Oklahoma Sooners focused on slowing down Ben Simmons

OU has its hands full with LSU's talented freshman at Lon Kruger goes for win No. 100

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

No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (17-2, 6-2) at LSU Tigers (13-7, 6-2)

TV/Radio: ESPN/107.7 FM

Time: 4 p.m.

Series: Series tied, 2-2

Dealing with Simmons

When asked who gets to cover LSU star freshman Ben Simmons, Oklahoma senior forward Ryan Spangler confidently replied, “I get him.”

Both Spangler and Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger admitted Thursday that playing someone with the stature of Simmons, a 6-foot-11 forward with great handles and the likely No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, requires a little extra work, but it’s not much different than playing against of the best players in the Big 12 Conference.

Iowa State forward Georges Niang requires the same level of attention.

“Niang is probably harder to guard than him, I would say, just because Niang can do everything,” Spangler said. “He can shoot, get to his right hand, get to his left hand. Simmons wants to just get to the rim.”

Spangler added that Simmons is “pretty good at getting to the rim.”

There’s the matter of rebounding against Simmons as well. Spangler recognized the length advantage that Simmons possesses and the stronger rebounding numbers – Simmons is averaging 12.7 rebounds per game to Spangler’s 9.7.

Simmons also averages more than four assists per game.

“This guy’s unique - a very unique player,” Kruger said. “He brings up the ball. He’s in the middle of their transition at least half the time. He’s very good in the open floor. He’s got great vision, great imagination. He can pass with either hand, very accurate.”

Kruger eyes 100

Reaching 100 victories with a team is no easy feat. Even the best coaches need time rebuild before averaging more than six wins. But Kruger is a little different.

Kruger is just one win shy of the century mark, still in the middle of his fifth year at Oklahoma. Kruger also reached 100 victories with Florida and UNLV, and his 21-win season average through the first four years at Oklahoma is similar to his early runs at Florida (75 wins through four years) and with the Runnin’ Rebels, where he had 91 victories in his first four years.

Going for No. 100 won’t change much about Saturday. In fact, Kruger didn’t even know he was closing in on it.

“That's the first time I've heard it,” Kruger said when asked about it Thursday. “Won't change very much. But need one more.”

At UNLV, Kruger made it to 100 victories in just 144 games. He’s coached in 149 games at Oklahoma.

“It’s a big challenge”

The Sooners have managed to win on the road this season, picking up a season-opening win against Memphis and winning big against Villanova at a neutral site. They’ve even got a major Big 12 road win against Baylor.

But going into a hostile environment is never easy. It’s one Oklahoma relishes.

“It’s a big challenge,” Spangler said. “We like playing at home and in front of our fans, but at the same time, we like to go to somebody else’s home court and beat them. There’s feeling like walking off the court knowing you’ve beaten the home team.”

LSU is 11-1 at home this season with a win over Kentucky. The lone loss came against ACC cellar dweller Wake Forest early in the season, but in conference play, the Tigers have proven to be a different team.

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