NORMAN – Nothing was falling for Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield on Sunday afternoon against Wisconsin, prompting his teammate Ryan Spangler to plead to the basketball gods when Hield missed yet another lay-up.
The Oklahoma Sooners played Wisconsin’s slow style of pace with each possession averaging 19 seconds. The Sooners made just four 3-pointers. Everything should have pointed to something other than a 17-point win against a team that should contend for the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s good to win a different type of game,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “Defense was obviously a key (Sunday), not giving up really any runs to Wisconsin when we got a lead like that. They weren’t able to put together many back-to-back buckets. We feel good about that. It’s a game we’ll grow from.”
Hield, who was scratched in the eye near the end of the second half but said he was fine, scored 12 points after averaging more than 25 in the first three games. He had missed nine shots in the previous two games combined but missed 11 Sunday. The Sooners (4-0) had hit 23 shots from behind the 3-point arc through the first three games of the season but only attempted one after halftime against Wisconsin.
The No. 7 Sooners still leaned on a defense that allowed the Badgers to shoot just 23.5 percent from the field, a season-best for Oklahoma’s defense.
“We’re making progress in terms of playing five-on-five instead of five one-on-ones,” Kruger said. “It’s an awareness for what’s happening around you and not just guarding your guy. . . . Our starting positioning is better. We’ve got a lot way to improve, but at this point of the season I like where we’re at. These guys understand how tough it is, the challenge ahead. They know we’ve got to keep getting better every day.”
Hield could have brushed the bad performance off on the slow tempo, but he took it upon himself to be better. Kruger and Spangler, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds, both have faith that Hield will be better the next time Oklahoma faces a team that wants to slow it down – because there will be a next time.
“It’s just me not making the right plays,” Hield said. “I had some good looks, I just didn’t execute them. I’ve got to do a better job. Once we come out with a team win, I’m happy. I’ll work on my game after this and worry about next game.”