On a Saturday afternoon in the Bayou, the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners proved that they deserved to be the No. 1 team in the country, and All-American guard Buddy Hield set himself apart as the heavy frontrunner for national player of the year.
Down by 14 points in the second half, the Sooners slowly chipped away – pulling on the calmness of coach Lon Kruger and leaning on an experienced senior trio in its 88th-straight game together as starters.
Hield, who scored 32 points, hit five 3-pointers in the final ten minutes as Oklahoma rallied back and then served as a distraction for his roommate Isaiah Cousins. Stepping out for a pick-and-pop in the final seconds, Hield watched Cousins pull up from the elbow for a game-winner with four seconds to play.
No celebration, everyone back on defense and Khadeem Lattin made the game-sealing block as time expired: Oklahoma rallied from its largest second-half deficit of the season to pull of the 77-75 victory.
Hield, Cousins and Ryan Spangler combined for 66 points, including all but 17 of the Sooners’ 63 total shots.
As Oklahoma (18-2, 6-2 Big 12 Conference) rallied back, it was Hield to stepped to the forefront, while his player of the year counterpart Ben Simmons shied away. Simmons’ last basket came with more than 15 minutes to play and his last points came on a pair of free throws with more than 12 minutes to go.
Hield, who finished with 32 points, scored 15 after Simmons’ final basket. It was Hield’s eighth game of at least 30 points this season. Simmons had just four points in the first half and finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists – none in the second half.
After the game, Simmons compared Hield to Houston Rockets’ star James Harden – the only other player he’s faced as deadly from the outside as Hield.
Oklahoma hit five of seven 3-pointers during its rally after falling behind by 14 points with just less than 16 minutes to go – following an 8-0 run by LSU (13-8, 6-2 SEC).
The Sooners never went on a big unanswered run in the second half. Instead, they relied on an extra point here and there to pull back to the lead with just more than four minutes to play – on back-to-back 3-pointers from Buddy Hield to no one’s surprise.
The two teams traded baskets before Lattin, who had two blocks in the final 35 seconds, and Jordan Woodard missed a pair of free throws in the final 50 seconds to give LSU a chance to tie the score on a 3-pointer by LSU’s Antonio Blakeney.
Cousins, who finished 18 points and seven assists, answered with confidence and a mid-range, pull-up jumper.