NORMAN, Okla. – With so much leadership gone from last year’s Oklahoma squad, basketball coach Lon Kruger knows different people are going to have to step up at different times.
Monday was one of those nights. Senior Tyler Neal came off the bench for 12 points and eight rebounds to help the Sooners to a 95-82 victory against North Texas on Monday night in OU’s home opener.
“I’ve known for a while I can do these things,” Neal said. “I know there are going to be different ways to help from game to game.”
This night it was scoring and helping clean the glass. Neal led the team with four offensive rebounds. Sophomore Ryan Spangler, named the Big 12’s co-Newcomer of the Week in the morning, had a team-high nine rebounds with 11 points.
The offensive star of the night was sophomore guard Buddy Hield, who scored a career-high 23 points. Impressive considering he didn’t score his first basket until there was 8:28 left in the first half.
“I’m just always in attack mode,” Hield said. “It doesn’t matter if I miss two shots, three shots, I’m always going to be aggressive.”
It was another balanced night for OU as five Sooners scored in double figures. Je’lon Hornbeak and Cam Clark each posted 11 points.
North Texas narrowed the margin to 66-62 with under 12 minutes to play when Hornbeak drained a 3-pointer. Kruger opted to not call a timeout to stop the run, letting his young squad figure it out for themselves.
The logic being he can’t hold their hands forever. As conference play gets closer, the team is going to need players to stay aggressive and to take charge and show that leadership.
Freshman guard Jordan Woodard had six assists, while Hornbeak led the team with three steals. OU is back at home 7 p.m. CST on Wednesday against Idaho.