by RENALDO DORSETT
How do you follow up being named a finalist for the Wooden Award and make an emphatic statement in your bid for conference player of the year honours?
For Buddy Hield, the answer was a game winner to cap the regular season in an upset over the perennial Big 12 conference champions, the Kansas Jayhawks.
His tip-in with 0.2 seconds left on the clock, lifted his no. 15 ranked Oklahoma Sooners to a 75-73 upset over no. 9 Kansas in the regular season finale Saturday afternoon.
He finished with 18 points and seven rebounds on the afternoon to lead the Sooners to win against their highest ranked opponent of the season.
Following his performance, Hield, the junior guard and Grand Bahama native was named the Big 12 Player of the Year when the conference announced its awards yesterday.
Sooner’s point guard Jordan Woodard drove the full length of the floor, but his layup clanged off the front iron, giving Hield the opportunity to swoop in above the Jayhawks defenders and send the Sooner faithful into a frenzy with the go ahead score.
“I was hoping that he was going to kick it to me. I know that Jordan is a good player and a good finisher. I thought we were going to get a foul called because they had him wrapped up,” Hield said, “As soon as the ball when up I just went and got the rebound and tipped it back in.”
It was the second time this season the Jayhawks have lost a game in the final moments off an offensive rebound,
“It is tough to really lock in and focus on the shot. Coach [Lon Kruger] always said the second shot will be the one to kill you,” Hield said. “I know the second shot was going to kill them [Kansas]. I’m always going to the glass, every time. It is a habit I have and it is paying off a lot for me.”
The play was reviewed by the referees for several minutes as Hield stop atop the scorers table and gestured toward the Sooners band and student section.
“I ran to the student section so I could tell them what’s up with it,” Hield said, “I was worried. I was like please don’t call it off. I was out their celebrating and all of that stuff and didn’t want to be on (ESPN’s) ‘Not Top 10’ (for celebrating a negated shot). I was just saying please, Lord, help me.”
Hield shot 6-20 from the field and a key turnover just two possessions earlier.
Oklahoma led 71-68 and had the ball in the final minute when Hield lost control.
The Jayhawks recovered and Frank Mason would eventually make a pair of free throws with 9.4 seconds remaining to make it 71-70.
Woodard was fouled with 7.4 seconds to play, and he made both free throws to push Oklahoma’s advantage to 73-70.
Mason was fouled on a three point attempt with 5.4 seconds remaining. He made all three free throws to tie it at 73 and set up the dramatic finish.
“It was so crazy. I was like ‘Oh crap, Coach is going to give me crap for that one.’ I was like, ‘You know what, we have to move on.’ In the timeout I said we have to bounce back. It was just a frustrating time at the moment, and I should have hit Isaiah [Cousins] earlier when I had the chance,” Hield said, “But it is always in God’s favour. It was a good win.”
The win gave the Sooners a regular season record of 21-9, 12-6 in the Big 12 and a tie for second place in the conference.
It also set a season record for the Sooners’ programme with its seventh win against a ranked opponent.
The Sooners now turn their attention toward the postseason in the Big 12 Championship which will be played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City Missouri, March 11-14.
The Sooners have earned a first-round bye and will play in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
On Saturday morning, Hield was named as one of the 15 finalists on the 2015 John R. Wooden Award ballot.
On the season, he averaged a league high 17.4 points per game on 38 percent three point shooting and 80 percent free throw shooting, and adds 5.5 boards an outing to lead the league’s guards.
He was also named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team.