On This Date in OU Hoops History: Buddy Buckets Wows Kobe on His Way to the Final Four

John. E. Hoover

Oklahoma’s 2020 college basketball season came to an unceremonious and premature end when the NCAA declared this year’s tournament would not be played due to measures intended to stop the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Sooners just might have assembled the kind of team — a Big Three scoring triumvirate and a collection of young, athletic talent — that could have possibly made a good postseason run.

This team’s resume will always be incomplete.

Instead of using three weeks this spring to witness OU basketball history, SI Sooners will relive it. From now until April 4 — the date that was supposed to be this year’s Final Four semifinals — we’ll look back on Oklahoma’s most memorable NCAA Tournament games from that date in history.

MARCH 26, 2016

(2) OU 80, (1) Oregon 68

Wearing No. 24 and playing basketball like a man possessed, hitting shot after shot and carrying his team while turning Southern California on its majestic hillside, Buddy Hield could not be stopped.

Watching from the not-so-cheap seats, admiring Hield’s work ethic and tenacity and sublime skill enough to call him over after the game and congratulate him, Kobe Bryant probably wondered what college life might have been like.

“I’m not Kobe Bryant,” Hield said, not just a little embarrassed at the comparison. “They should not compare me. I just make shots. Me and Kobe (are) in two different classes.”

Most nights, sure.

Hield scored 37 points and buried eight 3-pointers as he put Oklahoma on his back and carried the Sooners to the Final Four with an 80-68 victory over top-seed Oregon in the West Regional finals at Anaheim, California.

After scorching the nets, Hield climbed a ladder and helped his teammates cut them down. It was OU’s fifth trip to the Final Four and first since 2002. It was also veteran coach Lon Kruger’s second Final Four.

“It’s about seeing the feelings of satisfaction on the players’ faces,” Kruger said. “They feel good about this right now, but they’ll feel even better about it years from now. They’ve got a special, special spot.”

Fans chanted “Buddy! Buddy! Buddy!” as Hield paraded around in his new Final Four ballcap, a piece of the net he cut down sticking out from underneath. The prize.

“It’s special,” Hield said. “As a kid, you dream of having games like this. ... I’m just happy that we all made it, and we've just got to finish it out.”

Behind Hield, OU (29-7) started fast and dominated from wire to wire. OU led by 18 in the first half but stayed focused on the the goal. Hield scored 17 in the first half on 5-of-6 perimeter shooting, including a deep, deep 3 just before halftime to put OU up 48-30.

“I thought he had a phenomenal game,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman, whose team ended an 11-game winning streak and finished the year 31-7. “And every time I felt like we were getting ready to do something, he would jump up and make a shot.”

Jordan Woodard scored 13 points and Isaiah Cousins had 11 as the Sooners racked up 16 assists with crisp passing and keen floor awareness. Cousins also had 7 assists, and Christian James had 5 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.

But this night was all about Buddy.

Four games into the tournament, Hield was averaging 25.4 points per game this season. According to ESPN Stats & Info, only three other players averaging 25 or more points per game in a season since 1975 have played on a Final Four team: Larry Bird (28.6 points per game for Indiana State in 1978-79), Glen Rice (25.6 for Michigan in 1988-89), and Dennis Scott (27.7 for Georgia Tech in 1989-90).

“You know, it was one of those games that I miscalculated some things,” Altman said. “… He just backed up and hit a few.”

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