By JOHN SHINN
NORMAN — The intensity Oklahoma played with Saturday against Iowa State covered up some familiar deficiencies. Winning gets a lot of easier when you can shoot until you make it.
OU forward Ryan Spangler provided the Sooners with that opportunity. They fed off it all afternoon.
“He is one of those guys that hustles,” OU guard Buddy Hield said of Spangler. “It is something natural for him and he does a good job of finding the ball and getting the rebound.”
The Sooners needed the victory. There’s no doubt they drew the short straw when in came to the Big 12 Conference schedule — at least starting out. Hosting No. 18 Kansas and No. 9 Iowa State in back-to-back games is a tough initial home stand.
All losses are deflating, but dropping two straight at home would have been tough to overcome.
OU (13-3, 2-1 Big 12) doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. It’s off to a solid start in conference play. But it has two tough road games this week. The Sooners go to Kansas State Tuesday night and then go to Baylor Saturday afternoon.
Now, it’s hard to believe they can win either game if they continue to let opponents shoot over 50 percent. Iowa State did it Saturday, joining Texas and Kansas in that regard.
Kruger is frustrated with the defensive issues.
It’s hard to win when you’re not getting stops. It’s almost impossible to win away from home when that’s the case.
But his team showed an ability to seize the moment — even on the defensive end — Saturday.
After Iowa State had taken the lead with 2:39 to go, OU got four straight stops and scored four straight possessions.
“In the second half there we got two or three stops when we really needed them,” Kruger said. “We have been kind of trying to work and learn how to do that. We have got a long way to go defensively, but I’m happy for those two successful trips there.”
Sequences like that one are what put OU over the top. There will be many games over the next two months when games will be won or lost strictly on what happens in final minutes. OU’s plays rose when they knew the game was on the line.
“We needed this one. This win was a must-win for us,” Hield said. “We had to come out and execute our game plan. Iowa State is a great team and they shoot the ball well and have a lot of mismatches, just like us. We just had to find a way to win the game at the end and we did that.”