The Norman Transcript

Sports

March 24, 2009

Beating the 'Cuse zone

• Orange are well known for stifling defense

The last “zone” to get this much interest around Oklahoma was something Rod Serling created for television.

Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense doesn’t go all the way back to the 1960s, but its acclaim in the college basketball world is equally renowned.

If a coach isn’t familiar with coaching zone defenses, he usually tries to find some video of the Orange. Or, perhaps, pick up a copy of “Jim Boeheim’s Complete Guide to the 2-3 Match-up Zone.”

“That’s how I learned it,” OU coach Jeff Capel said. “It said it shares some secrets.”

The Sooners (29-5) will find out how much the longtime Syracuse coach is willing to share for the sake of book and dvd sales when it faces the Orange (28-9) in NCAA Tournament’s South Region semifinal at 6:27 Friday night at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.

There’s no doubt Syracuse’s vaunted defense will have a huge impact on the game. It did the last time the teams squared off.

In 2003, OU faced Syracuse with a trip to the Final Four at stake. Those hopes were dashed after the Sooners fell 63-47 and looked befuddled on the offensive end, shooting 31 percent.

Anything similar will end another OU season.

The zone’s major objective is to take away the paint. Friday it will try to suffocate Blake Griffin like a python.

Nothing new there. Every team the Sooners have faced over the last two seasons has done something designed to limit Griffin. Some have worked, most haven’t.

“We want to get the ball to Blake. If that means we have to force it then we will,” Capel said. “He’ll get touches. He may get them at different spots on the floor.”

Look for Griffin to get the ball a lot in the high post early in the game. But OU’s at its best when the 6-foot-10 forward is getting the ball in the low block. The Orange has the size and the muscle with Arinze Onuaku (6-9, 258 pounds) and Rick Jackson (6-9, 235) to bang with Griffin.

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