With some unexpected bad blood surrounding the matchup between No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 15 Cal State Bakersfield, it was Buddy Hield and the Sooners who had the last laugh as OU survives and advances after a 82-68 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Bakersfield senior Aly Ahmed took it upon himself to add some extra spice to the matchup on Thursday by saying the Sooners were, “Good, but not great,” and that probably wasn’t the smartest decision the big man’s ever made. Instead of celebrated a Roadrunners win on Friday night, it was Ahmed who was eating crow after the Sooners pulled away in the final minutes.
It was a valiant effort by Bakersfield, but Oklahoma proved to be too much down the stretch.
The Sooners narrowly led 69-65 with just over three minutes remaining in the game, but it was finally time for OU’s experience advantage to kick into gear. Junior Jordan Woodard drained a transition 3-pointer to put the Sooners up seven points, but the best was yet to come for OU.
As the Roadrunners were searching for a response on their end, Hield soared out of nowhere to pin Jaylin Airington’s layup attempt off the backboard to ignite the restless crowd inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena.
If the stifling block wasn’t flashy enough, the back-to-back Big 12 player of the year wasn’t done putting on a show. With the Sooners looking to expand on their seven-point lead, Hield dribbled left at the top of the key, stopped on a dime and stepped back behind the arc before swishing a 3-pointer to put his team up double-digits with 2:32 left in the game.
And just to make sure there was still any doubt from the Roadrunners’ side about the ability of the Sooners, Hield erased any chance of a Bakersfield comeback with yet another swat off the backboard.
In all, Oklahoma ended the game on a 13-to-3 run as they advance to play VCU in the second round on Sunday.
The Sooners were deadly from behind the arc in the second half as they hit eight of 11 attempts while the Roadrunners only made two in the same amount of tries.
Hield was the game’s highest scorer with 27 points while Isaiah Cousins added 16 and Woodard contributed 15. It was good to see all three OU guards show up as they combined to shoot 18-for-31 from the field and 9-for-14 from three.
Ahmed led the Roadrunners in scoring with 16 points, but failed to score in the second half.