One could have been forgiven for expecting Saturday's West Region regional final to be a game between No. 1 Oregon and No. 2 Oklahoma. It's just that Sooners sharpshooter Buddy Hield had other ideas, and took the game over in a spectacular performance that helped Oklahoma win 80-68, and return the Sooners to the Final Four for the first time since 2002.
Hield tied a school record for NCAA Tournament play with 37 points and tied an NCAA record for three-pointers in a Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight game with eight, proving utterly unguardable by throwing in unlikely three after unlikely three on the day. Hield's heroics staked Oklahoma to an 18-point halftime lead, and his continued barrage helped the Sooners keep that lead in double digits throughout the second half.
It wasn't just Hield, arguably college basketball's best shooter since Stephen Curry, who helped Oklahoma rout the West's top seed in Anaheim. The Sooners collected 14 offensive rebounds on the night, frustrated Oregon star Dillon Brooks (an NCAA Tournament-low seven points before fouling out) defensively, and got seven assists and five rebounds from Isaiah Cousins to go with his 11 points.
Still: Hield outscored his other four fellow Sooners starters by three points, and poured in a couple more points than Oregon's top two scorers, Elgin Cook (24 points) and Chris Boucher (11 points), combined to net. If this game is remembered at all in years to come, it will be as the finest night yet by perhaps the best player in college basketball this year.
The win over the Ducks is Oklahoma's first in school history — and pays back a loss to Oregon that came in the first NCAA Tournament ever in 1939.
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