NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma always seems to find an unlikely hero for Bedlam home games.
So it was again Monday night, when reserve forward Tyler Neal pumped in a season-high 15 points, helping fuel the Sooners’ 88-76 win over rival Oklahoma State before a capacity crowd at Lloyd Noble Center.
Forward Ryan Spangler dominated inside for the 23rd-ranked Sooners, scoring 15 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, while freshman guard Jordan Woodard added 18 points for Oklahoma (17-4, 6-2 Big 12).
The eighth-ranked Cowboys (16-4, 4-3) lost for the third time on the road in the conference.
Neal, a senior whose role has fluctuated during his career, scored 10 points in the first half as the Sooners built a lead they would never relinquish. He finished 5-for-6 from the from the floor — including 3-of-3 from 3-point range — while surpassing his previous season high of 13 points set in the Big 12 opener against Texas.
Neal, an Oklahoma City product, finished his career 4-0 at home against the Cowboys.
“I think this is an easy team to play for,” Neal said. “Everyone can score, and we trust each other to do that, so when it comes to an open shot, you are supposed to take it and knock it down.
“It’s that simple.”
Looked that simple Monday night.
“Tyler Neal was fantastic,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “We need that from him.”
Oklahoma State star guard Marcus Smart led the Cowboys with 22 points despite missing much of the first half due to foul trouble. Guard Phil Forte added 20 points off the bench, making all six of his 3-point attempts, and forward Markel Brown scored 18 points.
The Cowboys operated in foul trouble throughout, with starting forwards Le’Bryan Nash and Kamari Murphy both fouling out, as did reserve guard Stevie Clark.
The Sooners shot 42 free throws — 20 more than the Cowboys — and outscored Oklahoma State 30-15 from the foul line.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but it’s a major issue,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said of foul woes for his team, which is playing with a thin rotation. “We can’t keep getting in foul trouble. We know that. It’s tough to go to our bench, especially in this game, the way they play.
“Our room for error is very small.”
Smart fueled an Oklahoma State spurt midway through the second half, scoring seven points in a 14-4 run that pulled the Cowboys within 64-57 with 10:01 remaining.
However, Neal muscled inside for a bucket to restore some order, and pretty soon the Sooners were pulling away again.
“I’ve played against Tyler Neal all four years I’ve been here,” Brown said. “I know the type of player he is. He’s a hard-working guy, great shooter. He came in the game and played well for his team.”
Smart started strong, scoring Oklahoma State’s first six points on a pair of 3-pointers, and the Cowboys led 10-7 early. Smart did not score again before halftime, as foul trouble limited him to six minutes.
With Smart out, and with Nash having two fouls, the Sooners took advantage of a makeshift Cowboys lineup to go on an 11-0 run to take a 20-10 lead. Neal fired in two 3-pointers and had a team-high 10 points in 10 minutes. Spangler had nine points before also sitting with two fouls, and guard Buddy Hield added eight points for the Sooners, who led 46-38 at the half.
Due to their foul troubles, Oklahoma State never had an answer for Spangler, whose 17 boards were more than the combined total of any two Cowboys.
“Hustle,” Spangler said. “I just try to outhustle people. I think that will put me in the right position to get the ball. Right now, they are falling in my hands where I want them to.
“Some games, they are going to be hard to get, but lately they have been easy. I just have got to keep hustling for my team.”
NOTES: Everything Oklahoma-Oklahoma State is referred to as “Bedlam.” The basketball series has seen its share of games fitting of the term, although Monday night’s clash was the first pairing of Top 25 teams since 2005. … The Sooners extended a streak
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