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February 21, 2014

K-State presents challenge from behind the arc

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Only a few things went well for Oklahoma the last time it played Kansas State. But one of those things was sophomore forward Ryan Spangler.

He scored 21 points, grabbed 14 boards and was an uncanny 9-for-11 from the free throw line. He kept the Sooners in the game the majority of the way by challenging KSU's Thomas Gipson and D.J. Johnson in the paint.


"Last time I got them in foul trouble because they got some easy fouls," Spangler said. "They'll probably try to stay away from that this game."

Probably true. The Sooners are at their best when they're able to draw fouls while attempting shots and driving toward the basket.

But against Kansas State Spangler accounted for more than half of the Sooners' 21 free throws. Freshman point guard Jordan Woodard accounted for just four.

His 169 free throw attempts ranks third all-time among Sooner freshmen -- two free throws ahead of former Sooner Jeff Webster and 29 behind former Sooner Blake Griffin.

Woodard needs to have an impact on the game at the foul line to give OU an edge when OU battles KSU at 3 p.m..

"He's gotta do it," said Spangler of Woodard getting to the charity stripe. "Not only will it give us open shots but it could get (Marcus) Foster in some foul trouble. Just make them guard us. When we get into the lane, that's when we're at our best."

When the Sooners are able to maneuver inside, their 3-point shooting prospers. 29.3 percent of OU's offense has come from beyond the arc but against the Wildcats that number could go down.

KSU ranks among the top 10 teams in the nation in 3-point field goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 28.4 percent from beyond the arc. When the Sooners played in Manhattan, Kan., they shot a paltry 7-of-23 behind the 3-point line.

According to kenpom.com, the Wildcats rank 12th in the country in adjusted defense efficiency and hold teams to a 44.2 effective shooting percentage.

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger is aware of the challenge KSU guards present when it comes perimeter defense. He's also aware a large portion of OU's success this season has come from its ability to knock down treys.

"We can't change our identity at this point in terms of how we score," he said. "We're a team that needs to shoot the ball well, and Kansas State's very good at keeping you from doing that. So we've got to challenge ourselves in executing better, lowering our base, getting better balance and finish opportunities."

They'll also have to try to put the shackles on Foster.

He was the Wildcats' leading scorer against the Sooners when they last played with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-8 from the 3-point line. Foster also dropped five dimes.

"He's had a terrific year," Kruger said. "Playing with a lot of confidence. Shooting very well. Doing other things very well. Everyone knew he was a good player, but he's probably exceeded expectations given how comfortable and how confident he's played."

Foster averages 15 points per game, but over his last five games he's averaged 21.6 points or about 29 percent of KSU's offense over that span. Kansas State coach Bruce Weber has been impressed with how his freshman 2-guard has adjusted to Big 12 basketball.

"I think the biggest thing he's a very mature freshman, very focused," Weber said. "He puts a lot of time into it. He wants to do well."

While Foster's play has only gotten better with league play, it hasn't been enough to overcome the Wildcats bad road record.

Kansas State has managed just one true road win this season. That victory came in Fort Worth, Texas, against Texas Christian -- the only winless team in Big 12 play.

The Sooners, and senior Cameron Clark in particular, will have to do their part to be sure that trend holds. Clark hit just 1-of-9 from the floor against Kansas State in his last outing against them. He scored two points.

After back-to-back 16-point outings against Texas Tech and Baylor, he scored just five points in the Sooners' last game against Oklahoma State. Spangler knows the Sooners need to have Clark clicking against KSU.

"He's been in here shooting," Spangler said. "He's starting to hit every shot in practice. I think he's ready to open it back up."

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