Oklahoma Sooners

MADISON, WI - DECEMBER 03:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers is defended by Kristian Doolittle #11 of the Oklahoma Sooners during the first half of a game at the Kohl Center on December 3, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Nigel Hayes’ 28 points, six assists paces No. 17 Wisconsin past Oklahoma

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) Wisconsin coach Greg Gard says what makes Nigel Hayes and the Badgers play at their best is one in the same – how far the 6-foot-8 forward is from the basket.

And with Hayes working largely from 18 feet and in, he scored a season-high 28 points Saturday as No. 17 Wisconsin shook off a slow start and blew past Oklahoma 90-70.

“The further he gets from the basket, the more the hard match-up scenarios level off or dissipate,” Gard said.

Gard said what impressed him most about Hayes was he shot 13 free throws, hitting 10, and didn’t turn the ball over once while dishing out six assists. Most of those assists were at the rim as the defense collapsed, opening up outside shots.

Hayes said he’s just taking what the defense gives him.

“It’s just a matter of me staying consistent, staying confident in myself with the work I put in, whether it’s inside or outside, just going with that mindset that no one can guard me,” said Hayes, who took only two 3-point attempts and made both.

The Badgers (7-2) trailed Oklahoma (5-2) the entire first half as they struggled to guard dribble handoffs that gave the Sooners momentum while attacking the rim. But once the Badgers cleaned that up and found their shooting touch, they pulled away.

Wisconsin was 4 of 13 from behind the arc in the first half, and Rashard Odomes put Oklahoma up 58-57 with a 12-footer 8 minutes into the second half. But Bronson Koenig of the Badgers answered with a 3 that started a 20-3 run to put the game away.

The Badgers connected on 8 of 14 3-point attempts in the second half, including three in their decisive run.

Koenig, Ethan Happ and D’Mitrik Trice all scored 16 points for Wisconsin.

Oklahoma committed 16 turnovers, eight in each half. But the Sooners were able to overcome that in the first half by hitting 5 of 8 from behind the 3-point line. Those shots stopped falling in the second half as they went 1 of 6, and coach Lon Kruger said the Sooners didn’t find a way to answer as Wisconsin’s confidence shot up in their final run.

Odomes led Oklahoma with 17 points.

“Some of it was certainly our doing. Some of it was Wisconsin making a good play,” Kruger said of the 20-3 run. “Those opportunities are what we have to learn from and certainly do a better job.”

BIG PICTURE

Oklahoma: It was the first true road game and first against a ranked opponent for a squad that has 11 underclassmen on the roster. But the Sooners didn’t come out intimidated and built an eight-point lead in the first half. Still, they contributed to that decisive Wisconsin run with six turnovers over the 5-minute run. They haven’t beaten a ranked non-conference team in a true road game since 1989.

Wisconsin: When the Badgers have an inside and outside game working together, they can put on a display. Struggling from outside in the first half, they were outscored 40-37. Hitting from the 3-point line, they outscored Oklahoma 53-30 in the second half.

FALSE ALARM

Midway through the first half, the Kohl Center’s firm alarm went off, triggering a recorded message there was an “abnormal condition” in the building and urging everyone to exit. The game continued with the alarm still going off, including as Hayes went to the free throw line and hit 1 of 2. The alarm eventually stopped, and the public address announcer said there was no emergency in the building.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

That’s consecutive wins for Wisconsin over teams from Power Five conferences, which should provide a boost to the Badgers, who dropped a spot in the poll last week after losing to North Carolina 71-56 in Hawaii.

UP NEXT

Oklahoma: On Wednesday, the Sooners host Oral Roberts, who they have beaten 14 straight times.

Wisconsin: The Badgers host Idaho State on Wednesday.

Top-25 guard trims list to six

Trae Young , Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images
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One of the top points guards in the Class of 2017 has trimmed his list of potential collegiate destinations to six.

Trae Young, a consensus top-25 recruit, listed Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Oklahoma State and Kentucky as the schools he is considering as he readies to begin his senior year of high school.

The list of the 6-foot-2 point guard is largely provincial as it includes Oklahoma, whose campus is just minutes away from Young’s Norman North High School, and fellow in-state school Oklahoma. Another pair of Big 12 schools make the list in powerhouse Kansas and the Red Raiders, whose first-year coach, Chris Beard, has spent the bulk of his career working in Texas. Texas Tech is also Young’s father’s alma mater. Washington has been on a role sending its players to the pros and recently received the commitment of top-five 2017 recruit Michael Porter, Jr.

Kentucky, of course, needs no explanation as to its attractiveness to high-level players.

Report: Oklahoma’s Grandstaff to transfer

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 27: Avery Woodson #3 of the Memphis Tigers defends against Austin Grandstaff #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes on November 27, 2015 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. Memphis defeated Ohio State 81-76 in overtime. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Oklahoma shooting guard Austin Grandstaff intends to transfer, Jerry Meyer of 247Sports reports.

The reported departure means Grandstaff could be headed to his third school in two years as he started his freshman season of 2015-16 at Ohio State before leaving at the end of the first semester to join the Sooners. All that came after he decommitted from Oklahoma State in 2014.

Grandstaff, who played just 115 minutes for the Buckeyes, was one of the top players of the 2015 class coming out of Rockwall (Texas) High School outside of Dallas playing on the grassroots circuit for Team Texas Elite, which is run by his father Wes Grandstaff.

The 6-foot-4 guard had a reputation as one of the top high school shooters in the country after running through the EYBL, and he’ll likely have plenty of suitors lining up for his services once again, but there are certainly a host of concerns about a player who will be pledging to his fourth school and potentially attending his third in such a short amount of time.

He’s also looking at the possibility of having to sit out a season after another transfer, which means he’ll have played one semester of basketball in two years. It’s a far cry from the start of his collegiate career Grandstaff – and Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Oklahoma – likely envisioned.

For the Sooners, it means one less weapon as they look to reload from last year’s Final Four team, though Lon Kruger’s squad isn’t likely to suffer any sort of significant slide, with or without a sophomore shooting guard.

No. 3 Oklahoma’s full potential on display in second-half run

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) dribbles the basketball up court in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Harvard at the Diamond Head Classic, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
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Trailing Harvard by two points at the half, No. 3 Oklahoma had some things to discuss in the locker room at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu Friday night. The Crimson were able to keep Lon Kruger’s team from getting out in the open floor, no small feat when considering the fact that they have one of the nation’s best perimeter attacks led by National Player of the Year candidate Buddy Hield.

Add in Zena Edosomwan’s (25 points, 16 rebounds) play in the post for Harvard, and the Sooners faced some challenges if they were to remain undefeated.

As high-level teams are expected to do in such situations Oklahoma responded, beginning the second half on a 21-0 run and taking control of a game that appeared to be in doubt. Harvard would trim that margin down to five with 4:28 remaining but the hole was too deep, as Oklahoma went on to win 83-71 to move to 11-0 on the season.

Hield, who has been even more efficient than he was in winning Big 12 Player of the Year honors as a junior, led the way with a career-high 34 points but fellow guard Jordan Woodard was impressive as well.

Woodard, who tends to be overlooked by some given the fact that Hield and Isaiah Cousins put more points on the board, scored a career-high 28 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field. Combining with Hield, Woodard helped Oklahoma more than made up for Cousins shooting 2-for-11 and scoring seven points. Friday night represented another step forward for Woodard, who averaged 9.3 points per game as a sophomore, as a scorer not just from the points but from the percentages as well.

Last season Woodard shot just 36.1 percent from the field and 25.4 percent from three; with Hield and Cousins being able to score with greater efficiency he was the one opponents would give some slack to defensively. Opponents can’t afford to do that this season, as Woodard entered the Harvard game shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 51.3 percent from three.

That progress gives Oklahoma a larger cushion offensively on nights when another scoring option (in addition to Cousins, Ryan Spangler scored just eight points) is having an off night. The more supplementary options for Hield the better for an Oklahoma team that ranks among the nation’s best from an efficiency standpoint on both ends of the floor.

As for Hield, the “most improved” label is generally affixed to players who didn’t do a whole lot in the season prior but a case can be made for the senior from The Bahamas.

Hield’s raised his scoring average nearly seven points from a season ago (up to 24 ppg entering Friday), and he’s putting these points up in a far more efficient manner. Hield shot 11-for-14 from the field and attempted ten free throws against Harvard, making nine, and entering Friday’s game he was shooting 49 percent from the field, 52.3 percent from three and 90 percent from the foul line.

Already tough to deal with off the dribble in the open floor Hield’s improved in the half-court, and he can knock down shots at any level. To this point in the season there should be no doubt that his name belongs with the likes of Denzel Valentine, Kris Dunn and Ben Simmons (to name three) when discussing National Player of the Year candidates.

And as a team Oklahoma has the potential to be special, especially if Khadeem Lattin can continue his progress alongside Spangler in the front court. It took some time against Harvard, but in an eight-minute stretch to begin the second half the Sooners showed why they can play deep into March and maybe even early April.

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

Buddy Hield
Associated Press
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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.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Top-ranked Wildcats visit UCLA

Tyler Ulis, Parker Ernsthausen
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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 1 Kentucky at UCLA, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN)

The Wildcats and Bruins meet at Pauley Pavilion, and hopefully this game is more competitive than last season’s matchup in Chicago. Kentucky dominated from start to finish, posting a halftime score more fitting of a college football “buy” game than a college basketball game between two of the sport’s storied programs (41-7). Many of the faces have changed for John Calipari’s team but the results remain the same to this point, although it remains to be seen how healthy sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis is (hyperextended right elbow). That, along with UCLA’s front court tandem of Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh, will be keys to keep an eye on tonight.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Belmont at Valparaiso, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top mid-major programs will meet in Valparaiso, with the Crusaders hosting the Bruins in a matchup of the preseason favorites in the OVC (Belmont) and Horizon League (Valparaiso). Bryce Drew’s Crusaders have been stingy defensively with senior Vashil Fernandez serving as the anchor, and they’ve got a number of scoring options including forward Alec Peters. That defense will need to be at its best to slow down Rick Bryd’s team, which features guard Craig Bradshaw and forward Evan Bradds.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

1. No. 6 Oklahoma is the only other ranked team in action tonight, with the Sooners hosting Central Arkansas (8:00 p.m., ESPNU). The perimeter triumvirate of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard have played well thus far, as has senior forward Ryan Spangler. If anything, this game should give front court players such as Akolda Manyang, Jamuni McNeace and Khadeem Lattin added reps with the struggling Bears arriving in Norman with a 1-5 record.

2. USF, which has won two of its last three games after starting the season 0-4 (the lone loss to Kentucky, so no shame there), hits the road to take on Delaware. This is an important game for Orlando Antigua’s team, as their next two contests are against South Carolina and NC State. If the Bulls are to have any shot at leaving Newark with a win, they’ll need to slow down a balanced offensive attack that boasts five players averaging between 8.3 and 13.5 points per game led by forward Cazmon Haynes (13.5, 7.0 rpg).

3. UT-Arlington, which already has wins over Ohio State and Memphis to its credit and lost at Texas in overtime earlier this week, hosts North Texas in a game they should take care of. Scott Cross’s Mavericks haven’t been great when it comes to shooting the ball but they’re one of the nation’s best on the offensive glass, as they’ve rebounded 42.5 percent of their missed shots (fifth nationally). Leading the way has been forward Kevin Hervey, who’s averaging 17.3 points and ten rebounds per game.

4. Colorado State, which has won five of its first six games, hosts a tested Long Beach State team in what should be an entertaining contest. And if you like transfers this game’s loaded with them, with Nick Faust (Maryland) leading the way for the 49ers and junior college transfer Emmanuel Omogbo being one of five averaging double figures for Colorado State while also leading the team in rebounding (12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg). CSU’s Gian Clavell has been one of the Mountain West’s most improved players thus far, averaging 21.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

5. USC will look to rebound from their 1-2 weekend in Orlando by winning at UCSB. The Gauchos are led by senior guard Michael Bryson, who accounted for 23 points, five rebounds and six assists in a two-point loss at Arizona State over the weekend. He’s joined in the backcourt by John Green, who will look to bounce back from a 2-for-12 outing against the Sun Devils. USC doesn’t lack for talent on the perimeter either with Jordan McLaughlin leading the way, and forwards Nikola Jovanovic and Bennie Boatwright can score as well.

6. Louisiana and ULM meet in the Sun Belt opener for both, with the Ragin’ Cajuns pegged as the preseason favorites to win the league. Shawn Long will lead the way for the Ragin’ Cajuns, with ULM countering with its own 6-foot-10 senior big man in Majok Deng. These are two of the top offensive teams in the Sun Belt, with the Ragin’ Cajuns shooting a league-best 51.3 percent from the field and the Warhawks third in the conference at 45.5 percent. But ULM has been the better defensive team thus far, which should make for an interesting matchup.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • UMass-Lowell at LIU Brooklyn, 7:00 p.m.
  • Central Michigan at Grand Canyon, 9:00 p.m.
  • IPFW at Cal Poly, 10:00 p.m.