Led by the red-hot Buddy Hield, Oklahoma wins squeaker at Hawaii

Buddy Hield is in the convo for national player of the year, without question. (USATSI)

Oklahoma got its toughest test of the season on Wednesday night, out in Hawaii. The third-ranked Sooners took on Hawaii in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic. The Rainbow Warriors kept it interesting, dramatic and entertaining, but OU was able to hold on for an 84-81 win.

Buddy Hield, who was the preseason national player of the year pick from yours truly, shined again. The senior shooting guard had 18 first-half points and finished with a team-high 27. This marks Hield’s fourth staraight game of at least 25 points. He’s creeping up on Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn for national player of the year frontrunner status.

More on that in a minute.

For Oklahoma, which is now 10-0 and sits at No. 1 in KenPom, the win comes at a great point in the season. You might’ve thought the Sooners would waltz past Hawaii, but winning in that arena is a tough task. So Lon Kruger’s team gets a tough test against a gritty opponent and a reminder that tougher games are just around the corner, in league play. Oklahoma held a one-possession lead for most of the final two minutes against Hawaii. Winning close like this is good for the psyche.

Hawaii’s Roderick Bobbitt, who had a career-high 32 points, launched a 35-foot heave at the horn that fell too far left.

Hawaii, which now sits at 8-2, is a good squad. The ‘Bows and Sooners had carbon copy performances from the foul line, both finishing 24-of-33. Rebound, steal, block and turnover margin were almost the same, too. It was like Oklahoma was playing against itself. Really fun game. OU’s Khadeem Lattin had a career-best 17 points.

Hield hit two foul shots with 11.6 remaining to make it an 83-79 game. He wasn’t flawless — his four turnovers were glaring — but there’s little question Oklahoma gets run by Hawaii if Hield isn’t on the floor. He’s improved overall this season by becoming an even better defender and a more reliable shooter from the second and third level. This 25-point streak is just one aspect to his overall production.

Oklahoma’s about ready for its close-up, and Hield’s cresting to the best stretch of his college career. Hield will look to continue it in two nights; Oklahoma plays against 5-6 Harvard on Friday night at 8:30 p.m. ET. in the Diamond Head championship game.

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