Rest hasn’t been plentiful for Ryan Spangler this basketball season.
For most of the year, about the only thing that’s kept Oklahoma’s sophomore forward off the court has been foul trouble.
But over the last two weeks, junior D.J. Bennett’s improvement has allowed OU coach Lon Kruger to give Spangler more rest.
The result has been a bit of a drop off in numbers for Spangler, but he figures to be fresher in this week’s Big 12 Tournament and then in the NCAA Tournament beyond that because of the breaks he’s been given.
“It doesn’t hurt him,” Kruger said of the rest. “Obviously he’d rather be playing, but I think that’s good.”
In Oklahoma’s first 14 Big 12 games, Spangler played 30 or more minutes in 10 of them.
In the other four, some level of foul trouble limited Spangler’s minutes each time.
The 6-foot-8 Bennett has been steadily improving throughout the season but really started showing it in the loss at Kansas on Feb. 24.
Bennett was forced into early action by Spangler’s foul trouble and acquitted himself well against the Jayhawks’ bigs.
In the last three games, though, Bennett has gotten even better.
Early in the season, he would frequently rack up fouls by going for blocks at inopportune times.
But now, Bennett is being smarter about when to go for blocks, and he’s only been called for five fouls in the last four games. Three of those came in Wednesday’s win over West Virginia.
“I’m trying to better my court awareness, where I’m at, where I’m supposed to be on both ends —when I’m supposed to be on help-side, when I’m supposed to double,” Bennett said recently.
Bennett played 15 minutes in both the March 1 win over Texas and the victory over West Virginia. He hadn’t played that many since logging 16 minutes against Tulsa on Dec. 14, a game where Spangler got hurt early.
Against West Virginia, Spangler came out in favor of Bennett with 11:40 left in a game that was reasonably close until late.
Bennett stayed out on the floor the remainder of the game despite Spangler having just one foul.
“That wasn’t, obviously, what Ryan was not doing, but it was a matter of confidence boost for D.J. and rest for Ryan,” Kruger said.
In Saturday’s win over TCU, it was more of the same.
Bennett played 17 minutes, tying a season high. He also tied a season-high with five rebounds and scored six points.