The Oklahoma team celebrates after its victory. Photo courtesy Oklahoma men's basketball Facebook page
The Oklahoma team celebrates after its victory. Photo courtesy Oklahoma men’s basketball Facebook page

Buddy Hield scored 37 points and equaled the Elite 8 record and his career high with eight 3-point baskets leading second-seeded Oklahoma to a 80-68 victory over top-seeded Oregon Saturday in the NCAA tournament’s West Regional final at Honda Center.

The Sooners never trailed and were only tied twice, 2-2 and 5-5. Oklahoma used two 7-0 runs and an 8-1 run to lead 48-30 at halftime and led by at least 12 in the second half to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2002 and fifth time in school history.

“Just a very disappointing first half,” Ducks coach Dana Altman said. “They just killed us on the boards. They were much quicker to the ball.”

The Sooners out-rebounded Oregon, 23-10, in the first half, including an 11-3 advantage in offensive rebounds, and had 15 second-chance points in the first half to four for the Ducks.

“I thought them getting those second opportunities for 15 points really put us in a hole that we could never recover from,” Altman said.

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said his team “opened the ballgame with good focus,” and “did a good job early” defensively.

The Sooners will face second-seeded Villanova, a 64-59 winner over top- seeded Kansas in today’s South Region final, in the Final Four next Saturday in Houston.

Hield made five of his six 3-point shots in the first half and eight of 13 overall, tying the Elite 8 record set by Bo Kimble of Loyola Marymount in 1990.

“As a kid, you dream dream of having games like this,” said Hield, a 6- foot-4-inch senior guard who leads the nation in 3-point baskets per game, 4.1, and is second in scoring, averaging 25.4 points per game.

“I just thank my teammates and my coaching staff to put me in the position to score the ball and they gave me the confidence to put the ball up. Even though I had an off-night last game, I just came in confident and they gave me the confidence to be aggressive every night.”

Hield made six of 13 shots, including two of seven 3-point shots, and scored 17 points in the Sooners’ 77-63 Sweet 16 victory over Texas A&M Thursday.

Ducks senior forward Elgin Cook, who guarded Hield, said he “tried to crowd him out, tried our best to corral him and keep him out of open areas, but he made a lot of tough shots.”

Altman said he thought Cook “could stay after him a little bit and he hit some tough ones.”

“He hit some deep ones,” Altman said. “It was one of those games that I miscalculated some things. I thought Elgin would be able to handle him a little bit better, but I don’t fault Elgin’s effort or anything. I think he just hit some shots.”

Guards Jordan Woodard added 13 and Isaiah Cousins 11 for Oklahoma (29- 7), who were third in the 10-team Big 12 Conference and lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament.

Cook led the Ducks (31-7) with 24, while forward Chris Boucher added 14 and freshman guard Tyler Dorsey, an alumnus of  Marantha High School in Pasadena, 11.

The Sooners made 27 of 58 shots, 46.6 percent, and 12 of 24 3-point shots, 50 percent. Oklahoma is second in the nation in 3-point shooting team with a .428 shooting percentage.

Oregon made 21 of 54 shots, 38.9 percent, and four of 21 3-point shots, 19 percent.

The Ducks, the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament champion, were seeking their first Final Four berth since winning the initial tournament in 1939, which was an eight-team affair simply divided into the East and West regions.

This was the fifth time since then the Ducks reached the Elite Eight, and first since 2007.

“Just to see that we didn’t give our maximum, it just hurts,” Boucher said.

Kruger gave Altman his first Division I job, hiring him as an assistant at Kansas State in 1986 when he coached Moberly (Missouri) Junior College.

This was the first time Altman and Kruger have coached against each other.

“He’s been a great friend and mentor for 30 years,” Altman said. “We’ve never played each other for a reason. We didn’t want to play.”

Altman and Kruger plan on going to Scotland in July and early August for a golfing vacation, something Altman said the two have talked about quite regularly for the last 30 years.

“That could be uneasy for one of us,” Altman said before the game.

— City News Service


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