LOS ANGELES (AP) — Buddy Hield hit eight 3-pointers while scoring 37 points, and Oklahoma advanced to its first Final Four since 2002 with an 80-68 victory over Oregon in the West Region final of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
Jordan Woodard added 13 points for the Sooners (29-7), who streaked to an 18-point lead in the first half and never let the Ducks back in it.
The regional final was a monument to the formidable talent of Hield, the Sooners’ senior star. He produced a dynamite performance on his biggest stage, carving the Ducks’ defense from all distances with his smooth outside shot and a knack for momentum-swinging buckets.
Elgin Cook scored 24 points for the Ducks (31-7), whose 11-game winning streak ended one game shy of the second Final Four in school history.
Oklahoma is in the Final Four for the fifth time in school history. Hollis Price and Aaron McGhee led coach Kelvin Sampson’s Sooners there 14 years ago, only to lose to Indiana in the national semifinal.
The Sooners have never won a national title, but Hield’s talent suggests history could be made in Houston. The Sooners’ traveling fans serenaded him with chants of “Buddy! Buddy!” after the final whistle.
Hield scored 17 points in the first half, capped by drilling his fifth 3-pointer from three steps behind the line with 4 seconds left to put the Sooners up 48-30 at the break.
He hit two more huge 3-pointers down the stretch, including a graceful, high-arching shot with 4:20 to play that pushed Oklahoma’s lead back to 17 points.
The 22-year-old Hield’s senior year has been everything he anticipated when he decided to stay at Oklahoma for a fourth season.
The two-time Big 12 Player of the Year scored at least 30 points for the 12th time this season and matched his career high for 3-pointers. His 37 points were his third-best total of the season.
Oregon had beaten six NCAA Tournament-bound teams by double digits during its winning streak, but Oklahoma’s outside shooting and rebounding led to a first-half hole that was too deep for the Pac-12 champions.
Hield had the highest-scoring performance against the Ducks all season.
Oklahoma capitalized on its veteran consistency in the one-and-done era. Hield started alongside Ryan Spangler, Woodard and Isaiah Cousins for the 104th consecutive game, and every Oklahoma starter contributed to a poised, resilient performance.
Sooners coach Lon Kruger is headed to the second Final Four of his 30-year head coaching career at five schools. He made it in 1994 with Florida, but hadn’t been back until this experience-laden core got it done.
Oklahoma jumped out to an early lead with 11 points in the first 5:08 from Hield, including a trio of 3-pointers. The Sooners also hit the offensive boards from the start, generating several easy buckets off rebounds.
Oregon looked jittery, as evidenced by seven turnovers in the first 12 minutes for a team that’s usually cautious with the ball. Oklahoma had nine 3-pointers in the first half — the same number of total baskets managed by Oregon.
Oklahoma: Hield became the second-leading scorer in Big 12 history during the first half. He trails only Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn.
Oregon: Leading scorer Dillon Brooks managed seven points before fouling out.
Oklahoma travels to the Final Four in Houston.
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