NORMAN — Oklahoma's men's basketball team doesn't have much size up front.
At 6-foot-8, Ryan Spangler is the biggest of the Sooners' starters.
But what the Sooners lack in size, they make up for in speed across the court.
While OU might have issues in conference play when it meets the big lineups of the Big 12, the Sooners are using that athleticism edge to their advantage in the nonconference part of the schedule.
With basically a four-guard lineup, the Sooners have turned up the tempo this season.
Through eight games, OU is averaging 87.4 points per game — 14th nationally. Oklahoma has failed to score at least 40 points in just two of its 16 halves this season..
The Sooners play George Mason at noon Sunday at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., as part of the BB&T Classic.
Spangler, and his athleticism, has been a big reason for the success of OU's up-tempo game.
“Most bigs, they don't run as quick as Ryan,” Sooners guard Isaiah Cousins said. “That's an edge. When you have Ryan running and then you have the wings running, it causes a big distraction for them and it makes it easier for us as guards.”
Spangler, the former Bridge Creek start who sat out last season after transferring from Gonzaga, enjoys the pace.
“It's fast, for sure,” Spangler said. “We want to be fast as a team, but we base ourselves off defense. If we can get stops, then we can run out. But we want to worry about defense first.”
OU's defense hasn't been dazzling so far as the Sooners try to find the right balance between defending hard and worrying too much about the new rules.
Spangler, though, has been superb. He's third in the Big 12 with 8.9 rebounds per game and has led the Sooners in rebounding in six of eight games and has three double-doubles.
“Ryan's mobility on both ends of the floor — he's been very good defensively in terms of fighting ball screens and helping, recovering, and helping on drives,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “He's got a good awareness.”
Spangler has also taken on leadership on the defensive end.
“He's showing us where to go, so he's our anchor on that end,” senior forward Cameron Clark said. “He's telling us where we need to be and rebounding the ball at an amazing level. He's just a great guy to be on the same team with.”