Ask Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler what it will take for the Sooners to beat Kansas State on Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center, and he doesn’t hesitate with his answer.
“We can’t let them out-physical us,” Spangler said. “We have to be the tougher team.”
That wasn’t the case when K-State defeated Oklahoma 72-66 last month at Bramlage Coliseum. The Wildcats were clearly the tougher team, particularly on defense.
The Sooners sport one of the nation’s top offenses. They average 83 points, with all five of their starters averaging double-figures. But they couldn’t get anything going in Manhattan, outside of Spangler, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds. Shane Southwell and Nino Williams held Cameron Clark to two points and Oklahoma made 33 percent of its shots.
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“They do as good a job as anyone defensively,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “It’s hard to simulate, because they are so good at it. But you know what you are getting. They just line up and guard you like crazy. Executing against it is difficult.”
Oklahoma likes to find open space and take shots early into possessions. But it couldn’t do that against K-State’s defensive pressure.
“They like to play fast-paced,” K-State guard Will Spradling said. “That’s not something we want to get into with them. We don’t want to get into a game of runs. So we really have to lock down on defense.”
K-State may not be able to defend Clark as effectively as it did last month, with Southwell battling a left ankle injury. Though he is expected to play, he may not be 100 percent.
Of course, K-State also held TCU to 53 points and Baylor to 73 points (in two overtimes) without Southwell. So maybe that won’t be a huge factor.
All Spangler knows is Oklahoma won’t underestimate K-State’s defense, or toughness, this time around.
“They surprised us last time,” Spangler said. “Coach told us all about their defense. I guess we didn’t believe him. We took contested shots at their place and that’s why it got away from us. We need to be tougher make sure we take smarter shots. We have been working on that all week.”