Cyclones focus on slowing down Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield

Redshirt junior guard Jameel McKay tangles with some Oklahoma players during the game against No. 15 Oklahoma at Hilton Coliseum on March 2. The No. 17 Cyclones defeated the Sooners 77-70 after a rocky 18-point first half.

Chris Wolff

Just three days after completing the non-conference portion of the season with a blowout victory against Coppin State, Iowa State will face a whole new level of competition when it kicks off the Big 12 schedule with No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday night in Norman, Okla. 

Oklahoma (11-0, 0-0 Big 12) is led by National Player of the Year candidate Buddy Hield, who averages just under 25 points per game and is shooting above a 50-percent clip from 3-point range.

Hield will obviously be the focal point for the Cyclones defensive effort, but Iowa State (11-1, 0-0 Big 12) isn’t trying to completely shut Hield down. The team knows that’s not likely.

“We’re not [going to] just stop him to zero points,” said point guard Monté Morris. “I want to but real life it probably won’t happen. [We just need to] just slow him down [and] make him uncomfortable.”

Hield, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, has a knack for scoring. Hield is going to make plays and hit shots even when being well defended. The key, Georges Niang said, is to limit his easy looks. 

“I think the biggest thing with him if you watch games is he really gets a lot of easy buckets [and] open 3’s in transition,” Niang said. “So that’s one thing we want to take away and make him earn every bucket.”

Niang is right along Hield in the National Player of the Year conversation. Niang is the second-leading scorer in the Big 12 — behind Hield — with 18.8 points per game. 

It’s easy to bill the matchup between No. 11 Iowa State and No. 3 Oklahoma as a matchup between two of the Big 12’s best in Niang and Hield, but that’s not likely to be the case. 

Oklahoma’s Isaiah Cousins, who averages 13.1 points and 4.9 assists per game, is a formidable matchup for Morris at the point guard position. Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard averages 13.9 points per game to complete the Sooner’s backcourt. 

Oklahoma’s frontcourt presence is anchored by Ryan Spangler, a big man who averages a double-double with 10.3 points and 10 rebounds per contest.

Hield grabs all the headlines, but his supporting cast is a big reason why the Sooners are the No. 3 team in the country. Getting the Sooners on the road to kick off the Big 12 schedule doesn’t help matters either. 

“I know it’s going to be a rough game down there,” said Morris, who mentioned the Sooners’ ability to get points in transition.   

The competition level ramps up in conference play, especially with Oklahoma, which is expected to be one of the conference’s biggest contenders, alongside Iowa State and Kansas.

For new ISU head coach Steve Prohm, that is exactly why he made the jump from Murray State to Iowa State in the summer.

“Coach even said it to us before the Cincinnati game: This is the reason he came to Iowa State, to play big games like this,” Niang said. “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. So why not start out at Oklahoma?”