Villanova resembled its legendary 1985 counterpart as they went on to avenge a loss earlier in December to Oklahoma, annihilating their expert favored opponent 95-51.
Coach Jay Wright’s scorched earth policy continues to be an offensive sensation, as they have reached at least 80 points in four of their five games in what has seemingly been a cake walk tournament run.
The Wildcats’ run reached its zenith last night, as the ‘Cats demonstrated pure dominance in all facets of the game. The offense for the ‘Cats in particular put on a show: their 44 point margin of victory was the largest ever in the Final Four. This was in part to the fact that the ‘Cats could not miss, as they shot 71.4 percent from the field, a number second only to the Wildcats’ 78.6 percent shooting percentage in the 1985 NCAA championship.
“We were so locked in defensively, locked into the scouting report,” Villanova’s Josh Hart said. “I think that’s just the mindset we came in with. Obviously, we love when we can hit shots. But this program is really built on just dialing in defensively, being tough.”
Hart led the way offensively for the ‘Cats with a solid 23 point performance. He was also a force on the glass and the defensive end, collecting eight rebounds and tallying four steals. As has been the case all tournament, Hart has been a force inside the post and on the paint. He shot 10-of-12 on the floor, including his one attempt fromg long range. He got the Wildcats going inside, opening up the perimeter for his teammates.
Ryan Arcidiacono shot 3-of-4 en route to a 15 point performance. Kris Jenkins made four 3-pointers and had 18 points. Four of the team’s five starters had double digit points. Mikal Bridges added 11 points off the bench.
It was a complete offensive effort by the ‘Cats. The one-dimensional, three-point dependent only team of earlier this year is no more. The Wildcats did not look anything like they did when they faced the Sooners back in December.
“That was a tough game,” Hart said. “Early in the season, we were a young team. Me and Kris were starting for the first time. Guys like Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges were playing their first-ever college basketball games. We didn’t have our habits as instilled as we do now.”
Defensively, the ‘Cats matched their offensive explosion with a suffocating defense.
2016 Naismith trophy winner Buddy Hield, Oklahoma’s go-to man, averaged 27 points per game coming in to the ‘Nova game.
Villanova had other plans for him, as they contained Hield to a mediocre 9 points. In doing so, the ‘Cats became only the second team to hold Hield to under double digits all year.
“We were watching on film how good Buddy is,” Arcidiacono said. “We knew he would take and make tough shots. We tried to keep fresh bodies on him, tried to make him take tough, contested shots. It just happened he didn’t make them tonight.”
The hard-nosed defensive effort affected the rest of the Sooners. They were held to just 19-of-60 (31.7 percent) overall and 6-of-27 (22.2 percent) from long range.
The Sooners coughed up the ball 17 times for the whole game. In fact, they had more turnovers than the Wildcats had missed shots (11).
Villanova took a 42-28 lead going into halftime.
“I think at halftime I felt good, like we were focused in and we were playing good basketball,” Wright said. “I didn’t think it was ours at that point, but I felt good that what we decided to do was working.”
Oklahoma came firing to begin the second half, but its effort was short lived. Villanova continued its all-around onslaught, outscoring its opponent 53-23 in the second half.
Jordan Woodard was the lone Sooner to eclipse the double-digit mark, scoring 12 points.
Villanova will look to build off of its momentum for one more game – the National Championship Game. The Wildcats will take on North Carolina, tip-off is at 9:19 p.m.
“We’re really continuing to be dialed in and try to get one more on Monday night,” Wright said.