By J.B. Long, The News On 6
KANSAS CITY, OK -- "It was awful. It made me even more angry."
One day after Morgan State's Ameer Ali was ejected for flipping Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, Jeff Capel condemned the most recent in a long line of cheap shots his star has endured this season.
OU's coach was not watching as the play unfolded Thursday night but saw replays of the Griffin flip shortly after returning to the locker room from his postgame press conference.
"[Blake] is everything that's right about college basketball," said Jeff Capel. "Dirty stuff like that is not good for our game. Blake was very, very fortunate [he was not more seriously injured]."
Odds are Capel and Morgan State won't soon cross paths again, so his criticisms are intended as much for the ears of the NCAA and its referees as they were for Ali.
Oklahoma will face Michigan in a second-round game Saturday, and Capel wants officials keeping a careful eye on how the Wolverines defend Griffin.
To ensure his point hits home, he added that if actions like Ali's aren't curtailed, "Elite players may not want to be in college long for fear of getting hurt." Griffin is expected to leave OU after this season, foregoing his final two years of eligibility to likely be the first overall selection in June's NBA Draft.
The Sooners' sophomore is second in the country in free throw attempts, so it would be difficult to make the case that he's been shortchanged by officials this season.
However, Griffin has been targeted by opponents for as long as he's been giving them nightmares. In early December, USC's Leonard Washington was ejected from a game in Norman for a shot to Griffin's groin. Less than two week later, Utah suspended guard Luca Drca for intentionally tripping Griffin on a fast break.
There have also been accidental injuries -- such as a cut under the eye at Rice that required stitches -- and intentional fouls that have not drawn ejections or suspensions, like the shots delivered by cross-state rivals Malcoln Kirkland and Marshall Moses of Oklahoma State.
To his everlasting credit, Griffin has never taken the bait and retaliated. As he puts it, "The only reason they're doing it is to get me to do something stupid and not be able to play."
"I played against some elite players," his coach points out. "I don't recall [Tim] Duncan getting hit like that, or [Antwan] Jamison or [Stephon] Marbury."
The former Blue Devil says he understands the frustration that accompanies the task of contending with a force as talented and aggressive as Griffin. "We don't mind people being physical," he said. "I guarded some guys [like Griffin] in college. It was frustrating.
"I never flipped them over, though."