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.
- Oklahoma is legit, even without Buddy Hield at his best. I mentioned Friday that the Sooners were going to have to play better as a team if they were going to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, and they certainly did that today. Hield’s uncharacteristic airballed three-pointer at the start (he would airball yet another later in the game) was a good indication that he was somewhat off his game. The rest of the Sooners stepped up for him in a big way to give the team a 13-point halftime buffer that allowed them to withstand VCU’s second half charge. In the first half alone, Oklahoma logged nine offensive reboundsa nd Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins combined for 22 points. Their first half performances were the reason that Oklahoma was able to survive Hield’s slow start
- Heild proved in the second half why he is likely going to win the Naismith award. Despite being visibly off his game in the first half, Heild came out of the blocks running in the second. His oversized presence forced VCU to blanket him early, which allowed the rest of his team to get open looks. Then, when they needed him most, his second half performance was stellar. At 11:02 remaining, the game was tied at 59-all. From that point forward, Hield put the Sooners on his back in scoring 21 out of Oklahoma’s last 26 points, including several dizzying moves that left the crowd shaking their heads in amazement.
- Hats off to VCU. The Rams overcame a horrific start to bring the game back to within reach in the second half, including taking a small lead at several points. Mo Alie-Cox had a great second half and finished with 10 points. Jequan Lewis had 22 and Melvin Johnson 23, but more importantly, Will Wade clearly has the program moving in the right direction after the departure of Shaka Smart last summer.
Star of the Game. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma. Hield struggled mightily in the first half, but the senior NPOY candidate absolutely took the game over when Oklahoma needed him most in the second half. He had 29 points in the second stanza on his way to 33 for the game. His maturity and ability to make such a mid-game correction are what gives the Sooners a shot to make a very deep run in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
- “Yeah coach drew up some really good plays and my guards executed really, really well. They got me the ball in spots they knew were really good for me.” – Khadeem Lattin, on being a factor early in the game
- “Scoring 29 points, I didn’t know I had that, but I just knew I was scoring the ball a lot. Just glad that we got the win. – Buddy Hield, on his second half performance.
- Our teammates did a great job. I thought Isaiah getting down, driving and kicking in the paint, Jordan making plays, Khadeem catching lobs, everybody did what they needed to do to get open and get easy shots and good shots for us. – Hield, on the teamwork and balance of the starting lineup.
Sights & Sounds.
- At one point in the second half, Buddy Hield’s mother left her seat to pray and it apparently worked.
- The raucous performance by the VCU pep band will be missed, especially the disrobing Superman act. You don’t want to go to war…. with the Raaaammmss….
What’s Next? The Sooners will advance to Friday’s Sweet Sixteen to play the winner of the #3 Texas A&M and #11 Northern Iowa game tonight.