It's a big Bedlam for OU

Sooners host biggest rival with plenty of questions in need of answers

Ryan Spangler has been around Bedlam forever, growing up in the state of Oklahoma just a couple miles west of Norman.

TaShawn Thomas is new to this particular rivalry, but he recently was stopped at Wal-Mart, where fans asked him to win Saturday against Oklahoma State – since the Cowboys upset the Sooners on the football field.

Before coming to the Oklahoma, Sooners’ guard Buddy Hield knew a thing or two about rivalries.

He learned something new about Bedlam pretty quickly, running into a group of frat boys during his freshman season while they were on their way to set up tents to camp out for the game. He had never heard of fans camping out before games. They told him that Bedlam is always a ‘must-win.’

Maybe he’s learned a little more about this rivalry. This time around, as Oklahoma State and Oklahoma face off as ranked teams for only the second time since 2005, Hield agrees with that collection of fans who he met three years ago.

“It’s a must-win,” Hield said. “We need it badly. It just gets tougher afterwards. I’m just looking forward to the game on Saturday.”

Oklahoma, which goes on the road to Kansas on Monday and Baylor next week, has won two straight Bedlam matchups and four of the last five. The Sooners have won 10 straight Bedlam games at home and 13 of the last 14.

Hield isn’t the only one who sees this game as a ‘must-win’ as Oklahoma (11-5, 2-2 Big 12) tries to rebound from back-to-back losses, including the worst Big 12 loss since 2012.

“We can’t lose at home again,” Thomas said. “ . . . We can’t let that happen again. Those are the games that you have to win: The ones at home.”

This game has more to it than most Bedlam games. Both teams are ranked, and Oklahoma is trying to avoid losing three straight regular season games for the first time since 2012.

The spotlight is on Oklahoma, which has to avoid another upset. The Sooners are trying to prove that they are the team from the first two Big 12 Conference games, not the last two.

“We’ve been talking about that ever since we got back on the plane after Tuesday,” Thomas said. “We were like, ‘We have to bounce back.’’ We weren’t playing like us. We weren’t defending like us. We weren’t moving like us. It just wasn’t us. We were talking to each other saying, ‘We have to hurry up and as soon as the next practice, we have to bounce back.’”

The Oklahoma players and coach Lon Kruger spent more of Thursday’s interviews trying to piece together exactly what had gone wrong during the past two games.

Kruger said point guard Jordan Woodard wasn’t the only person to blame for Oklahoma being overwhelmed by the West Virginia pressure.

Thomas said he wasn’t preparing the right way, and the team just wasn’t clicking but Thursday’s practice was better.

Hield said the Sooners lacked toughness and were less physical than Kansas State and West Virginia.

Spangler said Oklahoma just didn’t come out prepared.

“We didn’t come out to fight them or take it on them. They hit us first,” Spangler said of the loss to West Virginia. “We couldn’t recover from that. Our goal is to hit OSU first and let them know we are going to be physical all night.”

Oklahoma has plenty of errors to iron out, but it won’t get much of a chance behind closed doors. The Sooners and the Cowboys square off in the first edition of Bedlam on Saturday, with all the lights on in Lloyd-Noble Center.

“It’s the home court, and that’s where it starts,” Kruger said. “You hate to drop one like we did last week. Anywhere in the league, everyone is going to say you have to protect that first. Then you add Bedlam to that. I don’t think you need much else.”

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