Full-court press: Tulsa

Sooners begin in-state competition against Golden Hurricane

SoonersIllustrated.com will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2014-15 season.

No. 16 Oklahoma (5-2) at Tulsa (5-4)

When: 1:36 p.m. CST

TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network/107.7 FM(OKC); 1430 AM (Tulsa)

Spangler providing leadership

With the way Ryan Spangler plays, point guard Jordan Woodard thinks it’s easy to follow him. Hustling for rebounds, playing good defense and no caring what his point total looks like: Those are all great qualities of a leader.

Spangler has those in spades.

“From Day 1 since I’ve been on campus, I’ve looked to Ryan,” Woodard said. “I’ve looked to his work ethic and how close he is to everybody on the team. He builds the team chemistry by himself. He’s such a hard worker that you see every day come in prepared. That’s why he’s so great in games.”

After leading the Big 12 in rebounding last season, Spangler has helped fuel a defense that has held all of its opponents below their season averages. Against Oklahoma’s toughest three opponents at the Battle 4 Atlantis, Oklahoma held UCLA, Butler and Wisconsin to an average of 23 points below their per-game scoring rate.

Since Spangler transferred to Oklahoma for Gonzaga, he has led the Sooners in rebounding 28 times in 40 games. He joked after the Missouri victory that his new teammate is taking away from his dominance.

“My rebounds go down cause he takes them all,” Spangler said of fellow transfer TaShawn Thomas. “I’m joking. That’s good for me. It’s a relief having him.”

Top ranking means little to Kruger

Oklahoma’s best ranking in the AP Top 25 in the past five years is important, but for Sooners’ coach Lon Kruger, it isn’t the end of Oklahoma’s accomplishments.

He hopes it’s just the start.

“It’s not something you really stop and think about,” Kruger said. “When you have the ranking, it’s nice to be in there. It’s an indication of the progress the guys are making and the work that they are doing. I haven’t heard any of the guys talk about that. We have a long way to go. We have to keep getting better and that’s the most important thing.”

With two games against in-state competition, Oklahoma could be even higher before facing current No. 17 Washington in Las Vegas on Dec. 20.

A slightly different Tulsa

In the Golden Hurricane’s first year under Frank Haith things are likely going to change a little bit.

Haith, who is known for an up-tempo style he brought to Miami and Missouri, was a Naismith Coach of the Year Candidate at Miami but struggled to reach expectations in three years with the Tigers.

Tulsa though, is right on track to be better.

“I think they’ve taken that forward and are making the progress you’d expect a year later,” Kruger said. “They’re playing very well. A lot of confidence. A lot of good weapons. A lot of good players. Frank’s got them playing great.”

It has been a bit of a crazy season for Tulsa though. After last year’s regular season that ended with 11-straight victories and an NCAA Tournament bid, the Golden Hurricane has beaten Creighton and Auburn this season but also lost to Oral Roberts and Southeastern Oklahoma State.

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