ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Before his team’s 77-63 loss to Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night, Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy called Buddy Hield a “LeBron type” who could score in bunches if the Aggies let him. But the Aggies, like most Oklahoma opponents this season, had a plan to suppress Hield by limiting his touches, rotating multiple defenders against him and bringing help often.
And that’s the problem. That philosophy only spreads the floor and creates more pockets of opportunity for the other Sooners.
Texas A&M didn’t stop Hield or his teammates.
Hield finished 4-for-7 in the first half. His teammates made 14 of 29 shots before the break. It’s not “pick your poison” with Oklahoma. It’s the reality that a relentless effort to suppress Hield for two halves demands an abundance of energy and bodies, which often increases fatigue for Oklahoma’s opponents down the stretch and eases the path for a talented supporting cast.
The narrative lies. Hield (17 points, 10 rebounds) doesn’t do it alone.
In the first half of Oklahoma’s win over Texas A&M, a game that sent the Sooners to the Elite Eight for the first time since the Blake Griffin Era (2009), Admon Gilder guarded Hield on a possession midway through a run that shifted the game in Oklahoma’s favor. The Wooden Award contender jabbed right, and Gilder jumped. Alex Caruso arrived to help, but left Isaiah Cousins alone on the left wing. Cousins drained the 3-pointer.
Plays like that helped Oklahoma amass a 19-point halftime lead. Texas A&M used multiple players on Hield. Gilder, Caruso, Danuel House and Anthony Collins all faced him throughout the game. All sacrificed other significant matchups (Jordan Woodard scored 22) on the floor to hold Hield to a double-double.
The reality is that Oklahoma is a good team, a complete team. The Sooners limited the paint production of a Texas A&M squad that entered the Sweet 16 tied with North Carolina as the leader in points in the paint (45.0 PPG). They forced Texas A&M, one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country, to take uncomfortable attempts from beyond the arc. Danuel House was quiet throughout the game. And Oklahoma risked fouls to stay physical against the Aggies, a team that finished 13-for-24 from the free throw line.
The “stop Buddy Hield” philosophy ignores the other talent on Oklahoma's roster. Beyond that, it rarely works.
Thursday’s result, again, proved as much.