Rushed Reactions: #2 Oklahoma 77, #3 Texas A&M 63

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 24th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion

Three Key Takeaways.

Buddy Hield Led His Team to Its First Elite Eight Since 2009 (USA Today Images)

Buddy Hield and Friends Move On to Oklahoma’s First Elite Eight Since 2009 (USA Today Images)

  1. Buddy Ball. When you’ve got a National Player of the Year candidate like Buddy Hield involved, one of the big questions going into a game is always how the opponent plans to slow him down. Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy opted to put his best defender, Alex Caruso, on Hield from the opening tip in an effort to deny him the ball. In implementing this strategy, however, it took Caruso — a defender effective at coming off his man and providing help defense — out of his normal role. This opened up the rest of the Oklahoma offense to take advantage of a distracted Aggies’ defense to find driving lanes and easy looks around the hoop. Hield didn’t exactly have his normally explosive offensive night, but the attention the Aggies paid him left a distinct mark on the rest of the game.
  2. A&M Mis-Step and Adjustment. Early in the first half, Texas A&M had the good fortune of knocking a few early threes down. This turned out to be a short-term blessing and a long-term curse. Following the discovery of that fool’s gold, the Aggies spent the remainder of the first half relying unsuccessfully on jumpshots, leading to an extended drought that allowed Oklahoma to build a lead. Over the last 14 possessions of the first half, A&M turned it over six times, missed three threes, clanked five two-point jumpers and only made one layup and one jumper — turning a game that was tied 18-all into an overwhelming 45-25 deficit at the half. A&M adjusted, however, by pounding it inside either via the post-up game (specifically freshman Tyler Davis) or the drive early in the second half. That proved much more successful, but its inability to hit free throws (11-of-22 in second half) was the ultimate killer. Of interest going forward is that this is an area that Oklahoma could potentially be taken advantage of in the next week-plus.
  3. Scrappy Sooners. Perhaps the popular conception of this Sooners team is a fun-loving bunch of three-point bombers. While there’s some truth to the notion, there’s also a little bit of junkyard dog in this team as well. Despite statistics telling the story of a team that struggles to clean the glass, the Sooners today paid special mind to it and fought the bigger A&M team almost to a draw there. Even superstar Hield grabbed 10 boards on his way to his first double-double of the season. More to the point, though, is that the Sooners were consistently first to a number of loose balls in order to add extra possessions.

Star of the GameJordan Woodard. Often an afterthought on his own team, the junior point guard has been terrific in this year’s NCAA Tournament and upped his game even further today. He and running mate Isaiah Cousins were the chief beneficiaries of lanes to attack the paint, and Woodard in particular finished in increasingly fantastic fashion. He also doubled up by finding and making free looks from deep throughout the game.

Sights & Sounds. Honda Half Empty? Regardless of your state of mind, the fact is that an unfortunate combination of four power conference schools from all corners of the country getting shipped to southern California resulted in a Honda Center (capacity: roughly 18,000) with about half of the seats empty. Oklahoma bought its little sliver of fans and Texas A&M roughly likewise. Duke and Oregon fans slowly wound their way in as the game wore on in similar numbers, but the local unbiased fans seemingly stayed home to watch the proceedings on TV.

Wildcard. Christian James. A four-star freshman recruit, Christian James has a bright future ahead of him. He has been just a bit player for much of this season, playing in fewer than 20 percent of his team’s available minutes. But in tonight’s season-high 28 minutes, he knocked in four threes for 12 points and played with a confidence and a fire that showed that he can be an impact player both this year and in the future for the Sooners.


  • Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy, on Jordan Woodard. “The kid wins. He makes the right plays. He plays on both ends of the floor. He’s one of the better point guards we’ve played against all year.”
  • Kennedy, on the Hield Effect: “We paid so much attention to Buddy, I think we fell asleep and gave up weakside layups.”
  • Buddy Hield on Jordan Woodard: “I’m really happy for Jordan. I told him earlier than when he does that, the whole game is opened up for everybody else because they don’t know who to pick up. They want to keep denying me the whole game, I just step up and he can drive the baseline and make a play.”

What’s Next? Oklahoma advances to its first Elite Eight since 2009, the ninth in school history. There, they’ll face the winner of tonight’s game between Oregon and Duke. For Texas A&M, Danuel House, Jalen Jones, Alex Caruso and Anthony Collins wrap up their careers. But, depending on early entries, a group of Tyler Davis, Tony Trocha-Morelos, Admon Gilder, D.J. Hogg and a pair of four-star ESPN top 100 recruits should mean at least another year in the national spotlight.

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