And Oklahoma had to wait a little while for Hield to show up Wednesday in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.
When he finally made an appearance and brought his gathered family and friends to their feet, there wasn’t much UCLA could do to stop the Sooners from advancing to the second round.
Hield scored 10 straight points midway through the second half to shrink Oklahoma’s last true deficit and spark the Sooners, who attempted a school record 38 3-pointers, to a 75-65 victory.
“I was thinking about it for a long time," Hield said to reporters after the game. “It's just special to come here and play in front of my family and friends. A great team win. I had to do my job. My teammates did their job.” Oklahoma will play Butler at noon Thursday in the semifinals.
Hield moved to Kansas midway through his high school career and hadn’t played in his native country of the Bahamas since then. Only his mother had seen him play in person during his college career.
Oklahoma (3-1) trailed by eight points with nine minutes to play when Hield knocked down four straight free throws. A pair of wing 3-pointers from Hield, who hit just one 3-pointer before his 10-0 individual run, gave the Sooners the lead with 7:26 to play.
In just 100 seconds, Hield showed his team – and his friends – how dangerous he can be in rhythm.
“I was really happy for the guys," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger told reporters after the game. "I thought guys on both squads played awfully hard. It's a game where each team seemed to have the momentum at different times. And Buddy made some critical shots there at the right time for us.”
Hield scored a game-high 24 points, besting talented UCLA point guard Bryce Alford, who finished with 19 points.
Frank Booker added 11 points off the bench, sparking the Sooners early when Oklahoma was shooting less than 30 percent from the field. Ryan Spangler finished with nine points and 10 rebounds, and Jordan Woodard, who didn’t commit a turnover after 10 giveaways in the previous two games combined, scored 10 points.
Oklahoma, which had never beaten UCLA in school history, held the No. 22 Bruins (3-1) to season-lows in field goal (37.7 percent) and 3-point (23.5) percentage.
Once Hield went on his run, Oklahoma gave the lead back only once and stretched its lead until the end of the game thanks to another 7-0 spurt in the final five minutes.
Against Butler, Oklahoma will face its two early-season struggles. Butler, much like Creighton, is one of the better shooting teams in the country, despite posting a 30.6 shooting percentage in its 74-66 victory against No. 5 North Carolina. The undefeated Bulldogs also pulled down 29 offensive rebounds – something that hurt Oklahoma early against Northwestern State – against the Tar Heels.