For much of the season the No. 2 Oklahoma basketball team relied heavily on the play of Buddy Hield, but none more than in the second half of their NCAA Tournament game against No. 10 VCU.
After a fierce comeback, VCU suddenly held a 65-63 lead over OU with just over eight minutes left in the game. Oklahoma looked puzzled, seeing its 13-point halftime lead seemed to evaporate into midair.
But with its back up against the wall, it was OU’s superstar senior who decided to do what was necessary for his team to survive and advance. Hield quickly drained a 3-pointer to give his team some sign of life, and then after a Rams’ defender decided to gamble for a steal on OU’s next possession, Hield quickly gathered himself and knocked down his second three in as many possessions.
Hield then finished off a strong take to the basket next time OU had the ball, and from that point on it was ‘Buddy Ball’ time inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Hield went on to win the shootout with VCU down the stretch, as the likely National Player of the Year scored 21 of OU’s final 26 points while leading the Sooners to an 85-81 win over the Rams. With the victory, OU advances to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.
5th Sweet 16 in 10 yrs for underrated @OU_MBBall program. But needed homecourt adv & POY-clinching type performance from @buddyhield. @news9— Dean Blevins (@DeanBlevins) March 20, 2016
5th Sweet 16 in 10 yrs for underrated @OU_MBBall program. But needed homecourt adv & POY-clinching type performance from @buddyhield. @news9
While it was Hield who saved the day, his OU teammates were the ones carrying the load for most of the first half.
Oklahoma roared out of the gates against the Rams, as the Sooners were gracing the OU-heavy crowd with one highlight play after another. Khadeem Lattin was a force in the paint early on, and his two alley-oop slams really set the tone of the game.
Next thing you know, OU was up 21-7 with 11:45 left in the first half, but Hield had yet to record his first point.
The Rams were able to get their feet under them a bit as the half went on, and the Rams trailed by only five points when Hield picked up his second foul and had to sit down with 4:26 left until the break. One would think the Sooners would struggle without their leader, but it was actually just the opposite. OU ripped off a 12-to-4 run to close the half, all while Hield sat from the bench watching.
Impressive 10-2 run since Hield went out. @news9— Dean Blevins (@DeanBlevins) March 20, 2016
Impressive 10-2 run since Hield went out. @news9
Hield totaled seven points at intermission, but it’s safe to say he made up for it with 29 points in the second half, as he finished with 36 in the game—the second most points scored in a NCAA Tournament Game in OU history.
Jordan Woodard totaled 17 points in the win, while Isaiah Cousins added 15 of his own. Ryan Spangler and Lattin were a solid duo in the post, and combined for 14 points and 14 rebounds. Oklahoma was fortunate to pick up the win despite scoring only three points off the bench.
Melvin Johnson led the Rams with 23 points while JeQuan Lewis totaled 22 points.
The Sooners will be back in action on Thursday in Anaheim, California for the Sweet 16. OU will take on the winner of Texas A&M and UNI.