Behind the three-point line, Jackie Swann looked up and cried.
When her son, Buddy Hield, was growing up in the Bahamas, he had to fashion his own basketball hoop from milk crates or old bicycle rims.
Now, he climbed a ladder at the
The No. 2-seeded Sooners never trailed in their breezy 80-68 victory over No. 1-seeded Oregon in the West Regional final on Saturday. Hield was transcendent. He scored 37 points and made eight of 13 three-point shots.
He made fadeaways and pull-ups. He scored three-pointers in transition and with hands in his face. Once, he pulled off a one-handed put-back at the rim. His makes rarely grazed the iron.
"Every time I felt like we were getting ready to do something, he would jump up and make a shot," Oregon Coach Dana Altman said.
In an era of one-and-done players, Hield is a rare senior star. He has made nearly 47% of his three-point attempts this season. But, he admitted, he did not sleep Friday night. Swann sent him scripture to read while he tossed and turned.
When he got to the arena, though, he felt good. In warmups, he launched three-pointers, deeper and deeper. When he finally reached his limit, he shot an air ball, and the crowd groaned.
"It's kind of cool," Hield said. "They expect me to make it."
Altman had gambled on Elgin Cook containing Hield on his own. It was not a winning bet. Hield made Oklahoma's second shot, an NBA-range three-pointer.
"Wherever I'm at, I think I can make that shot," Hield said.
He made Oklahoma's fourth shot, a step-back three-pointer in the corner. He made the fifth and sixth, too.
"We tried to crowd him," said Cook, who led Oregon with 24 points. "Tried our best to corral him and keep him out of open areas. But he made a lot of tough shots."
By five minutes in, Hield already had 11 points. Twelve minutes in, Altman hurled his clipboard at the floor. By 16 minutes in, Hield was so locked in that he yelled "Got 'em!" before a transition three-pointer had reached its apex.
Hield has modeled his game and approach after Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Bryant, who lives nearby, watched both of Hield's games at the Honda Center.
As the game approached halftime, before the buzzer, Hield stepped in and splashed in another three-pointer from about 25 feet.
"After that, I looked at Kobe," Hield said, "and he saluted me."
Typically, Swann leaves her seat at halftime; the nerves are too much. She'll wander the concourses, praying.
On Saturday, she remained seated into the second half.
"This is the longest I've ever stayed," Swann said later, during the celebration. "God was telling me [to] just trust Him."
Hield's 37 points tied a school record in the NCAA tournament. He has now scored 30 or more points nine times this season.
Oklahoma led by 18 points at the half, and Oregon never pulled within 10. Hield was relentless.
With about 12 minutes remaining, a timeout was called. Hield was holding the ball, so he tossed a shot toward the hoop. Jordan Bell had seen enough. He blocked it above the rim. Hield tried again. Bell blocked it again. Hield just laughed and ran to the bench.
After the game, the Ducks marveled. Some compared Hield to Bryant. Altman visited the Oklahoma locker room and congratulated him.
"That last one before the half, and the first one he hit — I mean, he hit three or four that I thought we guarded pretty good, and he just hit them," Altman said.
In the Oklahoma locker room, no one sounded surprised.
"I see it every day in practice," forward Dante Buford said. "Same thing, just a different day."
"He's not a high-volume shot taker," said Oklahoma Coach Lon Kruger. "He just makes a lot of shots."
Hield had help. Jordan Woodard contributed 13 points. Christian James grabbed 10 rebounds. But Hield, who usually works out three times a day, played all but the final minute.
After it was over, he climbed down from the ladder, holding his piece of net, and embraced Swann, and they cried together.
"I told her, 'I made it,'" Hield said.