The path to a national championship No. 6 Oklahoma begins at 8 p.m. Thursday when the No. 3 seeded Sooners take on No. 6 Iowa State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Championship.
OU beat Iowa State 87-83 in Norman on January 2 and ISU won 82-77 in Ames on January 18. Oklahoma is 24-6 on the season and finished in third place in the Big 12 with a 12-6 record.
With a few wins in the Big 12 Tournament or a tournament championship, OU could claim a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. A loss to Iowa State Thursday would probably drop the Sooners to a No. 2 seed.
Oklahoma senior guard Buddy Hield was named the Big 12 Player of the Year and became just the second player to win it twice (Raef LaFrentz of Kansas was the other two-time winner).
Hield, who earned the same honor last season, was selected for the award by Big 12 head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for members of their own team.
“This award is humbling and means a lot,” Hield said. “It’s a reflection of the hard work I’ve put in during my time at OU and how much my teammates and coaches have pushed me to improve each and every day. My teammates are always encouraging me through the good days and the bad ones. We all work so hard and I never want to ever let them down. This award is not just for me, it’s for my teammates and coaches as well.”
Hield was joined on the All-Big 12 First Team by Taurean Prince (Baylor), Georges Niang (Iowa State), Perry Ellis (Kansas) and Isaiah Taylor (Texas).
OU seniors Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler were named to the All-Big 12 Third Team. Junior Jordan Woodard was named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, and sophomore Khadeem Lattin was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team.
The 6-4, 214-pound Hield leads the Big 12 with his 25.1 points and 4.1 3-pointers per game (also ranks first in the country), and leads league guards with his 5.5 rebounds per contest. Among conference players, he ranks first in both 3-point field goal percentage (.473) and free throw percentage (.893). Additionally, he ranks eighth in field goal percentage (.495) and 13th in rebounding (5.5).
Hield, who was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Team for the second consecutive year, has nine games of at least 30 points this season, which is the same total as the rest of the Big 12 combined. Through 30 regular season contests, he has 15 games of at least 25 points and 22 outings of at least 20. Recently he was one of 15 players named to the John R. Wooden Award ballot for national player of the year.
Hield’s 79 3-pointers in conference play this season marked the most ever in Big 12 history. His 124 regular season treys are also a Big 12 record (and are the most in college basketball this season). His 448 combined points in conference play were the third-most in Big 12 history, behind only Kevin Durant of Texas (462, 2006-07) and Michael Beasley of Kansas State (455, 2007-08). Hield’s 24.9 points per game in conference games marked the third-highest average ever in a Big 12 campaign (Durant-28.9 and Beasley-28.4).
The Bahamas native currently ranks fourth all-time at OU and fifth all-time in Big 12 history in career scoring with 2,210 points. Hield finished with 1,202 points in conference play over the past four seasons, the most by any player in Big 12 history.
“Our confidence heading into the postseason is high,” Hield said. “Each game, we have to be prepared to go out and fight for each other. But most importantly, we have to have fun. When it’s all said and done, we can’t have regrets. It’s win or go home, so we have to have the mentality of refusing to lose.”
Cousins ranks 11th in the Big 12 with his 13.0 season scoring average and ranks fifth by shooting .429 from 3-point range. The senior ranks fifth among Big 12 players in assists (4.6), eighth in 3-point field goals made (1.8) and 10th in steals (1.4) per game. Cousins, who has three double-doubles in 2015-16 and is the leading distributor for the Sooners with 137 total assists, has scored in double figures in 23 of 30 total contests.
Spangler is averaging 10.8 points per game while ranking first in the Big 12 with his 9.5 rebounds per game and third with his .553 field goal percentage. The 6-8, 234-pound forward from Bridge Creek, Okla., has registered 12 double-doubles on the year (second-most in Big 12). Spangler, who has led OU in rebounding in 21 of 30 games, has started all 98 of his games at Oklahoma after transferring from Gonzaga.
Woodard, from Arcadia, Okla., is averaging a career-high 12.9 points this season (12th-most in Big 12) while shooting 44.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, which ranks second overall among Big 12 players. He also ranks fourth in 3-point field goals made per game (2.1), fourth in free throw percentage (.825), sixth in steals (1.6) and eighth in assists (3.6) per game. He has 21 double-figure scoring games this season.
Lattin, a 6-9, 208-pound forward from Houston, Texas, is swatting away a Big 12-leading 2.2 shots per game. In conference play, Lattin averaged a Big 12-best 2.7 blocks per contest. He has five games this season with at least six blocks, including a Big 12 season-high eight rejections versus Texas Tech on Jan. 26 in Norman. Lattin is also averaging 5.5 rebounds per game, which ranks 12th in the Big 12.
The Sooners concluded the 2015-16 regular season with a 75-67 road win over TCU Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs fell to 11-20 on the season and 2-16 in Big 12 play.
Oklahoma connected on 11 3-pointers on the day, marking the 20th game this season the team has hit at least 10 treys (a school record).
Hield finished with a game-high 21 points, marking his 22nd outing this season with at least 20. He shot 7 for 12 from the field, 3 for 8 from downtown and a perfect 4 for 4 from the charity stripe. He also added a game-high six rebounds in the contest.
Cousins finished with 10 points in the game, his 23rd outing this season in double figures (out of 30 total games). He also registered a game-high six assists while adding two rebounds.
“I can’t fault our effort,” said TCU coach Trent Johnson. “I mean, obviously we were our own Achilles’ heel at times. But a lot of that had to do with the caliber of team we were playing. We’ve got to find a way to finish this thing off on a positive note in terms of playing good basketball and winning a game.”