Buddy Hield sank a go-ahead three-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining to power the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners past the archrival No. 24 Texas Longhorns 63-60 on Monday at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Hield, the front-runner for National Player of the Year, scored the Sooners’ final 12 points to anchor a comeback that seemed unlikely for most of the contest.
Here is a look at the senior's latest heroics, courtesy of SportsCenter's Twitter account:
Buddy Hield hits the game-winning three in the final seconds to lift No. 3 Oklahoma over No. 24 Texas. https://t.co/Gdv7ZAK3Ye— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 9, 2016
Oklahoma, fresh off a shocking 11-point upset loss on Saturday at unranked Kansas State, connected on just 28 percent of its attempts in the first half for 22 points and trailed Texas by nine. It marked the lowest offensive output in any half by the Sooners all season, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
But Oklahoma bounced back in the second half and eventually tied the game at 39-39 on a three-pointer by Isaiah Cousins that sent the home crowd into a frenzy. It was the first time the Sooners weren't trailing since their 3-2 edge one minute and five seconds into the game.
The Sooners finally regained the lead when Hield sank a pair of go-ahead free throws with 1:19 left to take a 60-58 edge.
Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor drew an immediate foul and sank both shots at the charity stripe to even the game at 60-60 with 57 seconds remaining.
Hield missed an ensuing jump shot that positioned the Longhorns to regain the lead, but Taylor was called on a charge driving to the basket that returned the ball to Oklahoma with 17 seconds left—and Hield followed with the dagger.
Many were skeptical of the call against Taylor, but Bleacher Report’s C.J. Moore deemed it warranted:
That's a good call. Have no idea why Isaiah Taylor stuck out his arm. Buford was already on his heels. Didn't need it.— CJ Moore (@CJMooreBR) February 9, 2016
In what was the most highly anticipated individual matchup of the night, Hield outscored Taylor 27-19.
Joe Trahan of WFAA-TV gave credit to Taylor’s 14 second-half points but noted that Hield and the Sooners might have a comeback in the works:
Taylor's playing huge down the stretch, but here come Hield - lookout. https://t.co/YVJJJARG49— Joe Trahan (@JoeTrahan) February 9, 2016
Texas, which entered the game as a winner of four straight and seven of its last eight, once again looked sharp on defense. Monday’s game was the Longhorns’ first in their last five contests in which they allowed 60 points.
But their offense was gassed in the second half, connecting on just 36.7 percent of field goals while shooting 1-of-9 on three-pointers.
Adam Jacobi of SB Nation's Black Heart Gold Pants noted that Texas seemed destined to eventually relinquish the lead despite the Longhorns giving it their all:
Texas is playing its heart out at Oklahoma, tied with 10 minutes left, and the Horns have just zero chance of winning this one.— Adam Jacobi (@Adam_Jacobi) February 9, 2016
Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports added that the Sooners should never feel in doubt with Hield at the helm:
Even when he’s having a rough night, the game is never over when you have Buddy Hield.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) February 9, 2016
Hield ranks fifth in the country with a whopping 51.1 three-point percentage (among players averaging 25-plus minutes and three-plus attempts per game). Synergy Sports Tech shared a graphic that elaborated on where Hield is finding his success beyond the arc:
Buddy Hield is shooting 59% from 3 on the left wing, 71% from the 3 in left corner this season. Knows his sweet spot pic.twitter.com/Jt6E5ckYYS— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) February 9, 2016
Despite a lackluster loss against Kansas State, Oklahoma—now 20-3—remains in great shape heading into the final month of the season.
Even with Saturday’s loss, the Sooners still received seven first-place votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. They also defeated current No. 1 Villanova 78-55 earlier this year. The parity in college basketball continues, as there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut top team.
Texas may have a tough time coping with a loss in a game it clearly could’ve won on Monday, but the Longhorns are also in good shape heading into March. For a team that started 1-2 in the Big 12, the Longhorns—now 16-8—appear poised to reach the NCAA tournament comfortably barring a major collapse.
Hield said in his postgame interview with ESPN that the Sooners never lost composure and head coach Lon Kruger asserted faith in the team throughout.
"Everybody was calm,” Hield said. "Coach kept giving us confidence. Everybody wasn’t making shots, I couldn’t make a shot. But we just trusted ourselves.”
Texas head coach Shaka Smart offered praise for Hield’s heroics and even called him the nation’s top player, per Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman:
Texas coach Shaka Smart on Hield: "He’s a terrific player. There’s a reason why he’s the best player in the country and makes plays."— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) February 9, 2016
Teammates Kendal Yancy and Prince Ibeh have faith that the Longhorns can contend for the Big 12 Championship as they continue to experience close contests such as the one on Monday, per Davis:
May sound weird after a loss, but can Texas win the Big 12? Prince Ibeh: "Yes, definitely. No doubt. … I think our ceiling is very high."— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) February 9, 2016
Kendal Yancy on going after Big 12 title: "We just believe in ourselves and we understand we’re just as good as all the other teams."— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) February 9, 2016
Oklahoma is certainly the favorite to win the conference title, but Texas proved it can contend with the best and give the Sooners a run come March.