|Sooners riding high, but feeling no respect|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 13 January 2009 14:26|
The sixth-ranked Sooners want everyone to know that they're for real, starting with third-year coach Jeff Capel.
Capel griped about the lack of respect shown his team after the Sooners' impressive 78-63 victory against No. 11 Texas on Monday night, taking offense to a question about Oklahoma's short bench that produced only three points against the Longhorns.
``Everyone wants to make a big deal about the bench and starters playing X amount of minutes. We're trying to win games, and our starters can play 40 minutes a game,'' Capel said. ``You know, I wonder if Texas gets that, because (A.J.) Abrams plays 40 minutes a game every time.
hat we hadn't beaten (in six straight tries). We're a good basketball team, man. Our guys can play. They can play 40 minutes. They're in good shape. We have good players on the bench.''
Led by the nation's top rebounder in Griffin, a preseason All-America selection, the Sooners are off to their best start since they opened the 1985-86 season 17-0. Oklahoma already had wins against Purdue, Davidson and Southern Cal, but snapping the six-game skid against rival Texas was the first concrete step toward living up to the preseason billing as the Big 12's top team.
Despite a trip to the Final Four during Kelvin Sampson's tenure in Norman, Oklahoma had never been picked as the conference's preseason No. 1. And the Sooners had a chip on their shoulder when the Longhorns came to town - despite carrying a higher ranking.
``I don't care about rankings in the country. I'm just saying all I hear about is what we don't do well,'' Capel said. ``We don't shoot the ball well. We don't have good enough guards. I read stuff, I hear stuff, people say stuff of what we don't have: Blake can't make free throws, we can't do this.
``Still, we're 16-1. We just beat a team that everyone talks about as a Final Four team, and they very well could be. I hope we have two teams in the Final Four.''
p about how much hype Texas had received, compared to the attention given to Oklahoma. He said he hoped the win showed that Oklahoma was ``not just a mediocre team.''
``We talked about respect. They don't really respect us,'' guard Tony Crocker said. ``We just went out to make a point. We are one of the better teams. We feel that way. We feel like we can make a run.''
Capel has quickly rebuilt a program that Sampson left in rough shape. He had to deal with NCAA sanctions in place because of Sampson's phone call scandal, and his first season included the end of a run of 25 straight postseason appearances that had been the longest in the nation.
Then he brought in Griffin from Oklahoma City, and the transformation began. He followed that up with the recruiting of guard Willie Warren, giving the program two McDonald's All-Americans simultaneously for the first time ever.
Capel has had to lean heavily on his starters, getting 81 percent of the team's scoring from them, but it's been enough in every game except one - a 96-88 loss at Arkansas on Dec. 30.
Capel wasn't forthcoming with an opinion on where the Sooners should be ranked, saying ``we should be exactly where we are right now,'' and his remarks weren't only aimed at national pundits.
``Everyone talks about everyone else,'' Capel said. ``We don't get respect in our state.''
Capel took a small step toward addressing any bench concerns by playing junior college transfer Juan Pattillo, who had been headed toward a redshirt.
But really, the Sooners figure to charge ahead with Griffin, Warren, Crocker, point guard Austin Johnson and Griffin's brother, Taylor, leading the way.
``We're ready to go, man,'' Capel said. ``I'm tired of all this stuff, people talking about our bench. We're a good basketball team.''