Buddy Hield scores 24 to lead Oklahoma over No. 22 UCLA
Buddy Hield’s morning itinerary included a solo trip to the beach, where he grabbed a seat on the sand and peered out toward the shimmering blue water that surrounds his homeland.
A perfect start to the day.
A perfect finish would follow.
Hield scored 24 points — including a personal 10-0 run in the second half to single-handedly erase a UCLA lead — and Oklahoma beat the 22nd-ranked Bruins 75-65 in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Wednesday.
"I was thinking about it for a long time," said Hield, was born in Freeport and lived there until moving to Kansas as a high school junior. "It’s just special to come here and play in front of my family and friends. A great team win. I had to do my job. My teammates did their job."
Frank Booker added 11 points and Jordan Woodard had 10 for the Sooners (3-1), who shot 33 percent from the field.
Bryce Alford scored 19 points for UCLA (4-1). Kevon Looney finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds, his fourth consecutive double-double for the Bruins.
UCLA was 9 for 21 from the foul line.
"We knew it was going to be a tough battle," UCLA coach Steve Alford said. "I liked the way our guys competed."
Half of the eight-team field in the Bahamas came in ranked in the AP Top 25, but Oklahoma’s win ensures that an unranked team will play in Friday’s title game. Butler knocked off No. 5 North Carolina earlier Wednesday, and the Bulldogs await the Sooners in Thursday’s semifinals — while UCLA gets the Tar Heels in the consolation round.
"Carolina didn’t think they were going to be in that bracket. We didn’t think we were going to be in that bracket," Steve Alford said. "But that’s reality. That’s what hits you and you have to deal with it."
UCLA used a 7-0 run to take a 57-49 lead midway through the second half, and the Bruins — who have scored at will at times in the early going this season — seemed poised to make it a runaway.
"I said, `I can’t let that happen,’" Hield said.
So he didn’t.
He scored the game’s next 10 points, his personal flurry ending with back-to-back 3s, and just like that the Sooners had a 59-57 lead. After consecutive UCLA baskets got the Bruins within three later in the half, Hield struck again from 3-point range to put Oklahoma up 70-64 with just over 2 minutes left.
"I was really happy for the guys," Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. "I thought guys on both squads played awfully hard. It’s a game where each team seemed to have the momentum at different times. And Buddy made some critical shots there at the right time for us."
Hield wasn’t the only Bahamian in the game. UCLA forward Wanaah Bail is a native of Nassau, and finished with one point in nine minutes.
Oklahoma: The Sooners faced UCLA for the first time since 1975, John Wooden’s final season in Westwood. They were 0-3 in the all-time series before Wednesday. … Oklahoma had more 3-pointers in the first half (five) than 2-pointers (four), and the Sooners went more than 10 minutes in the second half without a 2-pointer as well.
UCLA: The Bruins trailed for a total of 9:52 in their first four games, combined. They trailed for more than that in the first half Wednesday. … UCLA had outscored opponents in all eight halves of the season until Wednesday, when they were outscored by five in each 20-minute period.
UCLA guard Bryce Alford was a reserve for the Bruins last season, and now runs their offense. He’s averaging 19.8 points and 8.2 assists so far; no other player in Division I is averaging that much in both categories.
Oklahoma’s Ryan Spangler grabbed 10 rebounds, his third double-digit board game this season. He has 41 rebounds in the Sooners’ first four games, while taking only 26 shots.