OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Cal State Bakersfield doesn't expect to shut down Buddy Hield.
Oklahoma's senior guard, who ranks among the short list of favorites for National Player of the Year, averages 25 points per game and has scored at least 30 points 10 times this season. Whether Bakersfield can at least slow him down will largely determine if the 15th-seeded Roadrunners can beat No. 2 seed Oklahoma and become one of this year's surprise teams.
"He's an aggressive scorer," Bakersfield forward Kevin Mays said. "He definitely takes a lot of shots. But I think we have a pretty good game plan on how to contain him. I wouldn't say stop him, because a guy like that, you can't really stop him. But I definitely think we've got the right pieces to contain him."
Hield, a likely lottery pick in the NBA draft later this year, scored 46 points at Kansas in a triple-overtime loss. He drained seven 3-pointers in the second half of a comeback win at LSU and got the best of a showdown with projected No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Ben Simmons. He hit a game-winning 3-pointer against Texas and scored 39 points against Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals.
Bakersfield (24-8), the Western Athletic Conference tournament champion, prides itself on its defense. The Roadrunners have held opponents to 63.2 points per game and 39.1 percent shooting. Bakersfield looks forward to the challenge of dealing with Hield.
"The defense we play, I mean, I think it's going to be a good matchup because he can get off at any time, and it's going to be very exciting to see what's in front of us," Bakersfield guard Dedrick Basile said.
Hield was held to six points on 1-for-8 shooting in his previous outing, a loss to West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. He had scored at least 12 points in every previous game this season. Bakersfield coach Rod Barnes said West Virginia set the precedent for how you should guard him.
"I think West Virginia did a great job of denying him the basketball, face guarding him a lot," Barnes said. "I think they gave him a lot of looks. I think as the attention ---- there were five guys. They didn't go one-on-one or two-on-two. They didn't try to go and trap him. Everybody was focused in on him."
Barnes is concerned about Oklahoma's other weapons, too. Ryan Spangler, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard each average at least 10 points per game. Oklahoma (25-7) averages 80.4 points and shoots 45.9 percent from the field, including 42.6 percent from 3-point range.
"Obviously we all know about Buddy," Barnes said. "I think they've got some other players. They're one of the best teams in the country, obviously having a No. 2 seed. So we have our work cut out for us. I think a very good offensive team which it's been obviously proven this year that they can shoot the three-pointer."
Bakersfield's offense starts with center Aly Ahmed. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound senior center leads the team with 12.9 points per game, and he is second with 6.2 rebounds per contest.
"Big, tough guy," Spangler said. "He can rebound. He likes it in the post, but I think he can step out and shoot it too. So we just need to be physical with him and try to keep him away from the basket."
Ahmed has help. Mays, Basile, Damiyne Durham and Jaylin Airington all average at least 10 points.
The Roadrunners have won 10 of 11 and avenged their only loss during that stretch by beating top seed New Mexico State in the Big West Tournament final on a last-second 3-pointer by Basile. They believe they can defeat Oklahoma, too.
"I think they're a good team, but they are not great," Ahmed said. "They are beatable. We play pretty good defense, and we proved a lot of things since last year, since this program has started building maybe four, five years ago. We keep just proving things every year. I think if we play pretty good defense tomorrow, we'll have a big chance."
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.
Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox. Select from these options: Breaking News, Severe Weather, School Closings, Daily Headlines and Daily Forecasts.