The Villanova Wildcats will be playing for the national championship on Monday night after their historic 95-51 destruction of Oklahoma on Saturday night. Villanova’s 44-point margin of victory at NRG Stadium in Houston was the largest margin of victory in Final Four history.
This game was a far cry from the December 7 matchup between these two teams. In a game played at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Oklahoma swamped Villanova 78-55. Saturday’s meeting represents an astonishing 67-point turnaround.
“This was just one of those nights, we all have them,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “It’s tough when they beat us so bad early in the year. We knew they could beat us bad; we had a lot of fear coming into this game.”
His players certainly did not perform like they were afraid of anything. They were poised, focused and relentless.
Blowouts such as this do not occur without one of the teams shooting exceptionally well. In the case of Villanova, that is a gross understatement.
The Wildcats shot 71.4 percent from the field, the second highest percentage in Final Four history. Villanova holds the record set in 1985 when they shot 78.4 percent in their shocking upset of Georgetown in the 1985 championship game.
Blowouts also need a cold shooting team and outstanding defense. Saturday’s game provided both.
Villanova’s defense was simply too much for the normally efficient offense of the Sooners. The constant pressure led to 17 Sooner turnovers. Everyone, including unanimous All-American Buddy Hield, struggled.
Hield, who averages more than 25 points per game and shoots over 50 percent from the field, was held to a mere nine points. He was four for 12 from the field and only one of eight from behind the three-point arc. While he missed a few open shots, he was mostly hounded by the Wildcats’ defense, especially junior guard Josh Hart.
Conversely, Villanova clicked on all cylinders. While Hart did a magnificent defense job on Hield, he also led the Wildcats in scoring with 23 points. He hit 10 of 12 shots from the floor, including his only three-point attempt.
Kris Jenkins added 18 points for Villanova while Jordan Woodard was the only Sooner player to reach double figures with 12.
The game began with both teams playing and shooting well. Mikai Bridges hit a three-pointer with 11:28 remaining in the first half to give the Wildcats a 19-17 lead. They would not trail again.
A 12-0 run put Villanova up by 11 and they took a 42-28 lead into the halftime locker room.
The Sooners came out aggressively in the second half, pounding the offensive board, but they could not put the ball into the basket. On one particular trip, they had six shots at the basket and came up empty.
Oklahoma’s last gasp at getting back into the game came at the 16:23 mark. Woodard rebounded his own missed free throw and scored to bring the deficit to 46-37.
The Wildcats responded in a big way. Oklahoma’s Ryan Spangler scored to make it 54-41 with 12:56 remaining. Over the next 6:03, Villanova scored 25 consecutive points to turn the game into a 79-54 laugher. Oklahoma went more than eight minutes without a field goal.
When the final horn sounded, Wright and his Wildcats could celebrate for a few minutes before thinking about Monday night and their date with North Carolina.