He was a bit fast. He was a bit slow.
Hield didn’t have that showcase game needed to claim the Big 12’s highest individual honor. After one of the worst shooting performances of his career, Hield had to settled for the showcase moment.
There were 14 misses – a career-high for Hield in a single game – but not the last one.
Oklahoma point guard Jordan Woodard raced the length of the floor for a lay-up in the dying seconds against No. 9 Kansas. His shot came off the front of the rim, where an attacking Hield sliced through two defenders caught looking and waiting for the buzzer to sound.
Hield tipped it in with two hands and 0.2 seconds to play and fell hard to the floor, landing first on his ribs. He was alright after the game, even after his teammates mobbed him at center court and the Sooners rushed to celebrate with the student section after a 75-73 victory to close the regular season against Kansas, which came into Lloyd Noble Center have already clinched the regular season title.
“It’s tough to really lock in and focus on the shot,” said Hield, who finished with a team-high 18 points. “Coach always said the second shot will be the one to kill you. I knew the second shot was going to kill them. I’m always going to the glass, every time. It’s a habit I have. It’s paid of a lot for me.”
Just a few seconds earlier, Hield’s night was going to be capped by a game-losing play. With a chance to give Oklahoma (21-9, 12-6 Big 12) a five-point lead with 15 seconds to go with a score or a pass to a cutting Isaiah Cousins, Hield went for a spin move – only he lost control and turned the ball over.
After trading free throws, Kansas point guard Frank Mason was fouled with five seconds to play while shooting a 3-pointer. He made all three shots.
“I had to move on,” Hield said. “I was thinking we’ve gotta bounce back. It was frustrating moment in time.” Waiting in the far corner and hoping Woodard would kick the ball to him, Hield wished that the final seconds wouldn’t tick off too quickly. Fading slightly off the baseline, Hield was left open after his defender helped on Woodard’s drive.
Hield hadn’t had a buzzer beater since he moved from the Bahamas in high school. He actually couldn’t remember the last one. He took advantage of everyone else thinking that Woodard’s lay-up was going to decide the game.
“That’s the way of the moment. Everybody’s stuck in the moment,” Hield said.
Hield made his moment.
“I feel like it’s our time now, you know what I mean?” Hield said. “Everything bad has been happening to us, so it’s our time. . . . It’s us making the plays. It’s good. It’s March. It’s fun. It gets us ready for the next one.”
No. 15 Oklahoma, which had beaten Kansas just twice in the previous 17 tries, finished the regular season with wins if nine of its final 11 games but hadn’t had much success late in games. Woodard missed a pair of potential game-winners against Washington and Creighton. Kansas State hit the Sooners twice – Marcus Foster in particular – with game-winning shots. Saturday was finally Oklahoma’s chance to win a game and against Kansas, which had beaten Oklahoma in five of the past six games inside Lloyd Noble Center.
Oklahoma set a school record this season with seven wins against ranked opponents and remained perfect in regulation at home.
TaShawn Thomas, who had to get half a dozen stitches above his eye after a collision, finished with 13 points, and Cousins added 16 as he and Hield combined to go 12-for-33 from the field.
“We really needed to beat Kansas, and it just feels good to beat the championship team,” Cousins said. “We know what we can do now. We're going to be pretty dangerous down the road.”
Kansas (24-7, 13-5), which was playing without three starters and playing with an injured and ineffective Wayne Selden, posted its worst league season since the 2005-06 year and became the worst team to win a Big 12 title – five in-conference losses.