Ryan Spangler playing his role for OU

Sooners will need junior forward's toughness, ferocity against Michigan State

There’s nothing really surprising about Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler.

He’s public enemy No. 1 at just about every road game because of the way he plays: Tough, hard-nosed and blue-collar. Spangler isn’t going to shock anyone with his athleticism nor by ever taking a possession off – on either end of the court.

So it shouldn’t be startling for anyone that Spangler is well aware of his role for the Sooners.

“I’m going to play defense,” he said. “I’m going to hustle. I’m going to get to 50/50 balls and rebound. Usually, I’ll knock down easy shots.

Knocking down easy shots is something that Spangler has had a problem with lately. He mishandled the ball late against Iowa State and missed a close one against Dayton in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Spangler, who has been working through an ankle injury for the latter half of the season, took full responsibility for missing the lay-up and his struggles inside scoring but didn’t know why he was having issues.

“I know there’s not many missed lay-ups in my future,” said Spangler, who leads the Sooners with 8.1 rebounds per game and was third in the Big 12 Conference. “. . . I’ll work on it this week.”

Spangler won’t want to change too much this week as Oklahoma prepares for its Sweet 16 game against Michigan State – tip set for 9:30 CST Friday. His toughness and his physicality is exactly what the Sooners will need against an always rugged Michigan State team.

The Spartans, who boast the top rebounder in the Big 10 Conference Branden Dawson, are more than willing to bang inside.

“That’s how they beat a lot of people,” Spangler said. “They get people to try to fight back with them, and it ends after a couple of minutes. Everything they do is physical – blocking out, running, playing offense, playing defense. They just try to wear you down. We just have to go in there and be physical back.”

Spangler will be ready for it, saying that he’s running on adrenaline until the end of the season, but the rest of Oklahoma’s roster will need to follow the lead of the player widely regarded as the heart of the Sooners.

The Sooners’ guards have always been willing to rebound, and point guard Jordan Woodard has never seen a clogged lane that he wasn’t afraid to drive into, but it’ll be a test of Oklahoma’s will against Michigan State, which ranked 21st in the country in rebounds per game.

“Rebounding's always a big key with Michigan State,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “They have a lot of pride in their ability to rebound the ball, especially the offensive boards. They do a great job on the boards. They always have.”

It’ll be a big change from the Sooners’ first two games in the NCAA Tournament, when they had a distinct size advantage against two teams that didn’t rely on strong post play.

Oklahoma outrebounded Albany and Dayton by an average of nine rebounds, grabbing 12 more than the Flyers. Dawson, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds when these two teams met last season, will be more to handle on his own than either the Great Danes or the Flyers.

No surprise, Spangler welcomes the challenge.

“I like playing big guys,” he said. “Try to run them and get them tired and use my ability and strength against them.”

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