BATON ROUGE, La. -- At one point, even Buddy Hield's teammates were wondering whether he would show up for Saturday’s game at LSU.
Top-ranked Oklahoma was in a double-digit hole, and its player of the year candidate was struggling to make an impact as the Tigers threatened to pull away for a huge upset.
“My teammates got on to me,” Hield said. “They were like, ‘Did you come here to mess around?’ Dinjiyl Walker told me, ‘Are you going to make some plays or what?’ and I said, ‘I got you.’ I was able to start making plays.”
Was he ever. Starting with a 3-pointer with 15 minutes, 44 seconds to play, Hield nearly couldn’t miss. The senior scored 21 of Oklahoma’s final 39 points -- going 7-for-9 from 3-point range -- and carried the Sooners to a 77-75 victory.
Prior to that point, Hield had been 4-for-13 from the field and 1-for-6 from 3-point range.
“My coach said not to do too much and I said, ‘I’m not trying to do too much. I’m just trying to go and be myself,’” Hield said.
The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year finally looked like himself as he led the Sooners' rally. LSU led the game for nearly 36 minutes, and Oklahoma didn’t claim a lead in the second half until Hield buried a 3 with 4:05 remaining to go up 66-65.
He and Isaiah Cousins -- who hit the winning, 10-foot jumper with four seconds to play -- combined for 13 of the Sooners’ final 15 points as they rallied from a deficit that was as large as 14.
“[Hield] got a couple of open looks in the second half that got him going,” said guard Tim Quarterman, who led LSU with 18 points. “We were attached to him in the first half. He had a hard time at the beginning, but he got freed up during the fast-break opportunities and they took advantage.”
Khadeem Lattin clinched the Oklahoma win by blocking Quarterman’s layup at the buzzer.
“It lets you know that we’re a veteran team. When you break, if you give us a chance to catch up, we’re going to catch up,” Hield said. “We’ve got a lot of good players like Isaiah and Ryan [Spangler] and Jordan [Woodard] and me, and we made a lot of good plays. It was fun making plays and seeing Isaiah make a big shot and Khadeem make a big defensive play down there.”
The pregame buildup was enormous at LSU; the Tigers packed the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and sought to knock off a No. 1 team for the first time since beating Duke in the 2006 NCAA tournament. The Hield-Ben Simmons matchup added spice to the cross-conference game, as both rank among the favorites for player of the year honors.
Simmons (14 points, nine rebounds, five assists) had a solid all-around game -- highlighted by a reverse dunk early in the second half -- but failed to score in the game’s final 10 minutes. It was his teammates, including fellow freshman Antonio Blakeney and Quarterman, who hit the big shots as the Tigers fought to hang around.
“We wanted to run some high-low action to him inside there,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said of Simmons’ role in the closing minutes. “They did a good job of trying to prevent us from getting it down in there on the post.”
However, Hield offered nothing but praise for the Tigers’ star after the game, placing Simmons at the top of the heap among players in their sport.
“He’s the best player in college basketball I feel like,” Hield said. “He’s really good and he’s going to be really good when the time comes, too. ... I wish him the best and he’s going to keep on excelling.”
By finishing 8-for-15 from 3-point range, Hield added to his nation-leading average of made 3s per game (4.35), and he scored 20-plus points for the 12th time in the past 14 games.
If the Sooners (18-2) hold onto their No. 1 ranking in the next poll, it will be largely because of their senior guard’s late-game heroics.
“Our back was against the wall,” Hield said. “We had to do something.”
And so he did.