One question in college basketball this season that few teams had been able to find the right answer to was how to stop Oklahoma senior guard Buddy Hield. One of the favorites for national Player of the Year, Hield’s been outstanding despite being the focal point of any defensive game plan the Sooners faced. West Virginia, which lost to the Sooners twice during the regular season, devised a plan for Friday’s Big 12 semifinal that for the most part worked.
And Hield still nearly won the game with a half-court shot as time expired. Luckily for the Mountaineers the officials ruled that the ball did not leave Hield’s hand in time, giving West Virginia the 69-67 victory and a spot in the Big 12 title game opposite top-ranked Kansas.
West Virginia’s full-court pressure receives a lot of attention and rightfully so, as they can turn over opponents and convert live-ball turnovers into points on the other end. But with Oklahoma having three experienced guards in Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard, the Sooners were well-equipped to handle “Press Virginia” with a low number of turnovers.
But that isn’t how things worked out Friday night, as West Virginia forced 21 Oklahoma turnovers and converted them into 24 points. Those opportunities were huge for the Mountaineers, as they shot just 38.3 percent from the field on the night. More impressive than the turnover count they forced was West Virginia’s defending of Hield, with Daxter Miles Jr. leading the charge of guards entrusted with the task of slowing down the nation’s most prolific scorer (and Jevon Carter scored 26 points).
Hield finished the game with six points, shooting 1-for-8 from the field, as the Mountaineers face-guarded the two-time Big 12 Player of the Year and refused to help off of him when he didn’t have the ball in his hands. And those transition opportunities in which Oklahoma can be so lethal? West Virginia took those away as well, limiting the Sooners to just five fast break points.
Asking what future Oklahoma opponents can take from this game and apply themselves is tricky, because few teams have the depth or play with the ferocity that West Virginia plays with. Combined with Hield’s skill level, it’s tough to see him having another night like this any time soon. As for the Mountaineers, they get another shot at a Kansas team they beat in Morgantown earlier this season (Kansas won the return meeting in Lawrence).
And after reaching the Sweet 16 last spring, Bob Huggins’ team has the ability to at the very least match that feat beginning next week.
Vine credit: Aaron Torres