In The Paint

SI.com's All-American Hoops Blog

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Blake Griffin and A.J. Abrams
Blake Griffin (right) welcomes A.J. Abrams and the Longhorns to Norman on Monday night/AP

By Elizabeth McGarr

As if it weren't enough that all Texas-Oklahoma games are grudge matches, Oklahoma is No. 6 and Texas is No. 7. The Sooners haven't beaten the Longhorns since January 2006, and the Oklahoma football team just lost the bowl game Texas thought it had deserved to play in. (In case you're really keeping score at home, Texas beat Oklahoma 45-35 in football, the Texas women's soccer team beat Oklahoma, and the women's volleyball teams split their two-match series.)

It's only the second conference game for each school (both won on Saturday), but that doesn't lessen the significance of tonight's meeting in Norman. "It's a big game, don't get me wrong," said third-year Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel who is 0-4 against the Longhorns. "We haven't beaten those guys. So we definitely want to win."
 
Three things to watch for in tonight's matchup (9:00 ET, ESPN):
 
1. The Texas offense in the paint: Texas' post players have become increasingly important as the Longhorns have shot poorly from three-point range. Texas is the worst three-point shooting team in the conference (33.2 percent), and guard A.J. Abrams has made just 8 of his last 31 long range shots. Though Texas lost to Arkansas (so did Oklahoma), center Dexter Pittman and forward Gary Johnson combined for 21 points. Against Iowa State on Saturday, the two combined for 29. The Longhorns were also without forward Connor Atchley against Arkansas (a tongue injury which required more than 20 stitches). Having all three healthy -- and out of foul trouble -- will be key against Oklahoma.
 
2. Blake Griffin's production: Oklahoma's Player of the Year candidate leads the country in rebounds per game (14.0), and he's coming off five straight double-doubles, the most recent a 29-point, 15-rebound performance in a win over Kansas State on Saturday. He's 6-10, weighs 251 pounds and almost always draws a double-team. ("I'm not sure you can guard him one-on-one," Texas coach Rick Barnes said.)  "He's got my vote as best player in the country," Longhorns forward Damion James said. "I'm looking forward to playing against [him]."

3. Storylines guaranteed to be mentioned on the broadcast: Did you know that A.J. Abrams' father was a bodyguard for former Texas governors Ann Richards and George W. Bush? And did you know that Dexter Pittman's nickname is "Sexy Dexy" and that he received that nickname because he lost so much weight (more than 70 pounds) since arriving at Texas? Also, see if you can count how many times the ESPN cameras pan to Blake and Taylor Griffin's parents, Gail and Tommy.

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