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January 8, 2014

Sooners have figured out a way to play big; even as they remain small

NORMAN — Height is the most coveted trait in college basketball. Those who have it can play in space that cannot be defended.

If Oklahoma (12-2, 1-0 Big 12) is missing one desirable attribute, it is the lack of a true skyscraper who dominates the paint. Junior D.J. Bennett is listed at 6-foot-10, but he only averages 10.4 minutes a game. It means the Sooners typically spend three-fourths of a game with a size disadvantage.

They spent all of it with one last Saturday in a 88-85 victory over Texas. Bennett did not play. For 40 minutes, the Sooners battled the Longhorns’ size in the post without flinching.

In truth, they didn’t just battle it, they beat it. The scoreboard said so, but so did one other very important statistic: rebounding. The Sooners walked out of Texas’ Erwin Center plus 11 (39 to 28) in rebounding margin.

It was a dominant performance, considering the Sooners have averaged a little less than four rebounds more than their opponents this season. The effort is illustrated more with forward Ryan Spangler only pulling down five boards against the Longhorns.

“Our guards have been doing a good job of getting down in there,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “It starts with Ryan, but throughout the year on different nights someone else typically jumps up there.”

The Sooners will needs other to jump in from all directions when they face No. 18 Kansas (9-4, 0-0) at 6 p.m. today at Lloyd Noble Center.

The ability to rebound with bigger teams will

likely decide what kind of season the Sooners have. Few in the country boast more size and athleticism than the Jayhawks. They’ll bring a legitimate 7-footer to the floor with freshman center Joel Embiid.

However, Kansas hasn’t exactly dominated the glass either this season. Its plus 6.2-rebounding average is one of the biggest reasons the traditional power is off the slow start.

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