Oklahoma Sooners, Baylor Bears face off for the top spot in the Big 12

Ryan Spangler affirms that he's not hurt, looking for a bounce-back game against Baylor

Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2015-16 season.

No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (15-2, 4-2) at No. 13 Baylor Bears (13-4, 2-3)

TV/Radio: ESPN2/107.7 FM

Time: 11 a.m.

Series: Oklahoma, 40-11

How’s Spangler?

The biggest question coming out of Monday night’s loss to Iowa State wasn’t about where the Sooners would go or how to prepare for Baylor after a defeat. Everyone wanted to know about Ryan Spangler: Is he hurt, what’s wrong or how’s the knee?

Let him answer that for you.

“I’m good,” said Spangler, who added that his knee is a little sore. “I had a rough game the other day, but my body is good. I’m not tired. I’m good.”

Spangler said that Iowa State was just a bad game for him and that he couldn’t get into the flow. He was trying to play hard, but things just weren’t going his way. He does feel better at this point this year than he did last year because of changing his recovery after games: Using ice baths instead of the cold tub and wearing compression leggings.

The matchup against Baylor, and more importantly, forward Rico Gathers, is one that should get him back in the right frame of mind.

“I respect him just because he plays the way that I do, and not a lot of people want to play like that. Everybody wants to be finesse. There are still some of us who want to bang around and do all the dirty work. I respect him for that.”

Monday nearly matched the worst game of Spangler’s career at Oklahoma – two points and just six rebounds. He was held scoreless only once in his career, and Spangler also had no assists, steals or blocks in the four-point loss. It was by far his worst game of this season.

The Sooners aren’t worried about him bouncing back, though.

“Ryan is still feeling a little bit of the effects of that knee-banging,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said “He didn’t have much bounce the other night. . . .Talking to him, he doesn’t seem to have the same feeling that he did last year: Just the dead legs. He didn’t really feel that the other night. It just wasn’t a good production night for him. He’ll bounce back.”

Going back on the road

No rest for the road travelers as Oklahoma goes back on the road for its first of two back-to-back road stretches this season.

The Sooners will play at Texas Tech and at West Virginia in mid-February, but the Big 12 continues to prove that going on the road is extremely tough.

“It’s so hard,” Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield said. “The hardest thing about it is you feel like you’ve got the game, but then in a minute or thirty seconds, you can lose the whole game just by a simple play or a simple mistake. It’s so hard to win on the road. You just have to be ready and fight.”

But Texas went to No. 6 West Virginia this week and won, and Baylor knocked off Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum earlier this season. Spangler called it odd, but it has made things difficult to predict within the top conference in the nation.

The top six teams in the conference are 16-2 at home with the only two losses mentioned above. Seven of the 10 teams have at least one road victory.

Playing for a new No. 1

Oklahoma lost control of the top spot in the nation, but that has never been a major goal. The Sooners have a chance at a different No. 1 this weekend. The Sooners and Baylor face off Saturday for the No. 1 spot in the conference nearing the midway point of the season.

“We have to find a way to beat teams like that,” Hield said. “It’s fun but you just have to find a way to grind harder and find other sources. We had to do whatever it takes to win.”

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