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Unheralded Ryan Spangler emerging as dominant rebounder, Oklahoma’s driving force

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Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler dunks over Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart (USATSI)

Ryan Spangler was overlooked and under-appreciated by both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State as a high school standout in Blanchard, Okla., just a few years ago.

When a scholarship offer didn't come from either of the major in-state powers, he left to pursue his college basketball dreams at Gonzaga in 2011. After a year with the Bulldogs, he transferred back to Oklahoma and sat out a year.

On Monday night, Spangler looked like one of the best big men in the college game, albeit an undersized big man at 6-foot-8. He scored 15 points and grabbed 17 rebounds and made all the difference for the team he grew up rooting for in Oklahoma's 88-76 win in Bedlam on the basketball court.

It was the fourth double-double in the past six games for Spangler. It should be noted that it came against an Oklahoma State team that has been shorthanded inside this season because of injuries, but it was still impressive nonetheless.

Few envisioned Oklahoma being a serious contender in the Big 12 Conference this season after losing so much from last season's team. Spangler's emergence has made a huge difference in overcoming the losses and giving the Sooners a potent and well-rounded team capable of scoring inside and outside with regularity.

Spangler didn't have a good game against Kansas and he was the only Sooner who did against Kansas State. Those are Oklahoma's two conference losses. How good are the Sooners? Our Brad Evans has them rated as the 18th best team in the country and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State came into the game looking for a rebound performance from All-American guard Marcus Smart, who scored only four points in a win over the weekend and apologized publicly to his teammates using his Twitter account.

Smart once again found himself in foul trouble and only played 6 minutes in the first half Monday, but he was a major factor in several runs the Cowboys made in the second half and finished with 22 points.

While OSU can feel good about the way Smart rebounded - Did anyone doubt he would? - it has to be concerned about the way Spangler dominated inside and how other teams likely will, too.

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Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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