Last night, the two favorites to win the Wooden Award, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and LSU’s Ben Simmons, squared off in a classic game. The two best players in college basketball have been the leaders to win the award since the beginning of the year. Hield and Simmons both came into the season with high expectations. Hield is a senior coming off a year that he won the BIG 12 Conference Player of the Year, and Simmons was the consensus number one recruit coming out of high school powerhouse Montverde Academy in Florida. But after watching this matchup, it’s clear to see that Buddy Hield has further distanced himself from the pack.
The first half was rather uneventful for both players. Heading into the locker room, Ben Simmons had only attempted two shots, but had made them both. Simmons was doing a good job on the glass and getting his teammates involved, but left people wanting more. Dick Vitale and Jay Williams wanted him to be assertive, and I agree with them. He’s the best player on that team, and needs to be aggressive when it’s a big game.
As for Hield, he was the opposite of Simmons. He was shot happy with little success. In the first 20 minutes Hield was 4/11 from the field with no assists and a turnover. His three point shot wasn’t falling, and his team was down because of it. Hield is a pure scorer and has a scorer’s mindset.
Heading into half, the game was underwhelming. Hield and Simmons didn’t have much of an impact and LSU was up by eight over the number one team in the nation. Eventually, Simmons and Hield started to take over.
The second half was what everyone expected this game to be. Oklahoma came back from a 14 point deficit and needed an Isaiah Cousins bucket to win the game with under five seconds left. But without Hield coming alive in the second half, Oklahoma gets upset by the Bayou Bengals.
Hield had 11 points heading into the break, but exploded for 21 in the second half. He hit seven of his eight three pointers in the second half and hit 8/15 overall in the game. He’s currently shooting a casual 52% from deep. He led the comeback efforts by Oklahoma and hit two threes in a row in back-to-back possessions to give Oklahoma a 73-72 lead. Hield buried a couple of threes right over Simmons down the stretch, showing off his NBA ready three point stroke. At one point, Hield had scored 12 out of Oklahoma’s last 15 points and hit six of their last seven shots.
In the second half, Simmons started to be more aggressive on the offensive end. He only took seven shots, but hit six of them and was much more active on the boards. His night was highlighted by a sweet baseline reverse dunk than extended the LSU lead. He finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, but left LSU fans wanting more. The fact that he can’t shoot came back to bite his team down the stretch, as they had to find other options to try and tie the game. Luckily for him, other five star freshman Antonio Blakeney hit two late threes to keep LSU even. After Isaiah Cousins hit his jumper for the lead, Tim Quarterman raced down the court to the Oklahoma basket only to get blocked. LSU fans thought that he got fouled, but in that situation, any call would have been a bad one. Fans also were upset that Simmons didn’t get a touch, even though there was only 3.8 seconds left on the clock.
All in all, both players stayed true to their games in the matchup. Hield continued to shoot the lights out of the gym and Simmons showed off his all around game. Simmons will never be a dominant scorer, as college basketball fans know and NBA fans will get to see in the future. He’s still arguably the best prospect in the draft, but he’s not going to be a revolutionary player like everyone thinks. Hield will be able to score the rock in the league, but his defensive outlook is shady. In relation to the race to the Wooden Award, Buddy Hield strengthened his case, and put even more distance between him and Simmons.
Cover Photo via CBSSports