Round one of Bedlam basketball goes to the OU Sooners

January 30, 2014

Oklahoma’s Ryan Spangler would not be denied Monday and the result was a 88-76 victory for the Sooners in a key Big 12 matchup.

The win puts No. 23 Oklahoma (6-2, 17-4) alone in second place in the conference behind Kansas. No. 8 OSU (4-3, 16-4) desperately needed the win to keep pace with the Jayhawks, who have a three-game lead over the Pokes with only 11 league games left.

Spangler scored 15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds for the Sooners, who have not lost to OSU in Norman since 2004.

Oklahoma natives Jordan Woodard (team-high 18), Spangler (15) and Tyler Neal (15) combined for 48 points in the win.

“Ryan has kind of been the cornerstone for our growth in the toughness area,” said OU coach Lon Kruger. “I think we’re getting tougher. I think we’re getting big strides in that area.

“O-State is hard to guard. They have so many people that can attack you and talented guys. I thought our guys did a good job of that. Of course, foul trouble with Ryan in the first half but their guys had foul trouble too so that changes the complexion a bit. We’re growing. We’re feeding off of Ryan’s toughness in there. I think the guys appreciate what he brings every day in practice and every night and we’re trying to move in that direction.”

Spangler leads the Big 12 with nine “double-doubles” (double digits in two statistical categories) and added another in only 25 minutes Monday night.

“It is hard to find words to describe how much he has helped this team this year,” said OU’s Tyler Neal. “That was really obvious last year, even before he was on the court. I think that was a big part of (Romero Osby) being so good and so effective for us last year. All credit to (Osby), but Ryan really helped improve him and I think they made each other better last year. I think we are reaping the benefits of that this year.”

“Hustle, I just try to out-hustle people,” Spangler said. “I think that will put me in the right position to get the ball. Right now they are falling in my hands where I want them to. Some games they are going to be hard to get but lately they have been easy. I just have got to keep hustling for my team.”

Spangler has had at least 14 rebounds in four of the last six games.

“Just give OU credit,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. “They made big shots and they made big plays. Their guys played well. They had some role players that played well. Tyler Neal comes in; he’s playing really good basketball for their team. He’s really playing well. The freshman (Jordan) Woodard stepped up and (Ryan) Spangler did what he does. It is just tough to beat a team on the road in this environment when you let them play to their strengths.

“Give them credit, every time we made a semi-run, a semi-run at them, they would make a big shot or we would make a silly play. We just never got what we needed to get. In the second half, it’s hard to come back when they are shooting free throws every time you turn around. It’s hard to make a run back, and we just couldn’t keep them off the foul line. We just didn’t defend the ball very well at all. Give Oklahoma credit; they played well.”

Neal  had 15 points Рa season high (second-highest career total) Рwas 5-for-6 from the field and made all three of his 3-pointers while adding three rebounds.

“Ryan (Spangler) got a couple of quick fouls and D.J. (Bennett) came in and Tyler (Neal) came in, Frank (Booker) – the bench was huge,” said Kruger. “It’s kind of been the trademark of this team all year long. Different guys, different nights stepping up and giving us great support.”

Spangler said he wasn’t surprised by the bench play.

“I am used to it,” Spangler said. “They do it in practice every day. I just have trust in them. Tyler (Neal) is going to knock down open shots. D.J. (Bennett) is getting in a rhythm now this year rebounding, getting it back, blocking shots. I have no problem sitting on the bench because I trust them to do what they need to do.”

Neal wanted to end his career at OU with an undefeated home record against the Cowboys.

“Well, I told you (Sunday) that I didn’t want to talk much about the whole 3-0 thing (against OSU at home so far in his career), but it was good to finish that out,” Neal said. “Give a lot of credit to OSU. They are a great team and they are going to do some good things this year. We are going to have to be ready when we play them in Stillwater. But it feels good to not have a loss to them here. We are excited about the win as a team, and I am proud of the guys.”

OSU’s Marcus Smart scored a game-high 22 points on 6-for-18 shooting while high school teammate Phil Forte scored 20 on 7-for-9 shooting (6-for-6 from 3-point range).

Early foul trouble kept All-American Smart on the bench a lot in the first half.

“I don’t want to make excuses but, yes. We can’t keep getting into foul trouble,” Ford said. “We know that and it’s tough to go to our bench, especially in this game with the way they played. Our room for error is very small, particularly in this game. Yes, it played a fairly significant role. We planned for that and we understand that it can happen, but we just didn’t get enough.”

Ford blamed his defense rather than poor officiating.

“We didn’t defend very well and that’s the bottom line,” Ford said. “When you don’t defend very well you put yourself in a position to foul. So we did. Give them credit; they did a great job of taking us off the dribble. Fouling is usually a product of being out of position and not defending as well as you need to. When the other team shoots 20 more free throws, you just don’t give yourself a chance unless you are just clicking and I think we all saw that we weren’t clicking.”

Forte took small comfort in his great shooting night.

“I don’t really care about how I played individually,” Forte said. “I would much rather go 1-for-50, like I did against West Virginia, and win. That’s all I really care about is winning. I’ll do whatever it takes for my team to win.”

He agreed with Ford on the need for better defense.

“We just need to move our feet more,” Forte said. “That’s all there is to it. We just need to quit worrying about the refs and all that and just move on to the next play. That’s the most important thing. We just have to learn and see how the refs are calling it. Once we pick up a quick foul, we just have to adjust and move on.”

Forte was not surprised by OU’s tenacity.

“They’re exactly what we thought they were,” Forte said. “They always play well at home. They’re a good basketball team. They can score, one through five. They shoot the ball really well, they put it on the floor. We knew coming in, we were going to have our hands full defensively. They played really well, so give them all the credit. We didn’t play well and Oklahoma did.”