Clary: Oklahoma's Buddy Hield Outplays Ben Simmons, Cements Title As Best Player In The Nation

Saturday’s Oklahoma vs LSU was supposed to give America the chance to see the top two Player of the Year candidates square off against each other.

It did just that and even while LSU’s Ben Simmons had a terrific game, it was Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield that stole the show. The senior poured in 32 points and made more than half his shots from the floor and from behind the arc in the Sooners’ scintillating 77-75 victory.

The Tigers led for most of the game, with the fans packed in at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center helping LSU to a double-digit lead late in the first half. Hield, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, struggled to find his shot early on, making only one of this first six three-point attempts. However, when he drained a trey with 15:44 left in the second half, it was a much different story.

Hield went on to score 21 of the Sooners’ final 39 points, making 7-of-9 threes in the process. It was a terrific example of a leader taking over the game when his team needed him most.

On the other side, that was not the case. Simmons played a solid game, there is no question. He scored 14 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out five assists, but when the game mattered most, he was nowhere to be found.

He did not score in the final 10 minutes of the ballgame, and in the last handful of possessions—when the game was on the line and the Tigers needed a bucket—Simmons didn’t even touch the ball. In the closing minutes of the game, Hield did more than just touch the ball. He carried his team to the finish line.

Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma did not get their first lead of the contest until the four-minute mark in the second half. Not surprisingly, it was a three by Hield that put them on top.

Defeating the Tigers was just the latest display of Hield’s greatness. Saturday’s outburst was his eighth 30-point game of the season, most in college basketball. He averages 25.9 points per game, good for second in the nation. He leads all power conferences in scoring.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Hield is the only player in D-1 college basketball that ranks in the top seven in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage. Among players with at least 100 three-point attempts, Hield’s 52.3 percent from long range tops the leaderboard.

Before this Big 12-SEC matchup Hield, who was born in the Bahamas, was a front-runner for the Player of the Year. Saturday’s excellence might have earned him the award.

There is still plenty of time left for someone else to play themselves into the conversation—the Sooners still have ten games remaining on the schedule—but to this point in the season, Hield has been the best. On the heels of outplaying Simmons on such an enormous stage, there isn’t another player in the nation that can top Hield’s production.

To top it off, Hield’s Sooners are now 18-2 and ranked No. 1 in the country. Their first loss, in a three-overtime thriller to top-ranked Kansas back on January 4, was in spite of Hield exploding for 46 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

He has the entire package—awesome stats, a team ranked atop the national rankings and a couple of incredible showings on national television—and right now, there shouldn’t be too much debate that Buddy Hield is the best player in college basketball.