By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said freshman guard Buddy Hield underwent successful surgery on his broken right foot Tuesday morning. Hield is expected to miss at least the next four weeks while mending.
However, losing a starter to injury isn’t something the Sooners have dealt with the last two seasons. Until Hield suffered a broken foot in Monday night’s 75-48 victory over TCU, the only OU player to miss a game this season due to injury was backup point guard Sam Grooms. He missed the Stephen F. Austin game on Dec. 18 with a concussion. No player missed a game due to injury last season.
The Sooners (16-7, 7-4 Big 12) will be without Hield for at least the final seven regular-season games. His energetic presence will be missed on both ends of the court. Hield is the team’s leader in minutes played at 26.5 per game.
One way OU appears equipped to handle the extended absence of a starter is Kruger hasn’t over extended any of his players this season. He’s used his bench liberally this season.
“I think we have 10 guys who can get results, so it’s not just for that reason,” Kruger said Tuesday. “When you do have the luxury of doing that it does help with foul trouble or injury. We’re fortunate enough to have the quality of depth — not just depth — that we do have that can come in and make a difference.”
The victory over TCU was another game where that was the case. The Sooners’ bench scored 34 points. Andrew Fitzgerald and Je’lon Hornbeak both scored nine while Tyler Neal and Cameron Clark both finished with eight.
Because of the deep contributions, the performance against the Horned Frogs was one of OU’s best of the season. Winning wasn’t a surprise, but OU showed no signs of the expected letdown after beating Kansas on Saturday
“I thought it was. Everyone was together and into the game,” Fitzgerald said. “A lot of teams do get sidetracked after they win a big game against a team like Kansas. We came out with a lot of energy and that energy won the game for us.”
Obviously, with Hield out one of those four, most likely Hornbeak, will turn into a starter. But all will need to make greater contributions.
Kruger has a lot of options with how he’ll replace Hield in the lineup. Hornbeak has responded well in the last two games since being moved from the point guard spot to the wing. Clark has been incredibly productive as well. After Monday night’s 4-for-7 performance, he’s shooting 53 percent in conference play.
A lot will depend on the opponent. The Sooners face No. 17 Oklahoma State (17-5, 7-3) at 12:30 p.m., Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater.
It will be OU’s first game since the loss of Hield. Bedlam should give a strong indication how it will handle his absence.
“Buddy is a player who brings a lot of energy and it’s hard to see him get hurt like that,” Clark said. “We have some guys on this who can step up.”
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