NORMAN – Saturday was primed to be a special night for senior forward Ryan Spangler. The Oklahoma boy, who never considered going to Oklahoma State, was playing in his final Bedlam game – having never lost to the in-state rival Cowboys since transferring back home from Gonzaga.
Spangler stepped out on the Lloyd Noble Center court for pre-game warm-ups, and he felt different. For the first time since the Big 12 Conference opener against Iowa State, he didn’t feel pain in his knee.
He felt bouncy, able to jump off one leg without pain. He knew it was going to be a good game. He felt confident and in rhythm after watching his first 3-pointer in the month of February fall after 12-straight misses.
And at one point he just felt lucky, laughing on his way back down court after banking in a 3-pointer from the top of the key in a first half – the third make in a perfect 4-for-4 first 20 minutes.
In a game built for a plodder, No. 3 Oklahoma leaned on its road grader in the first half as Oklahoma State slowed the pace to a near crawl.
Spangler nearly had his best game of the season with his first half stats alone – 19 points and seven rebounds. But he gave the rest of the Sooners a chance to catch fire. When they did, there was no stopping Oklahoma on the way to a 71-49 victory – the Sooners seventh-straight win against Oklahoma State.
“I usually have a pretty good mindset going into every game, but I know I wake up every morning before the OSU game ready to go,” Spangler said.
Finishing with 14 rebounds isn’t unusual for Spangler, who posted his 11th double-double of the season and the 28th of his career. The career-high 26 points from a player that had been shooting 22 percent from behind the arc in Big 12 play showed a glimpse once again of what Oklahoma’s offense really can be.
“If I can step out and hit shots, then they can’t double-team our guards,” Spangler said. “They can’t sag off me and plug the lane up for our guards. It just makes everything easier on everybody.”
Oklahoma (22-5, 10-5) shot better than 40 percent from behind the 3-point arc for the first time in February.
Bolstered by an 18-1 second half run, the Sooners, who led in the first half for just two seconds after a last-seconds corner 3-pointer by Spangler, cruised in the final minutes. Rashard Odomes scored for the first time since Dec. 7. C.J. Cole played in his first conference game of the season, and the walk-ons unloaded the bench in the final few minutes.
The Sooners remained unbeaten at home against Oklahoma State since 2004.
“Our guys really turned it up in the second half and got up into the lanes a little bit and created some offense from defense and created a little bit of margin,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said.
Spangler, who went 8-for-9 to start the game when the rest of the team was 3-for-21, got it going early. With 14 minutes to play, he already had career-highs in points and made field goals.
He hit a couple 3-pointers in rhythm before he banked one in from the top of the key. Spangler spun in the lane and threw up a prayer while being fouled. The ball went through the hoop for a player, who just a few days ago wasn’t hesitant to shoot anything. It was a magical night with plenty of explanations.
“Once you get in rhythm, it’s hard to miss,” Spangler said.
Oklahoma State didn’t close out on the senior forward, willing to let him shoot over being victimized by the Sooners’ guard trio.
“My confidence has been there,” he said. “Seeing one go through helps a lot.”
Buddy Hield, who finished with 17 points and became the Big 12 record holder for made 3-pointers in a single conference season, told Spangler to keep shooting after watching the workhorse forward do the “dirty work” all season.
“There’s always some luck in it,” Spangler said with a smile having gone undefeated against his school and his family’s most-hated rival.