The Sooners were looking for a big win this week, a signature win, with two ranked opponents in Kansas and Iowa State coming to town. The Sooners failed on Wednesday.
They were determined to succeed against No. 9 Iowa State, but they knew they had to correct some wrongs. The Sooners would have to play defense. They'd have to rebound.
SCOOPHD: OU HANDS IOWA STATE FIRST LOSS OF YEAR
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This was a win sophomore guard Buddy Hield said OU had to have.
"We needed this one," Hield said. "It's a must-win. This game was a must-win for us."
The Sooners had to play for each other if they were going to defeat one of the last remaining unbeaten teams in men's college basketball. They did just that and knocked off the Cyclones 87-82 on Saturday.
Sophomore forward Ryan Spangler led the way.
Spangler started the game by establishing himself in the post -- with shoulders, elbows and hips. He made sure ISU felt his presence.
"It gotta a little rough," he said, "but I kind of like playing like that."
After his dismal night against KU, he took ownership for his play and vowed to make a better effort, play a better game against the Cyclones. Not only did he do that, he played one of the best games of his career so far.
Spangler finished with 16 points on just 4-of-5 shooting. He also made 8-of-9 free throw attempts.
He was shooting just 57 percent from the charity stripe this season. But that's not where he made his biggest impact, where he altered the game.
Spangler nearly doubled his rebounding average against the Cyclones with 15 boards. Seven of his rebounds came on the offensive glass, giving OU valued second-shot opportunities.
"I thought in the second half Ryan just really took over the game and did some great things offensively," said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger. "He just rebounded the ball like crazy."
The Sooners outscored Iowa State 22-2 on second chance points, points they needed because they shot the ball so badly. Iowa State hit 52 percent of its shot attempts. OU hit just 41 percent of their own.
Oklahoma took advantage of having Spangler on the floor for 15 of the first 20 minutes. He led the Sooners with five first-half boards while three other Sooners had three rebounds each in the first.
The Sooners finished with 21 boards in the half. They had just 22 rebounds against Kansas all game.
OU outworked ISU on the glass 41-34. That's where Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg thought the game was won and, for his team, lost.
"We got our butts kicked on the glass," Hoiberg said. "That's the bottom line."
The Sooners outplayed the Cyclones for all but a few minutes of the first half but their efforts weren't enough to separate them from the top 10 squad.
ISU players DeAndre Kane and George Niang finished the first half with 12 points apiece. The scoreboard at halftime read 39-39, and Iowa State held the momentum going into the locker room.
Spangler had taken just two shots in the first half but grabbed five boards. It was a preview of what was to come from him in the second 20 minutes, but while Spangler came alive so did Hield.
After hitting just 3-of-10 of his shots in the first half, Hield caught fire -- especially from the 3-point range.
Hield hit 4-of-6 3-pointers in the second half and finished with just as many treys made (6) as the entire Iowa State squad, which took a total of 26 shots from distance. Hield mustered a 22-point performance.
Despite double-digit scoring outings by three other Sooners, Iowa State was still in a position to snatch victory from the Sooners' clutches.
With 2:18 left to play, a 3-pointer by ISU forward Melvin Ejim gave the Cyclones a 77-76 lead. The 13-point lead Oklahoma built with 13:48 left to play was gone.
Now the Sooners had to get stops.
For seemingly the first time all day and with the game in the balance, all five OU players began guarding their man, taking ownership when whomever they were in front of had the ball.
With just over one minute left to play, the Sooners forced bad shot after bad shot from the Cyclones. They badgered them, stayed on them.
It was the type of defensive display Kruger had been looking for all season. He finally got it out of his team when it mattered most.