KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Turns out Buddy Hield can’t do it all.
Not even from the fifth row of midcourt at the Sprint Center where the Big 12’s player of the year celebrated what was the buzzer beater of the year.
At least for a few delirious seconds.
The stands are where Hield – and several of his Oklahoma teammates – climbed to mingle with fans after his halfcourt banked-in heave that – momentarily — beat West Virginia on Friday night.
It might have the most any team had celebrated before having the truth painfully revealed. After several anxious moments in the Big 12 Tournament semifinal, officials confirmed the shot left the Oklahoma star’s hands milliseconds late.
Second-seeded West Virginia survived, 69-67, getting to its first Big 12 Tournament championship game. That meant Hield and his teammates had to climb down from the clouds, er, stands defeated.
“It’s in the moment. You can’t really take away from that,” Hield said. “If anybody made that shot especially in college basketball this time of year [they’d celebrate too.] I thought I made it. Everybody in the gym thought I made it.”
At least for the Mountaineers the result was just. They limited Hield to only one field on only eight shots. His six points were a season low. In the end, one of the worst games of Hield’s career was not redeemed.
“That shot was a toss-up, for real,” West Virginia’s Devin Williams said.
That after Hield scored a combined 43 points in the two regular-season meetings with the Mountaineers.
“That’s the best I’ve been defended my whole career,” Hield said. “They said they weren’t going to let me score. They were talking to me saying they weren’t going to let me score. They really meant it.”
A night after scoring 39 against Iowa State, Hield was held to six by Bob Huggins’ “Press Virginia” pressure. The Sooners turned it over 21 times.
“Everybody’s been asking me, ‘How do you stop him?’ ” Huggins said. “I don’t know how you stop him. It’s hard to score if you don’t have the ball. All we talked about was, let’s do everything we can possibly do to not let him get his hands on the ball.”
Sounds simple. Hield — battling Michigan State’s Denzel Washington for national player of the year honors – has arguably been the most consistent player in the country. Whoever plays Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament’s opening round (most likely in Oklahoma City), they will be pouring over film from Friday night.
It took Hield more than 30 minutes of playing time to score his first – and only – basket, a three with 9:46 left. In the 25 or so minutes that passed in real time, he was never able to get off another shot.
Jaysean Paige’s arching 17-footer with 11.1 seconds left gave the Mountaineers a 68-67 lead. Freshman Christian James then was allowed to drive to the basket for Oklahoma in the final seconds. Although he had a clear lane, James’ couldn’t nudge the ball over the rim.
After a Jonathan Holton free throw, Hield drove upcourt defended by Paige. Hield had to double clutch which was probably the difference in the shot, and the game.
“It came down to one shot,” Hield said. “I didn’t get it off in time. Time wasn’t on my side.”
Saturday’s championship game is a repeat of a mid-January when the Mountaineers played the No. 1 (Kansas) and No. 2 (Oklahoma) teams within a four-day span. They beat Kansas by 11, then lost by two at Oklahoma.
This time they are playing the Jayhawks and Sooners back-to-back. There could have been more drama Friday. There could have been an NCAA berth on the line. As it stands, the top two seeds in the regular season will meet for the tournament championship.
It’s not exactly an exhibition game.
“We didn’t come to play tomorrow,” Huggins said. “We came to win tomorrow. That’s my total focus.”