Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2014-15 season.
When: 8 p.m. CST
TV/Radio: ESPN or ESPN2/107.7 FM(OKC); 1430 AM (Tulsa)
Series: Oklahoma, 113-83
Hilton magic extends beyond coliseum walls
From the bowels of the Sprint Center, Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler heard the roar of the crowd, like it was a big-time road game in a raucous arena, as Iowa State point guard Monte Morris hit a buzzer-beating jump shot to push the Cyclones into the semifinals and a matchup with Oklahoma.
The Hilton Coliseum magic followed Iowa State to Kansas City. Down by double digits again after halftime, Iowa State’s fans showed that its home-court advantage doesn’t necessarily just stay in Ames – neither does the noise.
“They travel well,” Spangler said. “I was watching (Thursday), and they were pretty loud. One thing you have to do is if you are going to play good defense, you have to take the crowd out of it.”
Likely one of the loudest games in Sprint Center history, Iowa State recovered against Texas to advance despite being dominated inside by the much bigger Longhorns.
Oklahoma is all-too-familiar with the Cyclones comeback potential, having experienced it first hand by losing a 20-point lead in a matter of minutes the last time the two teams played, which was also Oklahoma's only loss in the final five games.
Iowa State led in the game for less than a second against Texas.
“What an unbelievable game,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Still not sure how we won.”
Maybe it was magic, coach.
“I’m proud of how they found a way,” Hoiberg said. “Great teams find a way and our team, you know, they did that (Thursday).”
Oklahoma has experienced the Iowa State crowd before, but in what is supposed to be a neutral site, it’s a little different. The Iowa State faithful packed into their half of the Sprint Center in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal against Texas on Thursday and even spilled over into the other half of the arena.
There was a clear home-court advantage for the second-seeded Cyclones.
“It feels like it’s not even a neutral site anymore. It feels like they have home-court advantage,” Oklahoma guard Frank Booker said. “At the same time, we’ve been battling not having a big crowd anyways. We have our own energy. We bring our own energy. It is what it is at this point.”
The Sooners always felt like they’d get another shot at Iowa State after the Cyclones stunned Oklahoma in Ames less than two weeks ago.
“Now, we do,” Booker said. “We have to be prepared to have a shot at them.”
Going without Booker
The Oklahoma 3-point specialist didn’t play in the first half despite the Sooners 23-percent performance from the field through the first 20 minutes.
Booker and Kruger both said that the sophomore guard sat out for academic reasons after missing Monday and Tuesday practice before the Sooners left for Kansas City.
“That was basically it, nothing official or formal, just gelled in practice a couple days when Frank hadn’t been there,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “So, it was just fair to play those guys that practiced.”
Booker finally checked into the game with 15:19 remaining. He immediately picked up a bad defensive foul before finishing the game with just one missed shot, an air ball that Booker jokingly called a pass after the game because guard Buddy Hield quickly put it in the basket.
“I just stayed positive and kept my teammates uplifted,” Booker said. “I just stayed in the game.”
It remains to be seen whether Booker will again miss time against Iowa State.
Spangler’s quiet mastery
Sooners’ forward Ryan Spangler noticed early on in Oklahoma’s victory against Bedlam rival Oklahoma State, the third of the season and sixth-straight, that neither he nor TaShawn Thomas were playing all that well.
Thomas had a few points early, scoring twice in the first 2:25, but then fell into a funk.
Spangler let Thomas take the reins, residing himself back to the block to just rebound. The decision wound up perfect for both. Spangler pulled down 15 rebounds, the most of any Sooners’ player in a single-game this season and just two shy of his career-high.
After just six points in the first half, Thomas finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds of his own.
“They were big on the glass,” Kruger said. “That first half, any loose balls that weren’t clean; they were getting them. And the second half, we got much more aggressive.”
Oklahoma State had lost the battle on the boards in 11 of its previous 12 games and in those games had given up an average of 15.4 offensive rebounds per game. Oklahoma finished with just five more rebounds than the Cowboys but seemed to grab all of the big ones.
“That's what Ryan does,” Thomas said. “Ryan doesn't really care about scoring too much if he gets rebounds. He's like the opposite of everybody else. He wants the rebounds instead of the points. Just seeing his effort, it's just great for us. It's something we need.”
Thomas and Spangler both finished with double-digit rebounds for only the second time all season.