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Bedlam pits two ranked teams at LNC

NORMAN, Okla. — Big boy Bedlam basketball is back.

For the first time in nine years when the No. 23 Sooners and No. 8 Cowboys meet tonight at 8 inside Lloyd Noble Center, the two will clash in a ranked battle.

“It is [a national game],” said OU head coach Lon Kruger. “Yeah, absolutely, I think players go to school to play in games like this. You know, every game is important, every game is significant, but when you get the little more hype, you get a state rival, you get conference standings, all those things impacted by a game like this, it is good. That’s what enthusiasm and fan interest and all that stuff makes it exciting.”

The Sooner crowd will respond with a white out for their home club, something that should help fuel the atmosphere in what is already expected to be an electric environment.

“It’ll be a fantastic crowd,” Kruger said. “Again, anytime again you got Big 12 game against a rival at home, that’s naturally big; the emotions will be high and guys on both teams will play really hard and I’ll be surprised if both teams don’t play really well.”

Point guard Jordan Woodard suggested it’s a chance to show that home crowd just how good this team really is.

“Yeah, that’s going to be a good opportunity for us to show our fans that we have a good, competitive basketball team this year,” Woodard said. “And I feel like we have a great chance to win. We’re coming off a road win. Hopefully that momentum can carry over to this game on Monday.”

As for the game, it features four of the league’s top eight scorers, two from each team.

Guards Cameron Clark and Buddy Hield rank fifth and sixth in the league with 17 and 16.1 points per game, respectively, while Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart and wing Markel Brown stack up at fourth and seventh with 17.1 and 16.5 points per game, respectively.

So, everyone in the Sooner camp is aware of just how difficult a challenge this will be defensively, especially in keeping Smart from the rim.

“Yeah, just a tough matchup,” Kruger said. “He’s so versatile, big and strong, shoots the 3, makes players around him better, makes a lot of good plays, rebounds, blocks shots. He’s probably as versatile as anyone in the country in terms of all the different things he does to impact the game…Just we got to fight like crazy to start with, then get help from people around him.

“But again, against a good team like this you can’t cheat too much because other guys can hurt you also. But you just have to try to fight and win battles and play early. You know, you can’t wait and you got to play early and be prepared and be anticipating all the time.”

And while OSU does rank second in the league in scoring at 78.7 points per game since entering Big 12 play, the Sooners boast a prolific offense themselves.

They’re No. 12 nationally with their 83.8 points on average every time out.

So, it could be an up-tempo game, one with good pace, and certainly some chippiness.

“Oh yeah, it’ll be physical,” said forward Ryan Spangler. “Coach is already telling us don’t get mouthy, don’t get any cheap fouls, just stay ready.”

The Sooners (16-4, 5-2 Big 12) sound like they are ready, ready to defend their second-place spot in the league standings against the Cowboys (16-3, 4-2 Big 12).

And so big boy Bedlam basketball is back, with a lot at stake.

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