NORMAN — Going into Saturday's game against Tulsa, Oklahoma basketball coach Lon Kruger thought he might need to use Tyler Neal at point guard.
As it turned out, he needed the 6-foot-7 senior in the middle after Ryan Spangler went down with an injury late in the first half.
It's something Neal was well-prepared for.
“I've always kind of had that thought process that the more positions you can play — the more you can help the team and when guys go down whatever happens, foul trouble or whatever — the more you can be out there,” Neal said. “In a way, that can be seen as selfish. But when something like this happens, it's really helpful.”
On a team short on depth, Neal's versatility is a valuable asset.
It could get tested again Tuesday, when Oklahoma hosts Texas-Arlington at 7 p.m. at Lloyd Noble Center.
Spangler is expected to play after suffering a calf injury in the win over the Golden Hurricane. He was held out of the contact portions of practice Monday.
When Neal was in the game in Spangler's place, he created a mismatch playing up top and took advantage by scoring 12 second-half points.
“We had that nice little ball screen working there,” Neal said. “We really utilized that. Jordan (Woodard) made some good plays for me. I just had open shots, and I just had to knock them down, which is what I did.”
Before the game, there was some question about whether Neal would be able to play after fighting through an ankle injury.
“We would've had one bench player if I was sitting,” Neal said. “So I'm glad I could get back for that one. It's feeling better every day.”
With backup point guard Je'lon Hornbeak out for more than a month with a broken foot, Kruger thought he might need to give Neal some minutes at the point if either Woodard or Isaiah Cousins got in foul trouble or injured.
“It helps tremendously when you've got a guy that can cover you one through five if need be,” Kruger said. “That's pretty rare. At that five spot, he's probably as comfortable as anywhere yet can move out there and play the point. I don't know that he'd want to play point against a quick-attacking perimeter defender necessarily, but he could get us by for sure if we needed to.”