NORMAN, Okla. – This is one of the reasons why Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield decided to come back for a senior season.
With the Sooners teetering in a tough battle against Creighton, it was Hield who asserted himself late to propel OU to an 87-74 win on Saturday afternoon.
The Sooners were clinging to a 71-68 cushion before Hield took control of the game, notching nine consecutive points to give OU a comfortable 80-68 advantage with 3:13 left in the game.
“Buddy was fantastic,” head coach Lon Kruger said. “He wants the ball in that situation. His teammates have a lot of confidence in him in that situation. He made a couple of big shots, not the first time he’s done that.”
When it was all said and done, Hield ended up with a career-high 33 points to keep the third-ranked Sooners undefeated heading into this week’s Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott sure noticed the difference in Hield. Known primarily as a shooter last year, the 3-pointer wasn’t Hield’s friend Saturday. The senior did connect on three of them, but he also made nine two-point field goals and six free throws.
“I’m so impressed with what he has added in his game from a year ago,” McDermott said. “Last year he was a shooter. This year he’s a basketball player.”
In its first game ranked No. 3 this season, the Sooners got all they could ask for from Creighton. The Bluejays connected on 12 3-pointers and kept making a push whenever it seemed like OU was about to put them away.
OU has cruised throughout this season ever since its opener against Memphis but received a stern test – one in which it passed in a quality way.
“It was good. A little stressful,” said senior Ryan Spangler about playing in a competitive game once again.
Spangler knew his role going into the game. It wasn’t going to be about points in this one. With Creighton’s size, it was going to be about doing what he does best and doing the little things. He did just that with a game-high 15 rebounds.
The Sooners also earned a huge boost from sophomore Khadeem Lattin, who set a career high with six blocks with eight points and five rebounds.
“Khadeem was great,” Kruger said. “Every week he just keeps making progress.”
Following Hield’s run, the Sooners were able to put the game away from the free throw line. OU started the game 4-of-10 from the charity stripe but made 13 of its last 14 attempts to guarantee there would be no late miracle run for Creighton this year.
Jordan Woodard had 15 point and seven rebounds, while Isaiah Cousins added 10 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the undefeated Sooners.