Bill Self drew up a revised plan to slow down Oklahoma All-American Buddy Hield. After Hield scored a career-high 46 points in the first matchup against the Jayhawks, Self decided a change needed to be made – even though all parties congratulated Frank Mason for the defense he played on Hield that night.
It went something like this.
In transition with two or three steps, there was no covering Hield, but Kansas sent three players backs to stop quick baskets. Self played Hield with no help – only faux help to get the developing dribbler to react. There were no close-outs, meaning that a player couldn’t help off Hield.
Kansas’ primary defender – Devonte' Graham – was again praised for success. Still, Hield finished with 24 points, his 18th game of the season with 20-plus points.
“He still got his shots off,” Graham said after the game with a laugh. “He had a good game. I just tried to lock up and play the best defense I could.”
Most teams have been doing the best they can to try and “lock up” Hield. Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu was admired for his one-on-one defense, and the second-leading scorer in the nation scored 23 points. Kendal Yancy was the primary reason Texas almost beat Oklahoma, and Hield scored 27 points.
Hield is averaging 25.8 points per game in the toughest conference in the country. He’s not doing it with just one great skill. Every game, there’s something slightly new thrown at Hield, and every game, he’s figuring out how to beat it.
“I was trying to feel them out and see what they were doing,” Hield said of any halftime adjustments against Kansas. “I had good shots in the first half. I just didn’t make them. They guarded me and threw a lot of bodies at me. I had good shots. I should’ve made them in the first half.”
After not making a shot in the first half against Kansas, Hield scored 18 points in the second half. He also shot above 40 percent from behind the 3-point arc for the first time in four games.
“I don’t feel pressure,” Hield said. “I just know when I get the ball, everyone is collapsing on me. I’m trying not to make the wrong plays.”
Hield will try to remain the only player in the last 20 years nationwide to average at least 20 points and shoot 50 percent from behind the arc and from the field while also shooting 90 percent from the free-throw line.
Hield is shooting 52.5 percent from the field, 90 percent from the line but 49.8 percent from behind the arc. Hield shot 47.2 percent from behind the arc in the first game against Oklahoma’s final six opponents.
“That’s what people are doing now,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “They’re going to stay into Buddy and not leave him. Buddy’s realized that over the last two or three ballgames.”