Oklahoma is finding a nice home away from home in Hawai’i. And Hawai’i should be quickly becoming a favorite of TV networks for furnishing exciting games at home on the island.
The Sooners improved to 3-0 this year playing in the nation’s 50th state with an 84-81 win over Hawai’i Wednesday night in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic. Oklahoma stayed undefeated with a true road win, defeating the Rainbow Warriors in a fantastic game that included huge runs by both teams, repeated comebacks by the host school, and a duel between a pair of the nation’s best guards in Buddy Hield and Roderick Bobbitt.
Bobbitt won the battle with 32 points to Hield’s 27, but the OU star won the war as Bobbitt’s halfcourt shot at the buzzer missed as time expired. Hield scored 16 points in the game’s first 8:43 as the Sooners blew out to an early 16-point lead, but Hawai’i rallied with an 18-1 run in the first half and then came back from trailing almost the entire second half to be in a tie game with less than two minutes left.
Both teams went cold late, but Oklahoma won the game at the free throw line, scoring its final 15 points from the stripe despite not making a field goal in the final 8:55. The game was terrific theater, with the Sooners earning a win against a raucous home crowd for the Rainbow Warriors, and continuing their excellence in Hawai’i after a 28-point first round win over Washington State and a convincing win over Villanova from Pearl Harbor earlier in the month.
Such entertaining games from Hawai’i are becoming the norm, as the Rainbows also were involved in one of the season’s best games, period, when they defeated Nevada by a point as part of ESPN’s tip-off marathon. It’s a scene reminiscent of when UC Santa Barbara’s Thunderdome became a favorite of the cable network in the 1990s because of how the Gauchos and their crowds in the very loud arena played on television.
Oklahoma advanced to the Diamond Head final to face an unlikely opponent in Harvard. The Crimson easily handled Auburn 69-51 in the first semifinal and is showing to be a much better team than their 3-6 record entering the tourney. Entering the season, Tommy Amaker’s team was not as experienced or as loaded as previous squads that have made four straight NCAA tourneys. There’s something to be said for programs used to competing at the highest level, though, and a battle-tested team is growing quickly. The Crimson lost to Kansas by just six on Dec. 5 and have won three straight, and they have the size to matchup with the Sooners up front in what should be a quality championship game.
- Also in the Diamond Head Classic: BYU is nearly unstoppable when it gets the offense cranking at its highest levels, and New Mexico found that out Wednesday. Chase Fischer scored a career-best 41 points, draining nine three-pointers, and the Cougars hit 16 of 28 from deep. In the other consolation game, Northern Iowa stopped Washington State 63-59.
- Like Oklahoma, SMU also is still unbeaten after a tough 70-66 win over Colorado in the Las Vegas Classic final. Nic Moore had 16 points and the Mustangs rallied late with a 14-1 run after trailing by seven with less than seven minutes to play.
- Illinois held on to defeat rival Missouri 68-63 in their annual Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis. In a series of streaks, that’s now three straight for the Fighting Illini, following four straight wins by the Tigers, which followed nine straight for victories for Illinois.
- Connecticut hammered in-state foe Central Connecticut State 99-52. In their first game without Amida Brimah, the Huskies got 25 points from Shonn Miller, an aces-wild triple-double from Daniel Hamilton (11 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) and Kentan Facey played big up front off the bench with season highs of 10 points and 12 rebounds.
- Greg Gard made his debut as Wisconsin’s interim coach, and the Badgers ran out to a huge lead on Wisconsin-Green Bay before the Phoenix made for some nervous moments late. Wisconsin eventually won 84-79.
- Taurean Prince scored a career-high 34 as Baylor topped New Mexico State 85-70.
- Davidson faced an opponent very similar in style to the Pittsburgh team it was routed by in its last game, but the Wildcats held off Morehead State 81-77. Jack Gibbs exploded for 41 points.
- Wisconsin-Milwaukee won for the second time this year against a Big Ten team, defeating Minnesota 74-65. Terrific junior college transfer guard Jordan Johnson nearly notched a triple-double (19 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds), while the Golden Gophers lost for the third time this month at home.
All is quiet on Christmas Eve, with no games on the college basketball schedule. The Diamond Head Classic takes a break for the night before Christmas, resuming with its final four games on Christmas Day.
Merry Christmas to all, and hoping you enjoy the holidays with family and friends.