NORMAN — As lights from the video board flashed and fire shot into the air behind the baskets, the public address announcer's voice filled Lloyd Noble Center as he announced a pair of freshmen.
“At guard, a freshman from Arlington, Texas, Je'lon Hornbeak!
“At guard, a freshman from the Bahamas, Buddy Hield!”
The first freshman walked forward with a stern, businesslike look before cracking a smile. The second walked through his teammates' tunnel with his signature smile — a brace-filled grin.
This year, the Big 12 is a young league. It's one that might be determined by the actions or miscues of its freshmen. Last week, in a conference call, many Big 12 coaches talked about the impact freshmen could have this year on the conference.
Saturday's Bedlam game showcased the impact.
Oklahoma's frosh duo comprised half of the freshman starters in 2013's first Bedlam game, a 77-68 OU victory over Oklahoma State. The other two were OSU forward Marcus Smart and guard Kamari Murphy.
Going into Bedlam, most eyes — coaches, analysts and fans — were on Smart. What would the Cowboys' freshman — known for his smart defensive work that has allowed him to lead the league in steals — do to Oklahoma?
At game's end, it could be argued that the freshmen largely impacted Bedlam's outcome.
Murphy didn't give his team a single basket. He went 0-for-2 from the field and grabbed three rebounds. Smart went 3-of-10 from the field, had three fouls by halftime and gave the Cowboys just 10 points in 27 minutes.
With Smart out, even freshman Phil Forte's attempts from the arch couldn't save the Cowboys. OSU's freshmen impacted the game by struggling.
Then there's OU's freshmen. Hield started Oklahoma's 10-3 run at the beginning of the game with a layup. Hornbeak contributed five points during that run.
Though Hornbeak's court time was limited to 13 minutes, he added one assist and one steal. He also went 3-for-3 from the paint and 2-for-2 from the arch before he tweaked something and sat out most of the game.
As for Hield, he could be seen throwing up an alley-oop, flapping his arms to pump up the crowd and hitting big 3-pointers at crucial times.
Hield went 3-of-5 from beyond the arch and 6-of-11 from the floor overall. But beyond the statistics, he was in the Cowboys' face.
He hustled throughout the game.
He was relentless.
During a stretch of turnovers and fouls, Hield hit the 3-pointer to bring the crowd back to its feet.
As he drained his final trey to put Oklahoma up by seven points with less than eight minutes remaining, Hield fell to the court and into his bench.
Teammates helped him up and sent their freshman back into the Bedlam battle.
He had already left his impact on the game.