The best basketball players find a way to win even when their shots aren't falling, and Buddy Hield did exactly that Monday night, willing No. 3 Oklahoma to a come-from-behind home win over No. 24 Texas.
Business as usual for our old friend Buddy, who has averaged 27.4 points over his last 17 games. Between this game, the 46-point night at Kansas and the 32-point performance in the comeback win at LSU, we've come to expect Hield will put up monster numbers in the process of putting the Sooners in a position to win every game.
It certainly didn't start out that way against the Longhorns, though.
The prohibitive favorite for the Wooden Award had just six points at the half as Oklahoma trailed 31-22. As the players ran into the tunnels, ESPN flashed a graphic indicating it was the Sooners' lowest scoring half of the season—and their previous low was 31.
Just two days after its worst loss of the season (against Kansas State), it looked like Oklahoma was bouncing back about as well as a scoop of ice cream off the pavement. Pretty much every single team in the country has gone through a rough patch at some point in this season, and that inevitability was finally catching up with the Sooners.
They clawed back to tie it eight minutes into the second half, but with about 10 minutes remaining, something happened that made it really feel like this wasn't their night.
Hield had a pair of wide-open looks at three-pointers that would have given Oklahoma its first lead since 3-2, but he missed them both. As ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan eloquently summed up on Twitter, it was pretty perplexing that those shots didn't find nothing but nylon given how reliable Hield has been this season:
Eamonn Brennan @eamonnbrennan
Wonder what the offshore money said about the odds of that Hield handoff 3 falling. Because onshore Eamonn would've bet his paycheck2/9/2016, 3:32:53 AM
Late in the second half, he was just 4-of-14 from the field and had missed seven consecutive three-point attempts. And yet, it always felt like he was the one keeping the Sooners in the game. Hield was the one scolding Khadeem Lattin for a bone-headed technical foul, the one jumping passing lanes to create turnovers and the one bellowing guttural screams to keep the crowd engaged.
Then, finally, with less than four minutes remaining, the beast found his shot.
Over the final 200 seconds of regulation, he single-handedly outscored Texas by a margin of 12-3, hitting all four of his free-throw attempts and both of his three-point attempts, including the game-winning, tie-breaking dagger with just over a second remaining, as Rob Dauster of NBC Sports captured on Vine:
"I told them I wanted the ball," Hield told ESPN's Fran Fraschilla and Brent Musburger after the game.
The night had looked like it would spawn articles that either questioned what happened to Hield or reassured Oklahoma fans even the greatest players occasionally have a bad game, but Hield wound up with 27 points and an MVP designation in the KenPom.com box score—his 13th such honor in just 24 games.
As Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports noted on Twitter, Hield is the Jason Voorhees of college basketball. You might think he's dead, but he's not. And he's coming for you:
Sam Vecenie @Sam_Vecenie
Even when he’s having a rough night, the game is never over when you have Buddy Hield.2/9/2016, 4:03:16 AM
Where was the rest of the gang, though?
Isaiah Cousins had a solid night, scoring at least 13 points and hitting multiple three-pointers for a seventh consecutive game, and Ryan Spangler (eight points and 10 rebounds) didn't play too poorly for a big man who kept getting switched onto Isaiah Taylor on ball screens.
However, Jordan Woodard (three points on six shots in 31 minutes) was every bit the ghost he was in Saturday's loss to Kansas State (zero points on six shots in 29 minutes). And Lattin—the power forward who averaged eight points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.8 blocks in the Sooners' first five Big 12 games—finished the game with more personal fouls (four) than points, rebounds and blocks combined (three).
Oklahoma got some theatrics and heroics from Hield, but his supporting cast gets a grade of D-plus, at best.
Yet, it still managed to beat one of the country's hottest teams.
Maybe you haven't been paying much attention to the Longhorns because they just eked into the AP Top 25 for the first time this season about seven hours before the game tipped off, but they entered the contest with a 7-1 record over the past four weeks, which included road wins over West Virginia and Baylor and home wins over Iowa State and Vanderbilt.
Their only loss during that stretch was a road game against Kansas in which they actually held a seven-point lead in the second half at Allen Fieldhouse. Texas started the season a bit slowly and then stumbled three times in its first four games without Cameron Ridley, but what Shaka Smart has done in his first year with this program is nothing short of remarkable.
The Longhorns had held four consecutive opponents to fewer than 60 points, and those teams shot a combined 20-of-65 (30.8 percent) from beyond the arc. Rather than worrying about the Sooners offense in the aftermath of its lowest scoring game of the season, perhaps you should be worrying about picking against Texas anytime soon.
These guys are legit.
And Hield dropped 27 points all over their heads.
Bet against Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament at your own peril. Like Kemba Walker during Connecticut's 2011 title run, Hield seems to have an infinite supply of tricks up his sleeve.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.
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