Griffin's brilliance can't stop Tar Heels

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Blake Griffin had just made the play of the game, and perhaps this NCAA tournament, an extraterrestrial — he reached into the heavens — one-handed dunk of an Austin Johnson lob pass.

But Ty Lawson countered in less than eight seconds, slicing through the defense for a runner in the lane.

That second-half sequence was Sunday's NCAA South Region final in capsule: The brilliance of Oklahoma's Griffin against the precision of North Carolina's Tar Heels.

One-against-five is rarely a fair fight, and it certainly wasn't here on Beale Street as North Carolina advanced to its second consecutive Final Four with a workmanlike 72-60 victory.

Drama? That was Tiger at Bay Hill.

The only drama here was whether the host Memphis Grizzlies would handcuff Griffin to their locker room until the NBA draft.

Oklahoma never led and trailed by at least nine points throughout the final 27 minutes, by at least five the final 36.

The Tar Heels' stranglehold was such that they didn't even need All-American forward Tyler Hansbrough. He spent most of the first half on the bench with two fouls, attempted only four shots and finished with eight points in 26 minutes.

"That just shows the depth we have," guard Wayne Ellington said. "We have guys capable of coming in and playing big-time minutes."

Particularly in the low post.

"Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller and myself," Deon Thompson said. "That's a luxury our team definitely has."

And Oklahoma does not. The Sooners have little beyond the sublime Griffin, a 6-foot-10 sophomore and the presumptive No. 1 draft pick.

Griffin had game-bests of 23 points and 16 rebounds. His low-post bursts and relentless rebounding made Hansbrough appear ordinary and left Carolina coach Roy Williams calling him "Lebron James-like … such a package of strength, explosiveness, touch, power."

But Griffin received less support than AIG executives at congressional hearings.

"I do think we were a little bit tight," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "Sometimes you can want something so much that you're trying so hard, and I think that's what happened to us early in the game.

"Blake had a layup, and he missed it on a great drive. We had a couple of wide open shots that we just missed, and I think that and then Carolina executing and jumping out to a lead maybe knocked us back a little bit."

Indeed, experience mattered Sunday. This was the third regional final in as many seasons for every Tar Heels starter, the first regional final for every Sooner.

And it showed. Tony Crocker, who made six 3-pointers in Friday's semifinal victory over Syracuse, was 0-for-5. Austin Johnson passed up open shots and went 1-for-5 from the field.

Oklahoma missed all nine of its 3-point attempts in the first half and 17 of 19 for the game. This from a team that ranked second nationally in field-goal percentage at 49.3 and averaged 79 points a game.

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