Tahlequah Daily Press

February 12, 2014

Sooners set to take on Texas Tech

By JOHN SHINN
CNHI

— NORMAN — There was a four-trip spurt that had Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger and his team fired up in last Saturday’s win over Baylor.

Backup center D.J. Bennett grabbed a rebound that ignited a fast-break layup for Isaiah Cousins. Bennett then blocked a shot, setting up his own jump hook on the other end of the floor. On the next defensive possession, Bennett swatted away another shot, igniting a fast-break layup for Buddy Hield.

“If he can do that and give Ryan a couple minutes of rest, that’s great,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “He’ll keep working at it and keep getting better.”

The only issue to take with OU’s performance in the 88-62 victory was Bennett’s jump-hook were the only points he or starting center Ryan Spangler scored in that game.

Getting some low-post scoring is something the Sooners (18-6, 7-4 Big 12) will have a chance to do when they face Texas Tech (12-12, 4-6) at 7 p.m. today at Lloyd Noble Center.

There’s no intention to play Bennett 30 minutes a game. The goal is to get 10 quality minutes out of him when Spangler rests.

But combined, the Sooners need to get some offensive production from the five spot.

“It’s really important,” Bennett said. “Me and Span look at it as a challenge. Teams are not expecting us to have many moves down low. I think that it can be a big part of our game.”

You never would never know by the expression on Spangler’s face that he didn’t score a point in the Baylor game. He’s a team guy through and through. Plus, he demonstrated this season his value far exceeds his point total. He’s the only player in the Big 12 averaging 10.0 rebounds a game this season and his 10.5 per game average in conference play is 1.2 more than any other Big 12 player.

Still, being able to throw the ball into the post and get a basket or get to the free-throw line is an element the teams that make deep runs in March tend to have.

Spangler displayed that ability early in the season. Seven times in 24 games, he’s scored 15 points or more. He’s still averaging 10.6 points a game.

A lot of those points have come off offensive rebounds. There aren’t many available when his teammates shoot well.

“I hope our guys keep hitting shots and I don’t have to take many shots,” Spangler said. “When we’re all hitting shots, we’re pretty tough to beat.”

The Sooners didn’t need it against Baylor. They might not even need it against the Red Raiders. But there’s going to be games where the 3-pointers and the 15-footers are not falling. OU has to be able to score in the paint to win those games.

Spangler and Bennett are the ones who have to provide it on a nightly basis. Spangler does so much and Bennett is getting better in terms of blocking and altering shots.

But there are going to be games where they have to score as well.