Buddy Hield’s big game lifts No. 2 Oklahoma past No. 1 Oregon and into the Final Four
Get all of David Gardner’s columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.
Oklahoma, the No. 2 seed in the West region, played a nearly perfect first half against No. 1 Oregon in the regional final in Anaheim, Calif. In the first period, the Sooners shot 50% from the floor and 64.3% from three while holding the Ducks to 39.1% and 20%, respectively. Sooners senior star Buddy Hield had 17 first-half points, including a 24-footer that went down with eight seconds left and gave Oklahoma a 48–30 advantage heading into the locker room.
Senior forward Elgin Cook was the only Duck to get into double figures scoring, finishing the game with 24 points. But his team never led in the game and never got within 11 points in the second half as the Sooners defeated the Ducks, 80–68.
Why it matters
Oklahoma has made the Final Four for the first time since 2002, when Kelvin Sampson was coaching the Sooners. Current Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger has taken five teams to the NCAA tournament, but he hasn’t made the Final Four since he took Florida to that program’s first 22 years ago. Hield finished the game with 37 points (on 13-of-20 shooting), marking the 19th time this season he has scored at least 25 and the 12th time he’s recorded at least 30. Many player of the year ballots are cast at the end of the regular season, but if you take the NCAA tournament into consideration, Hield has left little doubt about the identity of the best player in college basketball. When Hield is feeling it like he did tonight, there isn’t a defense that can stop him.
For Oregon, the game will be bittersweet. It was the program’s most successful season since 2007, but the Ducks missed a chance to make their first Final Four since the NCAA tournament’s inaugural year in 1939. (Oregon—then known as the Webfoots—won its only national championship that season.)
Oklahoma has won the West regional and will face No. 2 Villanova, which knocked off No. 1 Kansas in Saturday’s late game, in the Final Four in Houston on Saturday, April 2. The Sooners beat Villanova, 78–55, in Hawaii on Dec. 7.