Villanova Corrals OK in Record-Setting Night

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

#2 Villanova 95, #2 Oklahoma 51 – Box Score

Villanova came into Saturday night red-hot, having knocked off its first three tournament opponents by double digits, followed by a 5-point victory over a Kansas team widely considered the best team in the country. Still, nobody, not even Villanova’s staunchest supporters, could have expected a performance like what transpired in Houston against the Oklahoma Sooners. It was like something out of a fever dream.

The 44-point margin of victory was the largest in Final Four history. The Wildcats shot 71.4% from the field and went 11-18 from behind the arc. The only time anyone has shot better from the field in a Final Four game was during Villanova’s National Championship win in 1985 (good omen!).

Oklahoma last lead game with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. Following that point, Villanova went on a 12-0 run to take a double-digit lead, but that wasn’t even close to the most absurd run of the night for the Wildcats. During the second half, Jay Wright’s squad went on a 25-0 surge to turn a 13-point advantage into a 38-point laugher. It was a 5-minute stretch where the Sooners didn’t score (obviously) while turning the ball over 5 times, and on the only field goal the Wildcats missed, they grabbed the offensive rebound and drained a three-pointer a few seconds later. I guess we can let that one slide.

Winning by 44 points, it’s no surprise that the Wildcats received great performances from up and down the roster. Kris Jenkins scored 18 points, shooting 4-7 from three, and tied a game-high with 8 rebounds. Ryan Arcidiacono dropped 15 points by hitting 3 of 4 from three. Having easily his best game in weeks, Phil Booth tallied 10 points and a game-high 5 steals in just 19 minutes.

Unquestionably though, the star of the night was Josh Hart, who led the way with a game-high 23 points, tied a game-high with 8 rebounds, and chipped in a game-high 4 assists for good measure. Hart hit 10 of his 12 shots, which weren’t all easy by any means; one turnaround jumper he knocked down from the top of the key at the end of the shot clock stood out as a sign the junior could do no wrong on this night. He also hit a huge three-pointer in the closing seconds of the first half to put the Wildcats up 14 heading into the locker room.

Still, Hart’s biggest contribution may have come defensive side of the ball. The primary defender on the second-leading scorer in the nation, Buddy Hield, Hart helped slow Hield down to just 9 points on the evening. It was only the second time this season Hield failed to reach double figures. After Buddy hit a three-pointer on the first play of the game. he would miss his remaining 7 three-point attempts on the game and end the night shooting just 4-12 from the field. He and fellow guard Isaiah Cousins each turned the ball over 4 times, as part of a 17-turnover nightmare for the Sooners as a team.

Now, the Wildcats move on to Monday night’s National Championship game against the UNC Tar Heels. This group can avenge the school’s lose to North Carolina in the 2009 Final Four, and the “travel that wasn’t” in the 2005 tournament. More importantly, they’re just 40 minutes away from being declared the best team in the nation and joining the 1985 squad in history.

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