Guard Detail: Oklahoma Backcourt Leads Sooners To Red River Sweep
NORMAN, Oklahoma - Buddy Hield buried a 3-pointer, then glanced down at Kevin Durant sitting courtside and smiled as he backpedaled down the court.
Durant may well be the best player on the planet, but there was nothing the Texas alumnus could do for the Longhorns on Saturday, as Hield and his fellow backcourt mates lit up Texas, 77-65 on Saturday in Norman.
"I was just in the moment and trying to make a play for my teammates," Hield said with a laugh. "He (Durant) just happened to be (there)."
The win gave the Sooners (21-8, 10-6 Big 12) their first sweep of the Longhorns (21-8, 10-6) since 2005 and their first season sweep of both rivals—Texas and Oklahoma State—in Big 12 history.
It was strength vs. strength throughout the entire game. The Longhorns had a decided advantage over the Sooners in size, pounding the Sooners in the paint to the tune of 38-18. But it was Oklahoma that used an advantage on the perimeter to its advantage. The Oklahoma guards outscored their counterparts from Texas by a huge 58-23 margin and the Sooners hit 10 3-pointers compared to just three for the Horns.
"I thought our guys had good focus on what Texas wanted to do and I saw our guys respond with great awareness," OU coach Lon Kruger said.
The OU guards were excellent on offense, but it was their efforts on defense that dictated the direction of the game. Texas finished the game with 16 turnovers and every guard that saw the floor had at least one. Meanwhile, the Sooners had just seven and Je'lon Hornbeak had three of them.
"I don't mind turnovers when we're throwing the ball inside, but it was the way we turned the ball over," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "I thought our guards were too tentative."
OU used those turnovers to its advantage, turning the 16 giveaways into 23 points.
"The guys have made a ton of progress defensively," Kruger said. "Isaiah kind of took responsibility on the perimeter to toughen us up and play with greater purpose and greater significance and the other guys fed off of that."
Sophomore Isaiah Cousins continued his impressive play of late, leading the Sooners with a career-high 24 points on a very efficient 7-of-11 shooting.
"I've just tried to be more aggressive and stay consistent," Cousins said. "Just practicing all the time is really showing up in my game."
Cousins was also a catalyst on the defensive end, racking up three steals and turning them into instant offense for the Sooners.
"It just came with the game," Cousins said. "I was really aggressive on defense and it turned into offense. We got steals by being at the right spot at the right time."
Hield added 17 points and was the only other OU player in double figures. Hornbeak chipped in nine points and five assists off the bench.
Hield was also terrific on defense, helping to harass Texas point guard Javan Felix into a dreadful two-point, three-turnover game. Felix lit the Sooners up for 28 points in Austin back in January, but the Sooners made him a total non-factor on Saturday.
"Coach just kept giving us speeches that we need to play hard and make him take tough shots," Hield said. "We just tried to do our best switching on him and using our length against him. I think we really did a good job against him."
The Texas big men were very solid inside, hitting a combined 17-of-28 from the field. Cameron Ridley was a major headache for the Sooners as he bullied his way to 19 points and 14 rebounds. Jonathan Holmes had 11 points and Isaiah Taylor finished with 10 points.
The game turned twice on a flurry of 3-pointers. The first came in the first half, with the Sooners trailing, 10-8. Hield, Frank Booker and Hornbeak hit 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions to give OU a 17-10 lead. After a Texas basket, Tyler Neal hit a 3-pointer and was fouled. He hit the free throw to cap the four-point play and a 13-2 OU run that gave the Sooners a 21-12 lead with 9:21 left in the half. OU would not trail the rest of the game.
The second set of 3-pointers came in the second half, with the Sooners leading 39-31 with 16:15 remaining in the game. Over the next three minutes, Hield hit three 3-pointers sandwiched around a Cousins jumper to open up a 50-35 lead and bring the Lloyd Noble Center crowd to its feet.
The ball movement for the Sooners was exceptionally crisp and purposeful, as they passed the ball around the perimeter like it was a hot potato, finding Hield for wide-open looks at the basket every time.
From there, the Sooners cruised, ballooning the lead to as many as 17 points with an alley-oop dunk from Hield to Cam Clark being the exclamation point.
The Sooners still control their own destiny for the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 tournament in two weeks in Kansas City. OU now owns the tiebreaker over the Longhorns, but still has to contend with Iowa State and Kansas State. Oklahoma will need to win out and maybe get some help in order to grab the top seed behind Kansas.
Saturday afternoon, seeding wasn't on the Sooners' collective mind. A rival was in town and Oklahoma took care of business by making sure their strength was more effective than Texas' strength.