NORMAN — After Oklahoma finished off an 86-73 win over Kansas State on Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center, Buddy Hield shrugged off the Sooners' performance as just another game.
“We just came in like a regular game,” Hield said, not attaching any extra significance to the performance, which was more dominant than the final score indicated or to the week between games.
But there was an added bit of drive for Hield that had nothing to do with Oklahoma moving back into a tie for second place in the Big 12 or avenging Kansas State's win over the Sooners in Manhattan more than a month earlier.
It was because a group of more than 50 people from Hield's high school, Sunrise Christian, made the drive down from Wichita, Kan., to watch Hield lead the Sooners.
“Fifty-two people all together,” Sunrise coach Kyle Linstead said after talking with Hield following the win. “We had a small Buddy Hield fan section.”
There were plenty of other fans of Hield among the estimated crowd of 9,248.
Hield led the Sooners with 18 points and added four assists and three steals as Oklahoma jumped out to a huge lead early.
The Sooners used the four practices since their last game to focus on their work on the defensive end and being more consistent about getting their guards to drive the lane and kick to open shots on the perimeter.
Oklahoma did plenty of both in building a 25-point first-half lead.
Three minutes in, Jordan Woodard's drive-and-kick led to a long jumper by Isaiah Cousins.
On the next possession, Hield picked Marcus Foster's pocket, streaked down the court and pulled up for a 3-pointer to lift the Sooners ahead for the first time. Oklahoma never trailed again.
The Sooners forced 10 first-half turnovers and turned them into 17 points while the Wildcats managed just two points off three Oklahoma turnovers before halftime.
“That's what we're going to have to do,” senior forward Cam Clark said of the defensive effort against the league's top defensive team. “Whether we like it or not, that's what we're going to have to do to win games. Coach (Lon Kruger) has been preaching that. We had this week to just watch film and go out there and play and I think we did a really good job.”
The Sooners reeled off a 21-2 run over a little more than six minutes late in the first half to take control.
Oklahoma led by 19 at halftime — the Sooners' largest halftime lead of the season and Kansas State's largest halftime deficit.
The win was the Sooners' 20th of the season, matching the total of last season's NCAA Tournament team.
It was another resume-building win for a team that appears to be playing for seeding in the tournament rather than a place in it.
Oklahoma (20-7, 9-5 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie for second place in the league with Texas and Iowa State.
The Sooners will play at league-leading Kansas at 8 p.m. Monday.
Sharing time with Linstead after the game, Hield said the group helped push him to show a more complete game.
“We play hard up there, you know,” Hield said. “They were filling me, bringing more energy and passion, making me more active. Coaches said I needed to be more active as well so I was just doing my job.”