was a little bit easier to stick with him.”
And now the Sooners are a step from the Final Four, which with play like this, they can not only reach, but win. Believe it.
405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.