LSU-Oklahoma gave us the most anticipated individual matchup of the college basketball season on Saturday afternoon: Tigers freshman Ben Simmons, the overwhelming favorite to be the first pick in the NBA draft, against Sooners senior Buddy Hield, the overwhelming favorite to be the national player of the year. For 40 minutes, the two superstars traded highlights to give us one of the most entertaining games of the year.
No. 1 Oklahoma trailed by as many as 14 points but stormed back for a 77-75 road win behind a brilliant effort from Hield. Hield finished with 32 points on 11-of-22 shooting from the field and 8-of-15 shooting from the three-point line. Hield was unconscious in the second half, hitting dagger after dagger to down the Tigers.
Hield only made one of his first six attempts from behind the arc but kept shooting and eventually found a rhythm. His seven threes in the second half stunned a Baton Rouge crowd that was ready for a signature victory to boost its chances at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
There was nothing LSU could do to stop Buddy ball.
Simmons was solid in his own right, making 6-of-7 shots from the field for 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists. The Sooners were daring Simmons to shoot from the perimeter throughout the night, but he stayed disciplined and let his teammates do a lot of the heavy lifting. Junior teammate Tim Quarterman led the way for LSU with 18 points on 5-of-5 shooting from three-point range, while Craig Victor added 15 points.
This could be categorized as an efficient yet uneven effort from Simmons, who also had five turnovers. That being said, there's no question Simmons is an electrifying talent capable of doing some special things on a basketball court.
Simmons, strangely, did not touch the ball much at the end of the game:
Reviewed the game to make sure my eyes didn't deceive me, and they did not: Ben Simmons had one touch in final 2:56 — a defensive rebound.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) January 31, 2016
While Simmons vs. Hield mostly lived up to the hype, we have to point out that neither player made the decisive bucket. With the score tied at the end of the game and the shot clock off, Oklahoma's Isaiah Cousins made a jumper to give the Sooners the lead for good:
LSU would have loved to win this game. The Tigers are now 13-8, still squarely on the bubble about six weeks from Selection Sunday. The Sooners improve to 18-2 and will likely retain their top ranking for at least another week.