NORMAN — As a freshman Buddy Hield is still trying to find his niche in college basketball. The Oklahoma guard has shown flashes of figuring it out, but it still had not clicked all the way 10 games into the season.
But when the Sooners faced Ohio University on Saturday, Hield had his first career start and may have had the biggest impact on the Sooners’ 74-63 win over the Bobcats at Lloyd Noble Center.
Hield finished the night with four steals, seven assists and several minutes of shut-down defense to propel Oklahoma to its eighth win of the season.
“I don’t think he played like a freshman today,” Oklahoma’s Amath M’Baye said. “I think he played like a veteran. He had a bunch of assists, not many turnovers. He was all over the ball, just playing great defense and that’s what we need from him.”
Hield wasn’t the only Sooner who came up big against Ohio. Steven Pledger led the way with 18 points on 7-for-16 shooting to go along with six rebounds and three assists. Romero Osby added 16 points and M’Baye chipped in 16 points and three steals.
“It was a good win over a good ball club,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “I feel real good about the stretch of play in the second half. I think it was as good as we have had all year on both ends of the floor. This is the type of win you like because a lot of guys contributed.”
The Bobcats were led by D.J. Cooper, who scored 14 points. Reggie Keely posted 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Sooners are now 8-3 on the season and will host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Monday.
Osby had the hot hand early for Oklahoma. With seven minutes left in the half he had yet to miss a shot from the field or the free throw line.
However, the Sooners still trailed 19-18 because they couldn’t keep the Bobcats off the glass.
The Sooners took their second lead of the game when M’Baye grabbed an offensive rebound off the rim and threw down a rim-shaking dunk. He was called for a technical foul when he did a chin up on the rim. The Bobcats missed both technical free throws.
With the Sooners up 29-26, Ohio’s Ivo Baltic nailed a 3-pointer to tie the contest heading into halftime.
Oklahoma began to stretch its lead in the second half as it attacked Ohio’s interior defense with dribble penetration and fastbreak opportunities.
But it was Pledger who put the most pressure on Ohio. The 6-4, 219-pound senior helped give Oklahoma its first double-digit lead at the 10-minute mark of the second half with a nine-point outburst.
“We were just trying to move the ball and come off a couple of screens,” Pledger said. “Our big guys set beautiful screens and I just use them to our advantage.”
The Bobcats slowly pulled back to within four as Oklahoma’s energy level seemed to fall. But consecutive dunks by Cameron Clark quickly restored order. That included an alley-oop that brought the restless crowd to its feet. Pledger followed with a couple of 3-pointers and Oklahoma was back in front by 11 and never looked back..
“It makes you feel good to know that your team, everybody is coming into their own and becoming more confident,” Osby said. “I think it was a team effort.”
Michael KinneyFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org