NORMAN – Swinging his arms over his head, Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler turned to his right after knocking down a 3-pointer and yelled to the crowd inside Lloyd Noble Center for more noise. He hit a pull-up jumper a few possessions later and looked to the bench, demanding more emotion with just a few words in a way only he seems to be able to do.
Facing a Wisconsin team that’s seemigly born with tough defense and physicality, this was a game made for Spangler, whose game is rooted in toughness with little room for style.
Spangler yelled in disgust after releasing a free throw with just less than five minutes to play. It still went in the basket.
That’s the way Spangler’s night went as Oklahoma toughed out a 65-48 victory despite playing much of it at Wisconsin’s pace and tempo.
It was Spangler that led the way with 10 of Oklahoma’s first 15 points and ultimately his third double-double of the season, leading Oklahoma in both points (20) and rebounds (14) while shooting 7-for-9 from the field.
There were some that didn’t think Spangler could be the Sooners’ interior offense, just about the only hole Oklahoma had before the season. He’s out to prove that’s not true.
“I’ve been able to score down low my whole life,” Spangler said. “I got away from that a little bit, but that’s something I can do. I’ll show it more this year.”
No. 7 Oklahoma went on a 15-0 run after Wisconsin (4-3) scored the first basket of the game. The Badgers never pulled within 10 points in the final 15 minutes.
“That’s something we’re working on as a team, get tougher every day,” Spangler said. “ (Sunday), we were better at it. That’s how we want to play. We want to out-rebound people, out-tough people. I think for the most part (Sunday) we did that better.”
Spangler set the tone.
After a block in the first half of Wisconsin guard Zak Showalter, he ripped the ball away, standing over Showalter who had fallen to the ground. No foul, just Oklahoma’s ball.
Jamuni McNeace followed suit by diving on the floor for a loose ball in the second half. There were seven minutes to go, and the Sooners (4-0) were ahead by 15 points. But he earned teammate Christian James a pair of free throws.
Oklahoma was in the right frame of mind from the outset, guided by Spangler’s energy – two offensive rebounds on the first four possessions – and his surprising offensive output that included a pair of made 3-pointers in the first three minutes.
“He knows that’s going to complement everything else he does and sets up everything else,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “He had a terrific game. He got us off to a good start and rebounded the ball like crazy and battled from start to finish.”
Oklahoma faces Central Arkansas at 7 p.m. Thursday before traveling to Hawaii for a neutral site matchup against Villanova on Dec. 7.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who coached the Badgers to a Battle 4 Atlantis championship game victory against Oklahoma last year, said that the Sooners hadn’t changed from last year. Although, he said his team had.
The result this year was much different than last season’s 13-point loss.
Oklahoma held Wisconsin to just 23.5 percent from the field. The Badgers, who had 21 offensive rebounds, took seven more shots than the Sooners but made 10 fewer.
The Sooners made a difference in the paint, outscoring Wisconsin, 34-10, and taking advantage of a youthful Badgers’ team that couldn’t contain the dribble-drive.
“I thought our guys opened it very aggressively and made some shots and created a margin early that they played with pretty much throughout,” Kruger said. “. . . I thought our guys got a pretty good rhythm for what they were doing and helped each other defense and made a lot of good plays for each other.”