A year ago, Ryan Spangler was just a rebounder who could be counted on to finish around the rim, maybe even knock down the occasional jump shot. That's simply not the case anymore.
Spangler tied a career-high with 21 points on Saturday, lifting No. 21 Oklahoma to an important, but sloppy 68-56 win over TCU on Saturday in Fort Worth.
The win was the Sooners' fourth in a row and lifted them to 7-4 in conference play, a half-game behind Iowa State for second place in the Big 12. The two teams face off in Norman at 8 p.m. Monday night.
Spangler was terrific on both ends of the floor, hitting 9-of-12 from the field and collecting four blocks on the defensive end. Spangler came into the game as the Big 12 leader in field goal percentage and did nothing but likely increase his lead in that category.
Saturday's 75 percent clip was the eighth straight game Spangler has shot 50 percent of better from the field. The last time he didn't hit that mark was in the Sooners' home loss to Kansas State back on Jan. 10. During the Sooners' four-game win streak, Spangler has shot 24-of-28 from the field.
Oklahoma needed every bit of Spangler's offense on Saturday because he was the only one who was able to find any semblance of consistency on either team. The Sooners finished the game shooting 46.2 percent from the field, but OU players not named Spangler were just 15-of-40.
Buddy Hield finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Isaiah Cousins had 11 points. Kenrich Williams was the only TCU player in double figures with 10 points and nine rebounds.
TCU was much worse at 31.5 percent for the game, but the Horned Frogs took 73 shots compared to just 52 for the Sooners. Two big reasons contributed to this massive difference. First, TCU racked up 21 offensive rebounds for the game, compared to 12 for the Sooners. Also, Oklahoma turned the ball over 17 times.
The first half was particularly strange, as the Frogs missed their first 13 shots and OU raced out to an 11-0 lead. But turnovers allowed the Frogs to climb back into the game and once shots began falling, TCU was able to build a 28-21 lead.
But the Frogs were unable to capitalize completely on the OU mistakes. Despite 10 first half turnovers for OU, TCU had just seven points off those. Also, despite 13 offensive rebounds, TCU had just three second chance points, thanks to 27.5 percent shooting.
The Sooners rallied and closed the half on a 10-0 run to take a 31-28 lead to the locker room. Spangler was the catalyst on both ends, collecting five points and a block during the run.
Oklahoma quickly built a double-digit lead in the second half, and outside of one TCU rally early in the half, maintained it the entire 20 minutes. The biggest scare for OU was an eye injury to TaShawn Thomas with seven minutes remaining in the game. Thomas got hit in the eye during a collision for a rebound. He appeared to be woozy and didn't return to the game.
OU coach Lon Kruger said after the game he knew Thomas was hit in the eye, but didn't have any further update on the injury. The Sooners need Thomas healthy if they want to have a good change against the Cyclones on Monday night.
Thomas' presence is important for the Sooners, as it opens up the rest of the floor for the Sooners—particularly Spangler—regardless of how Thomas is performing.
But Saturday was about Spangler, once merely a rebounder, who has turned into arguably Oklahoma's most consistent player.