The ability to defeat Oklahoma was never in question. It was the magnitude in which Villanova did that was astounding.
For the Villanova Wildcats to beat the Oklahoma Sooners they would have to shoot the ball well in a different surrounding, a football stadium in Houston. They did. Villanova would have to play well on defense and contain Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield. They did. The Wildcats would need to show that a loss to the Sooners in December would have no residual effect. It did not. Nova check each box and did so to near perfection. The result was a 95 – 51 win, the largest margin of victory in Final Four history, that sends Villanova into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game on Monday night against North Carolina.
Offensively the Wildcats made 35 of 49 from the floor (71.4%) and made 11 of 18 from beyond the arc. The field goal percentage was the second highest in NCAA Final Four history. The top percentage was 78% by Villanova in the 1985 title tilt against Georgetown which brought the Wildcats a national championship. The 95 total points scored was a season-high by Nova. In typical Villanova fashion the scoring load was shared as six different players recorded double figures, and eight of the eleven players scored. Josh Hart led the way with 23 points as he converted 10 of 12 field goal attempts and canned his only three. The junior guard also took down a game-best tying 8 rebounds and handed out a game-high 4 assists. Kris Jenkins contributed 18 points going 6 of 10 from the floor and was good on 4 of 7 three-pointers. He he grabbed 8 boards. Ryan Arcidiacono had 15 points making 5 of 6 shots, 3 of 4 from deep. Daniel Ochefu, Phil Booth, and Mikal Bridges also scored in double digits.
On defense Oklahoma was held to 31.7% shooting making 19 of 60 attempts. The three-point line was contained by Villanova lateral quickness on defense as OU made only 6 of 17 three’s. All-America guard Buddy Hield was held to 9 points as he converted 4 of 12 field goal attempts and went 1 of 8 from distance. His last basket came on his first shot of the second half. Jordan Woodard was the high scorer for Oklahoma with 12 points (3 of 10 in field goal attempts, 2 of 6 from three-point land, and 4 of 5 from the line.
The game started with each team trading the lead. The Sooners led 16 – 15 at the twelve and a half minute mark. Hart made a three-pointer just over a minute later that started a 21 – 4 run for the Cats that gave them a 37 – 21 lead with just over 4 minutes left in the half. A three-ball by Hart with 7 seconds left sent Villanova into the locker room with a 42 – 28 advantage. It was the biggest halftime deficit for Oklahoma this season.
Many times this season Villanova had a lead and weathered a charge by the opposition. Again, the Wildcats answered. With just under 13 minutes remaining Nova held a 54 – 41 lead. Hart had the ball in the paint, pivoting for a pass or shot. He got open and canned a short jumper. It was the start of 25 straight points for the Cats over the next 5 and a half minutes that decided the contest. Six different Wildcat players scored in the decisive run.
Villanova will play North Carolina, who defeated Syracuse in the other semifinal game, for the National Championship. The Wildcats got there by playing “Villanova Basketball.” They will need to do so one more time. A title would be fitting for the winningest class in program history.
Written By: Glenn Papazian