Saturday’s clash between No. 1 Oklahoma (18-2) and LSU (13-8) saw a marquee matchup between two of the likely top lottery picks in the upcoming NBA Draft in LSU’s Ben Simmons and Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield. After beginning the game strong and helping his team jump out to a 44-36 halftime lead, Ben Simmons went quiet late in the second half and did not register a single point in the final ten minutes of the game. Simmons’ absence on the scoreboard helped allow Buddy Hield and the No. 1 ranked Sooners to storm back and prevail 77-75 on a game-winning two-pointer from Isiah Cousins with 3.6 seconds remaining.
Buddy Hield accounted for 32 points, 7 rebounds, one steal, and one block in the winning effort while Simmons put up 14 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, and two steals for the Tigers. The performance by Hield on Saturday showed the rest of the country why he is one of the best in all of college basketball. His performance may have been better than that of Simmons on Saturday, especially late in the game, but it would be impractical to say one of these two stars is better than the other solely based on one regular season out of conference game.
Much of the credit for Simmons disappearance late in the game on Saturday can be put on him for his lack of ability to get down the court and get open for shots. However, more of the blame must be put on LSU coach Johnny Jones for not drawing up more plays to get the ball to his best player in the game’s most pivotal point against the No. 1 team in the country. During the last 2:56 of the game on Saturday, Simmons did not touch the ball once past midcourt which is simply unacceptable in late stages of big games for star players.
While Simmons struggled late, Buddy Hield excelled, as the versatile shooting guard did everything for the Sooners: taking the ball to the rim, shooting from beyond the arch, going up and getting rebounds, and feeding the ball to Cousins and Ryan Spangler to create more scoring opportunity. Throughout the entire 2015-2016 season, Buddy Hield has excelled in all areas of the court, and his excellence was put on no better display than in the final minutes of Saturday’s win over LSU. You know you have a star on your team when an entire arena of fans are chanting profane language his way on the free-throw line:
The performance by Hield on Saturday could certainly create the argument that he is one of the most clutch, if not the most clutch shooting guard in all of college basketball. To say he is college basketball’s best player, however, may be pushing it as the talent, athleticism, and versatility of Ben Simmons is still something that no other player in college basketball can match:
— Campus Insiders (@CampusInsiders) January 31, 2016
The coaching of LSU was the main reason why the Tigers were unable to pull out a potentially season-changing victory on Saturday against Oklahoma, not the play of Ben Simmons. Whenever the Austrailian-born forward got the ball in his hands he made the most of his opportunities, but when the ball was not put in his hands, the game took a turn for the worst for the Tigers. It is hard to blame the best college basketball player in the country for a loss when his teammates do not get him the ball in the offensive end. There is still a lot of basketball to played over the coming months for both Hield and Simmons. Hield and the Sooners will be fighting for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament while Simmons and the Tigers are just hoping to go on a roll and squeak their way into the tournament. Both players will have more opportunities to put their skills on display this season, but consider Saturday’s game the start of a major discussion all across college basketball world: Simmons or Hield?