Oklahoma-Hawaii Preview

The Oklahoma Sooners have thoroughly enjoyed their two stays in Hawaii, and next they get a chance to extend their success there against their gracious hosts.

The third-ranked Sooners seek their third win in Honolulu this month when they meet Hawaii in the semifinal round of the Diamond Head Classic on Wednesday night.

Oklahoma (9-0) has won its last eight games by an average of 26.1 points, including a 78-55 victory over then-No. 9 Villanova in the Dec. 7 Pearl Harbor Classic. The Sooners opened their second trip to Honolulu with Tuesday's easy 88-60 victory over Washington State in the first round of the eight-team tournament, which features no other ranked teams.

Though Oklahoma has played six of its nine games at home, the two trips to Hawaii have made for a wild month.

''We've got to adjust because this is the life we choose and part of it is traveling on the road so we're used to this," senior guard Buddy Hield said. "… and we've just got to be ready for whatever the task at hand is and come out and play.''

Oklahoma is off to its best start since the Blake Griffin-led 2008-09 team won its first 12 games, and Hield is a major reason why.

The 6-foot-4 guard ranks in the top 10 nationally and leads the Big 12 Conference with 23.7 points per game. He has averaged 29.3 in his last three games, making 12 of 21 3-pointers.

Hield followed back-to-back 30-point performances – including a career-high 33 in Saturday's 87-74 win over Creighton - with an efficient 25 points in the tournament opener. In just 26 minutes, Hield made 8 of 13 shots and 5 of 8 from 3-point range against Washington State. He scored 15 points in the first half.

Hield has made 51.8 percent of his 3-point attempts to lead a Sooners team that ranks second in the nation at 47.2 percent from long range. The Sooners have made at least 10 3-pointers in six games and average 10.3.

On the other end of the court, Oklahoma has held its opponents to 26.5 percent shooting from deep. Creighton was the only team to finish at better than 40 percent against the Sooners, but they rebounded by holding Washington State to 5 of 21 from long range.

Oklahoma led just 38-31 at halftime but a 17-0 run early in the second half led to the lopsided victory.

''Defensively, we created some activity and had some deflections that we turned into transition opportunities and I thought we had some pretty good looks defensively in the first half, but we didn't come up with the loose balls and didn't guard through late in the shot clock,'' coach Lon Kruger said. ''In the second half we played much better defensively and moved the ball offensively.''

Hawaii (8-1) used its own defensive gem to reach the semifinals, topping Northern Iowa 68-52 later Tuesday. The Rainbow Warriors forced 19 turnovers - upping their total to 64 in the last three games - and finished with 10 steals.

Aaron Valdes led Hawaii with 15 points, while Sai Tummala made 3 of 6 3-pointers for 12 points off the bench. Valdes leads Hawaii at 17.8 points per game.

The Rainbow Warriors won their last two games against top-5 opponents but haven't faced one since beating No. 4 Michigan State 84-62 on Nov. 19, 2005.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.