However, it took a Hield-led scoring run in the game’s closing minutes for top-ranked Oklahoma to dodge LSU’s upset bid in a 77-75 victory at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Sooners had led for all of 16 seconds when Hield -- who finished with a game-high 32 points -- drilled a 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 5 seconds to play, giving the Sooners a 66-65 lead. And even then, it took a 10-foot jumper by Isaiah Cousins with 4 seconds to play and Khadeem Lattin’s block of a Tim Quarterman layup at the buzzer for the Sooners to hold on for a win.
Hield made another strong statement for player of the year, leading the Sooners’ late comeback from a double-digit hole. He scored 21 of Oklahoma’s final 39 points -- going 7-for-10 from 3-point range -- as the Sooners (18-2) barely avoided becoming the first No. 1 team to lose to LSU since Duke in the 2006 NCAA tournament.
Simmons played his typical all-around game, scoring 14 points and adding nine rebounds and five assists. But it was largely his supporting cast that put the Tigers (13-8) in position to pull the upset. Four LSU players scored in double figures, led by Quarterman with 18. Freshman Antonio Blakeney made two 3-pointers and Quarterman had one in the final 2:51 to keep the Tigers’ upset bid alive.
But Cousins -- who finished with 18 points and seven assists -- scored six of the Sooners’ final nine points, with the others coming off a Hield 3 that gave Oklahoma a 73-72 lead with 1:53 remaining, and the Sooners barely held on for a win before a rowdy LSU crowd.
Oklahoma's experience showed
Hield and fellow seniors Cousins and Ryan Spangler provided nearly all of the scoring punch for the Sooners, combining for 66 of Oklahoma’s 77 points. Spangler notched a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Prior to tipoff, Hield ranked second nationally in 3-point shooting percentage, averaging 52.3 percent from beyond the arc. He finished 8-for-15 Saturday, raising his percentage slightly to 52.7, and he raised his nation-leading average of 3-pointers made per game to 4.35. The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year has now scored at least 20 points in 12 of the past 14 games.
Craig Victor continues to look like a major difference-maker for the Tigers
The sophomore forward added a physical presence to a lineup that lacked it while he sat out the first eight games. LSU is 9-4 since the 6-foot-9 Arizona transfer joined the lineup Dec. 16, including a victory against then-No. 9 Kentucky. The losses include Saturday's against Oklahoma and road defeats to then-No. 10 Texas A&M and to a Florida team that smashed No. 9 West Virginia 88-71 on Saturday. Victor scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half as LSU took control of the game.
LSU controlled the first half
The Tigers led for all but 16 seconds. Everything seemed to go their way in the opening 20 minutes, particularly from beyond the arc. LSU was 7-for-12 from 3-point range in the opening half, and some of those shots came from unexpected sources. Guard Jalyn Patterson banked in his only shot of the half, a 3-pointer midway through the half, and sophomore reserve Aaron Epps even buried one seconds before the buzzer -- just his fifth made 3 of the season -- to give the Tigers a 44-36 halftime advantage.