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.
With 12:01 left in the first half, Texas A&M freshman forward D.J. Hogg hit a three-pointer to put the No. 3 Aggies ahead of No. 2 Oklahoma, 18–15. It would be their last lead of the game. The Sooners closed the first half on a 30–8 run and never let their lead sag into single digits in the second half. Star senior guard Buddy Hield was predictably brilliant, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds, showing off his range and versatility by recording his first double double of the season. He had a lot of help from fellow seniors Jordan Woodard (22 points) and Ryan Spangler (10), as well as from sophomore forward Khadeem Lattin (10). The Sooners shot 44% from the three-point line and 49.2% from the floor, far outpacing the Aggies’ respective marks of 21.4% and 34.4%, and Oklahoma cruised to a 77–63 win.
Why it matters
After its miraculous, 12-points-in-34 seconds comeback against Northern Iowa in the Round of 32, Texas A&M didn’t seem to have a full tank to take on Oklahoma. Still, the Aggies’ appearance in the Sweet 16 is a testament to the rebuilding job that coach Billy Kennedy has done in a short span with the program. With another strong recruiting class coming in for 2016, expect the Aggies to be back in contention in the SEC again next season.
On the other side, Oklahoma showed a level of balance that should strike fear into its future opponents. Hield was among five scorers who finished with double-digit point totals. But the most impressive thing about the win was how stout defensively the Sooners were. Oklahoma is No. 18 in adjusted defensive efficiency, but it doesn’t always get credit or recognition for its play on that end of the floor. That should change some after holding Texas A&M to such low percentages shooting.
For Lon Kruger, who is one of two coaches (Tubby Smith is the other) to take five teams to the NCAA tournament, it’s his first appearance in the Elite Eight since he took Florida to the Gators’ first-ever Final Four in 1994.
Oklahoma faces the winner of Thursday night’s game between No. 1 Oregon and No. 4 Duke in the West regional final in Anaheim on Saturday night. The winner of that one will head to the Final Four in Houston.