NORMAN, Okla. — After a full week off, the Sooners finally get back to action today with a 3 p.m. CT contest against the Kansas State Wildcats at Lloyd Noble Center.
“Whatever’s scheduled, we’re going to feel good about it,” said OU head coach Lon Kruger. “We don’t have any control over it, but it’s good. Opportunity to get a little bit refreshed, little nagging injuries perhaps more treatment…Very important week.”
In doing so, they’ll rematch against one of the five teams that’s beaten them in Big 12 play so far this season.
Last time the two met back in Manhattan, Kan., on Jan. 14, the Wildcats used a flurry of 3-pointers to eke out a 72-66 victory, something OU is poised to lock down on this time around.
“Yeah, you know, we went in there, let them get hot from the 3-point line,” said forward Ryan Spangler. “We can’t do that. We got to shut it down early. I wouldn’t say make them drive, but make them take contested shots, you know, just play as a unit, help each other, if anybody drives, step in front and help each other. It’s what we’re working on this week. If we can get our defense, you know, playing better, we’ll be a hard team to beat.”
Meanwhile, OU didn’t score a field goal over the last nearly seven minutes of the contest, and that’s something that certainly can’t happen again.
Guard Buddy Hield’s continual progress, leading the team with 16.7 points per game, is good reason to believe it wont.
“We thought he was going to be a really good slasher-scorer,” Kruger said of his sophomore. “I think everyone kind of thought he’d be a good shooter, but he’s become a really good shooter. But interestingly, he probably shoots it a little bit more now. We want him slashing more, you know, and not just a jump shooter. And he will. He will. Whether right now or next year, we’re not sure. It’s a process. But he’s become a really good scorer.”
Spangler has been a dominant rebounder, bringing down nearly 10 boards per game and controlling the paint, while setting the tone and physicality, and OU will also need more of that.
“It’s hard,” Spangler said. “You know, sometimes they don’t want to pick up fouls. But some fouls you’re going to have to give up to keep from an easy basket, but we just got to be tough. We’re not going to make it far if we don’t get tough. I don’t think anyways. Some of the games we’ve played this year we’ve been—people have out-toughed us and we’ve lost so we got to get tougher.”
This is the first of five games remaining in the regular season, as the Sooners come in with an 8-5 league record and 19-7 mark overall in search of another 20-win season.