Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield
Associated Press

Hield leads No. 7 Oklahoma past Oral Roberts 96-73

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NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Buddy Hield scored. Just like he usually does.

His defensive energy was just as critical – the senior had a career-high five steals to go with 30 points as No. 7 Oklahoma beat Oral Roberts 96-73 on Saturday.

“Buddy, especially in the second half, was active throughout, for sure,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “That’s great. Any time we can create that activity defensively – and steals often times convert to transition points – that’s great to see.”

Hield, a preseason All-America who had been in a bit of a shooting slump, was 9 of 15 from the field to fall one point short of his career high.

Jordan Woodard scored 19 points, Isaiah Cousins had 15 and Ryan Spangler added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Sooners (7-0), who won by at least 17 points for the sixth straight game. Oklahoma shot 62 percent in the second half to beat Oral Roberts for the 15th consecutive time.

Oklahoma, which entered the game leading the nation in field goal percentage defense, held the Golden Eagles to 35 percent shooting in the second half.

“That’s our go-to,” Spangler said. “That’s what we pride ourselves on, and that’s what we’re going to keep working on. I think if we play defense and make people take tough shots, we’re going to be hard to beat.”

The Sooners were strong again after rolling past No. 9 Villanova 78-55 on Monday at Pearl Harbor. Kruger expected his team to be focused, even after such a big-time game.

“We had three good days of practice,” he said. “We got back Tuesday and didn’t practice, then went Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. With the leadership of this group, that shouldn’t be a concern. These guys know what human nature’s about and how you’ve got to bounce back and play the next game and get better every day.”

Obi Emegano scored 29 points, Kris Martin had a season-high 15 points and Brandon Conley added 10 points and 11 rebounds for Oral Roberts (8-3).

The Golden Eagles tied the score at 32 on a jumper by Emegano. The Sooners responded with an 8-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Cousins. Oral Roberts closed the gap again, but Hield’s 3-pointer with 6 seconds left in the first half gave the Sooners a 43-38 lead.

Oral Roberts shot 53 percent in the first half, but committed eight turnovers. Martin scored 12 points in the first half, while Emegano had 11 despite picking up two early fouls.

The Sooners opened things up early in the second half. A 3 by Woodard, then a putback by Hield pushed Oklahoma’s lead to 63-48.

Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton said he thought his team played well against a Top Ten team.

“I didn’t want to get embarrassed, and I don’t think we did,” he said.

ON THE RISE

Woodard had never made more than three 3-pointers in a game heading into this season. He made six against Central Arkansas on Dec. 3 and four against Oral Roberts.

QUOTABLE

Woodard, on his switch from point guard to shooting guard: “I like whatever Coach has got me on the floor to do.”

STAT LINES

Oklahoma backup center Akolda Manyang had four blocks. The 7-foot center has 14 blocks in 67 minutes this season.

TIP-INS

Oral Roberts: The Golden Eagles beat intra-city rival Tulsa 70-68 last Saturday for the Mayor’s Cup. … They entered the day with just three wins all-time against Top Ten teams.

Oklahoma: Assistant coach Chris Crutchfield was an assistant at Oral Roberts from 2007 to 2011. … The Sooners had eight offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points in the first half. … The Sooners, who led the nation in rebounds heading into Saturday, outrebounded Oral Roberts 36-35.

UP NEXT

Oral Roberts visits Missouri State on Wednesday.

Oklahoma hosts Creighton on Saturday.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP.

Kris Dunn, Georges Niang, Buddy Hield among college players at Nike Basketball Academy

Kris Dunn (AP Photo)
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Saturday morning the first annual Nike Basketball Academy got underway in southern California, with the event hosting some of the top college and high school players in the country. Those in attendance will receive instruction from coaches as well as NBA players such as Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.

The college roster doesn’t lack for talented players who should factor into the national Player of the Year conversations next season. Among those invited are Providence point guard Kris Dunn, Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield and Iowa State forward Georges Niang. There are also two players in the group who have yet to play a game at the Division I level in LSU’s Antonio Blakeney and Ben Simmons.

LSU is one of three schools with multiple players in attendance. Arizona has two in guard Kadeem Allen (who redshirted last season and center Kaleb Tarczewski, and Gonzaga forwards Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer are representing the Bulldogs. Below is the list of college players in attendance at the camp, which runs through the weekend.

Kadeem Allen (Arizona)
Paris Bass (Detroit)
DeAndre Bembry (Saint Joseph’s)
Antonio Blakeney (LSU)
Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia)
Isaac Copeland (Georgetown)
Tre Demps (Northwestern)
Kris Dunn (Providence)
Daniel Hamilton (Connecticut)
Buddy Hield (Oklahoma)
Justin Jackson (North Carolina)
Damian Jones (Vanderbilt)
Shawn Long (UL Lafayette)
Georges Niang (Iowa State)
Gary Payton Jr. (Oregon State)
Jakob Poeltl (Utah)
Taurean Prince (Baylor)
Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga)
Ben Simmons (LSU)
Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona)
Isaiah Taylor (Texas)
Jarrod Uthoff (Iowa)
Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)
Tyrone Wallace (California)
James Webb III (Boise State)
Troy Williams (Indiana)
Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga)

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield returning for senior season

Buddy Hield (AP Photo)
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Already expected to be a good team in 2015-16, Oklahoma’s prospects for next season improved a great deal Friday morning as Buddy Hield announced that he will be back for his senior season. Last year’s Big 12 Player of the Year, Hield averaged 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in helping lead Lon Kruger’s program to 24 wins and its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2009.

With Hield returning the Sooners return four of the five players who started all 35 games this past season, with forward  TaShawn Thomas being the lone departure. And the combination of experience and talent should once again have Oklahoma in the mix for the Big 12 title alongside reigning regular season champion Kansas and two-time tournament champion Iowa State.

“I’m on a great team and we have a lot of unfinished business,” Hield said Friday. “I just can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year. I want to go to the Final Four. That’s always been a dream for me. Playing with these guys, for my coaches and for my university is a lot of fun.

“I’ve been with Isaiah (Cousins) and Ryan (Spangler) for three years and Jordan (Woodard) for two. We’ve got some young pieces. This is a fun group and bonding with them has been a big part of my life. Getting my degree is also really, really important to me.”

Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard will once again lead the way on the perimeter, with Ryan Spangler being the team’s best option in the front court. Players such as Khadeem Lattin, Jamuni McNease and junior college transfer Akolda Manyang will need to step up alongside Spangler in order to account for the loss of Thomas, but overall Oklahoma has the pieces needed to meet and possibly exceed their accomplishments of 2014-15.

DraftExpress projected Hield as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

College basketball’s eight most important NBA Draft decisions

Yogi Ferrell (AP Photo)
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Yogi Ferrell (AP Photo)

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: No one has more on the line with a little more than a week left before the NBA Draft’s early entry deadline than the Hoosiers, who will be waiting until April 25th to find out whether or not their star point guard will be back on the roster in 2015-16. Ferrell averaged 16.3 points and 4.9 assists last year, but more importantly, he was the point guard that made Indiana’s spread-out offensive attack so dangerous. You can’t guard Ferrell one-on-one, but you can’t help off of James Blackmon, or Robert Johnson, or any of Indiana’s myriad of shooters.

With Thomas Bryant set to join the program next season as well, the Hoosiers have already addressed their issue of rebounding, shotblocking and toughness in the paint. Now they just need their point guard back, because with him, they’re a preseason top 15 team. Without him? The NIT is possible.

READ MORE: Who has declared for the draft, and who is returning to school?

Ty Wallace, Cal: The Golden Bears struggled in Cuonzo Martin’s first season as head coach, but much of that was due to a lack of depth and some injuries. With Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews back, Kameron Rooks healthy, Stephen Domingo eligible and top five recruit Ivan Raab joining the program, Cal as the pieces to be a threat in the Pac-12. But, like Indiana, they need their point guard, Wallace, back. He averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 boards and 4.0 assists last season.

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: The Sooners are already losing Tashawn Thomas to graduation, and with Frank Booker transferring out of the program, Lon Kruger’s back court depth will already be tested next season. Hield, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, is good enough keep Oklahoma in and around the top 15, considering Ryan Spangler, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard all return. Without him, and the Sooners will have to scrap to ensure a tournament berth.

Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga: Mark Few is already losing his starting back court of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell to graduation, and with all due respect to Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, that’s a loss that is going to be tough to overcome. Getting Przemek Karnowski and Domas Sabonis back ensures the Zags will have a formidable front line, but Wiltjer’s ability to spread the floor due to his scoring prowess creates all kinds of space on the interior. He’ll be a preseason all-american if he returns.

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s Preseason Top 25

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Kris Dunn (Getty Images)

Here’s the kicker for Gonzaga fans: It seems going pro is something Wiltjer is actually toying with, but at this point, he’s not an NBA player. But if he gets his degree and decides he wants to start making money playing basketball, can anyone really look down on him for it?

Kris Dunn, Providence: If Kris Dunn returns to school, we’re looking at a first-team all-american that is good enough to carry the Friars back to the NCAA tournament. Without Dunn, who is a late-first round pick, the Friars will likely be back in rebuilding mode. There’s a real chance he comes back, however. Improve his jumper, cut down on those turnovers, and he’s a lottery pick, potentially top ten.

Caris LeVert, Michigan: I’ll just get this out of the way now: I think it would be foolish for LeVert to return to school. He’s broken the same foot twice in the last year, and feet are not a part of the body that professional athletes want to mess with. Playing another year in college is a serious risk, especially if he’s not completely healthy by the start of the year. That said, NBA team are aware of this as well, which means he may have already fallen out of the first round. If he comes back and he’s healthy, we’re looking at an all-american that can climb right back up those draft boards.

With LeVert, Michigan should be really good as well. We all saw how well Beilein had his kids playing by the end of last season, and that was without LeVert or starting point guard Derrick Walton. With LeVert, they’re probably top 25-good. Without him, we’re likely looking at a bubble team.

A.J. Hammons, Purdue: When Hammons is engaged, he’s an all-Big Ten caliber player. This past season, he was engaged, and it helped get Purdue to the NCAA tournament. He’s a defensive menace with a developing post game that would give Purdue a pair of seven-footers on their front line. The Boilermakers still could make an NCAA tournament without him, but if he’s back, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

Jakob Poeltl, Utah: Poeltl is a borderline lottery pick, and it would seem sensible for him to head off to the NBA. But there actually seems to be some doubt in whether or not he is going to go, and if he does decide to come back, the Utes will have at their disposal one of the best big men in the Pac-12. With Poeltl, they should make a second-straight NCAA tournament despite the fact they lose Delon Wright. Without him, they’re probably going to end up being a bubble team.

Tom Izzo, No. 7 Michigan State advance to Elite 8 with 62-58 win over No. 3 Oklahoma

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Michigan State, the No. 7 seed in the East Region, defeated No. 3 Oklahoma, 62-58, on Friday night inside the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The Spartans will play No. 4 Louisville for a shot at the Final Four.

The Spartans held off a late comeback bid from the Sooners, hitting all six free throws in the final 80 seconds of regulation.

Travis Trice had another good showing in the NCAA tournament with a game-high 24 points while Denzel Valentine added 18. Buddy Hield led Oklahoma with 21 points.

It wasn’t until 9:30 left in the game that Michigan State took its first lead. Just over two minutes later, Oklahoma would recapture the lead with a TaShawn Thomas layup. However, that’d be the Sooners only field goal in an eight and half minute span. That slump didn’t snap until Hield hit a second-chance three with just over a minute to go, cutting the deficit to 58-56. From there Michigan State closed it out from the line.

The win for Michigan State sets up Sunday’s matchup between two coaching greats — Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo — who have both been terrific this March. As I mentioned earlier in the night, Pitino dismissed Chris Jones from the program last month, yet finds his team in another Elite 8; the third time in four years.

This time last year, No. 4 seeded Michigan State was a trendy pick to be the national champion. Every four-year player under Izzo had reached at least one Final Four entering the 2014 NCAA Tournament, however, eventual champion UConn ended that streak in the Elite 8 along with the careers of Adreian Payne and Keith Appling. Sophomore Gary Harris decided to declare for the NBA Draft, leaving Izzo with some experience, but no stars.

That was apparent in November when the Spartans played the role of odd man out in the Champions Classic double-header. Each of the other participants — Kentucky, Kansas and Michigan State’s opponent that night, Duke — all had their share of McDonald’s All-Americans, compared to only one (Dawson) for Michigan State.

Yet, here they are, relying on the play of Trice, Valentine and Dawson, all of whom have had their share of NCAA tournament experience.

Two unlikely runs converge on Sunday between Louisville and Michigan State, but only one will continue on the road to Indianapolis.

NBCSports.com’s College Basketball All-Americans

Jerian Grant (AP Photo)
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Frank Kaminsky (left, AP Photo), Jahlil Okafor (center, AP Photo) and Willie Cauley-Stein (right, UK Athletics)

NBCSPORTS.COM’S FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICANS

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin (18.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.6 apg, 41.0% 3PT)

Kaminsky has greatly outperformed expectations he had entering the season, even though he was a preseason all-american pick. He’s been sensational, leading the Badgers in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks and steals. Not bad for a guy that averaged 10 minutes as a sophomore.

Jahlil Okafor, Duke (17.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg)

Okafor is an easy pick as well, as he was the most dominating offensive force in the country this season. To get an idea of just how good he can be, think about this: He’s not just a poor defender, he can be downright awful at times, and yet he’s going to finish the season as a consensus first team all-american and the runner-up to Kaminsky in the Player of the Year voting. Not bad.

D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State (19.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.2 apg)

If Kaminsky has been the nation’s best player and Okafor has been the most dominating offensive force, than Russell has to be the nation’s most entertaining player. He can take over a game with his ability to score, and he throws some absurd passes in transition. Can he be this year’s Shabazz Napier in the NCAA tournament?

Jerian Grant, Notre Dame (16.8 ppg, 6.7 apg)

The Irish have no business being a top ten team this season, but they are because Grant has been incredible. Notre Dame has one of the most potent offensive attacks in the country, and it all centers around Grant’s ability to make plays off the dribble and in ball-screen actions. He’s better than anyone else in the country at making his teammate’s better.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky (8.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg)

Cauley-Stein’s numbers don’t measure up to anyone else on the first team, but what he does best doesn’t necessarily show up in the scorebook. The Wildcats are downright dominant on the defensive end of the floor, and Cauley-Stein is the engine that drives them. He’s the best perimeter and the best interior defender in the country all at the same time.

NBCSPORTS.COM’S SECOND TEAM ALL-AMERICANS

  • Delon Wright, Utah (14.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.1 spg): Wright did so much for Utah this season, and while his numbers were impressive, it was his defense and ability to understand his strengths offensively that were most important to the Utes.
  • Kris Dunn, Providence (15.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 7.4 apg): The only reason Dunn isn’t in the conversation for National Player of the Year is that he turns the ball over too much. He was completely dominant at times this season.
  • Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (17.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg): Hield has a rep for being one of the nation’s best defenders, dating back to his freshman season. Now he’s also one of the best wing scorers.
  • Rico Gathers, Baylor (11.6 ppg, 11.7 rpg): Gathers is the nation’s best rebounder, an improving scorer on the block and a critical component for arguably the nation’s most surprising team.
  • Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse (17.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.5 bpg): He won’t get to showcase his ability this March, but there was not a more improved player in the country than Christmas this season.

NBCSPORTS.COM’S THIRD TEAM ALL-AMERICANS

  • T.J. McConnell, Arizona (9.6 ppg, 6.3 apg, 2.1 spg): McConnell’s numbers are nowhere near as impressive as the other lead guards here, but if you watched Arizona play over the last two months, you understand just how important he was to that team’s success.
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland (16.1 ppg, 3.1 apg): Maryland is ranked 31st in KenPom. Yet, they’re a top ten team that’s going to be a top four seed because they’re 11-0 in games decided by six points or less. Trimble is their ‘closer’. He earned this spot.
  • Justin Anderson, Virginia (13.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 48.5% 3PT): Anderson was in the mix for first team all-american when he broke his finger. He deserves recognition despite missing time.
  • Bobby Portis, Arkansas (17.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg): I was called out by an Arkansas assistant coach for having Bobby Portis ranked 62nd in our top 100 players list in the preseason. That coach was right.
  • Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa (15.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.3 apg): I’m fully on the Tuttle bandwagon. He’s a low-post scorer with three point range, the ability to put the ball on the floor and terrific vision. He’s Frank Kaminsky 2.0.