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No. 21 Oklahoma handles Baylor, snapping two-game skid

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In road losses to Iowa State and West Virginia offense proved to be an issue for No. 21 Oklahoma despite the fact that they scored 75 points against the Cyclones and 86 against the Mountaineers. In both games the Sooners, a team with multiple scoring options, shot 40.6% from the field and they struggled from beyond the arc as well.

Against Iowa State, Oklahoma shot 8-for-26 from beyond the arc and they were even worse against West Virginia as they made just five of their 19 attempts in the overtime loss. So the task against a struggling Baylor team was simple: make more shots. And against a team currently ranked seventh in the Big 12 in defensive efficiency and ninth in field goal percentage defense (conference games only), the Sooners got back on the right track.

Oklahoma shot 53% from the field and made 14 of its 29 shots from beyond the arc and committed just eight turnovers, beating the Bears 88-72 in Norman. Isaiah Cousins led three Sooners in double figures with 21 points to go along with seven rebounds, and Oklahoma got many of the looks it wanted against the Bears. Buddy Hield, who started off the game red-hot, finished with 19 points and Cameron Clark added 16 for Lon Kruger’s team.

Obviously offense will be a key for Oklahoma moving forward, and with options such as Clark, Cousins, Hield and Jordan Woodard the Sooners have the talent needed to go basket for basket with many teams. But there’s another player whose importance should not be understated, and he didn’t score a single point against Baylor. That would be power forward Ryan Spangler, who is the one interior player who can match up with some of the more physical big men of the Big 12.

Spangler, a transfer from Gonzaga, entered Saturday averaging 11.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest and accounted for six rebounds and five assists against Baylor. The failure to score is an outlier for Spangler, who’s posted nine double-doubles this season. And if Oklahoma is to be successful in March Spangler will have to be effective inside, especially when considering the desire to use Clark at the four and thereby force opposing fours to match up on the perimeter.

While he didn’t score against Baylor, Spangler was solid defensively against Cory Jefferson (eight points, four rebounds). Oklahoma snapped out its two-game offensive funk on Saturday evening and that’s certainly a positive moving forward. But the way in which they deal with teams that possess physical front court talent will also be important.

BUBBLE BANTER: Key Atlantic 10, Big East bubble games

Kelan Martin, Kyle Alexander
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This post will be updated throughout the night.

Butler (KenPom: 41, RPI; 67) at Seton Hall (KenPom: 31, RPI: 37), 6:30 p.m.
LSU (KenPom: 53, RPI: 76) at South Carolina (KenPom: 45, RPI: 28), 7:00 p.m.
Nebraska at Wisconsin (KenPom: 51, RPI: 62), 7:00 p.m.
Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 48, RPI: 30) at George Washington (KenPom: 71, RPI: 34), 7:00 p.m.
Missouri at Vanderbilt (KenPom: 35, RPI: 58), 9:00 p.m.
No. 14 Iowa State at Texas Tech (KenPom: 59, RPI: 51), 9:00 p.m.
Michigan (KenPom: 46, RPI: 56) at Minnesota, 9:00 p.m.
Washington (KenPom: 80, RPI: 57) at Utah (KenPom: 44, RPI: 16), 9:00 p.m.
San Diego State (KenPom: 65, RPI: 47) at Fresno State, 11:00 p.m.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ben Simmons, LSU get tested at South Carolina; more important bubble matchups

FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2015, file photo, LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) drives downcourt as teammate Antonio Blakeney (2) follows in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State in New York. For all of his gaudy numbers, Simmons is still trying to figure out the best way to put the Tigers in position to win. And now the schedule gets harder, starting with Tuesday night's, Dec. 29, 2015, tilt against Wake Forest, followed by the opening of Southeastern Conference play against Vanderbilt and No. 10 Kentucky. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: LSU at South Carolina, 7:00 p.m.

LSU attempts to stay atop the SEC standings when they travel on the road to face South Carolina. The Gamecocks have been very tough at home this season and they’re trying to form a potential four-way tie in the conference standings if they’re able to win this one (and Texas A&M wins tonight). It will be intriguing to see how Ben Simmons fares against South Carolina’s stingy defense.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: Saint Joseph’s at George Washington, 7:00 p.m.

An important game in the Atlantic 10 as Saint Joseph’s heads to the Smith Center to play surging George Washington. The Colonels have won three straight games as they try to stay with VCU and Dayton and make a move to tie the Hawks in the league standings. CBT’s Rob Dauster will be in the building for this one, so make sure to follow him on Twitter for updates.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. No. 21 Baylor will have a tough one in the Big 12 when they go on the road at Kansas State. The Wildcats just knocked off Oklahoma and the Octagon of Doom is a very tough place to play, even if Kansas State is struggling in the standings.
  2. No. 16 SMU will try to stay in the lead in the American as they host Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane could really use a road win like this for its postseason chances.
  3. An intriguing Pac-12 contest tips as Washington heads to Utah. The Pac-12 standings are a mess right now, but these two teams still have a chance to make one final move for the regular season title if they start building momentum now.
  4. In the SEC, Alabama hosts No. 15 Texas A&M, a team that has lost three of its last four games. The Aggies will be favored in this road contest, but this one could be interesting because of Avery Johnson’s unique connection to Texas A&M. Avery Johnson Jr., a transfer guard sitting out this season at Alabama, played for the Aggies last season, so he could have some useful tips for his dad on slowing down Texas A&M’s potent offense.
  5. No. 20 Providence will be looking for revenge when they head to Milwaukee to face Marquette. The Golden Eagles currently sit eighth in the Big East standings, but they did win on the road by a point over the Friars earlier this season.