COLUMBUS, Ohio – Throughout the offseason, all Oklahoma preached was defense. For the Sooners to avoid being knocked out in the first game of the NCAA tournament, OU had to improve defensively.
Never did OU need it more than against 11th-seeded Dayton in the round of 32 on Sunday evening and never did the OU defense come up bigger than it did.
Spurred by the defense, OU overcame a nine-point second half deficit to take out the Flyers 72-66 at Nationwide Arena to advance to the Sweet 16.
OU came out on fire from the perimeter as the Sooners hit eight 3-pointers in the first half. Dayton weathered the storm and then appeared to take control of the game, leading 49-40 and 56-49 with under 11 minutes remaining.
The Sooners went on a 13-0 run, fueled by its defense. Steals, playing solid defense without fouling, a couple of blocked shots and dominating the glass as Dayton was unable to produce a last-minute run to keep its season alive.
Junior guard Buddy Hield, the Big 12 Player of the Year, had 15 points but also added five assists and had a huge block on a potential Dayton layup in the final minutes.
From there, it became a free throw game, and that’s where OU has Jordan Woodard. He made 9 of 10 to finish with a team-high 16 points.
OU is in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009 when Blake Griffin was leading the way for the Sooners.
The East region opened up completely for the Sooners. Not only was Virginia upset, but top-seeded Villanova was knocked out Saturday night by North Carolina State.