Villanova annihilates Oklahoma to reach title game

By Chad Conine, The Sports Xchange

HOUSTON -- Villanova flipped the script by slapping Oklahoma with the biggest blowout in the history of the Final Four.

Guard Josh Hart scored 23 points, leading the Wildcats' 71.4 percent shooting from the field in a 95-51 rout of the Sooners in an NCAA Tournament semifinal on Saturday evening at NRG Stadium.


Earlier this season in Hawaii, Oklahoma made 14 of 26 3-pointers for a 23-point victory over a Villanova team that shot a season-low 31.7 percent from the field. But the Wildcats avenged the December loss when it mattered most, winning by the largest margin of victory ever in the Final Four (Princeton previously held the record with a 36-point win over Wichita State in the 1965 third-place game).

Villanova coach Jay Wright said his team's loss to Oklahoma in the Pearl Harbor Invitational in December played a role throughout the Wildcats' season and continued to be a factor on Saturday.


"We kept saying to our guys, 'Hey, just remember how those teams are playing,'" Wright said. "'If we're going to do anything, we have to face those teams one day. Think about how Oklahoma played us.' That I think was a big part of this game."

Villanova (34-5) will face the winner of Saturday's second semifinal between North Carolina and Syracuse in the national championship game on Monday night.

Villanova is back in the NCAA Tournament final for the first time since Rollie Massimino's 10th-seeded Wildcats defeated Georgetown for the national championship in 1985.

The Wildcats already led the Sooners 52-39 before hitting 9 of 10 shots from the field during a game-sealing 20-2 run.

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said it hurt to see the game get away like it did.

"It becomes embarrassing right there," Kruger said. "You know, we lost our composure there obviously and things came apart. You never like handling things like that. We'd liked to have handled their run a little bit better."

The spark came when Wildcats forward Kris Jenkins threw over the top of the Oklahoma press to guard Mikal Bridges, who finished the fast break with a dunk and was fouled. Bridges hit the free throw to give Villanova a 59-41 lead with 11:53 left.


"Mikal just made a great play," Jenkins said. "I threw the ball, he went up and got it and was able to finish the play."

The Sooners (29-8) couldn't get stops on defense and suffered through 31.7 percent shooting from the floor.

Villanova held national player of the year Buddy Hield to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field, including 1 of 8 from beyond the arc.

"Just credit them, what they was doing," Hield said. "Made it tough on me. Throwing a bunch of bodies at me. Just couldn't get it going."

Guard Jordan Woodard led the Sooners with 12 points.

Jenkins scored 18 points and guard Ryan Arcidiacono added 15 to help Hart propel the Wildcats.

Villanova gained separation in the first half by using a 12-0 run that coincided with Oklahoma's scoring drought of almost six minutes.

Bridges started the surge with a 3-pointer. Hart followed with two straight baskets, grabbing a rebound and pivoting through the lane for a layup on the second one.

Jenkins kept the run going with a 3-pointer and a layup on consecutive trips down the floor. Then Hart, who had 15 points in the first half, capped the surge with a layup for a 30-21 lead with 5:48 left before the break.


Oklahoma began to punch back when reserve forward Jamuni McNeace and forward Ryan Spangler each made inside baskets.

But Villanova found its rhythm again for a 7-0 run and its largest lead of the first half at 16 points.

Arcidiacono put up a 3-point attempt that bounced high off the front of the rim and then rattled in. Hart followed with a layup that put Villanova ahead 37-21 with 4:07 left in the half.

The Wildcats forced Oklahoma in nine turnovers that led to 15 points in the first 20 minutes.

"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."

Hield led Oklahoma with seven points on 3-of-8 shooting from the field before the break.

NOTES: Oklahoma and Villanova played earlier this season when the Sooners hit 14 3-pointers and claimed a 78-55 win in the Pearl Harbor Invitational in Honolulu. ... Villanova, which is playing in its fifth Final Four, traveled to a Final Four in Houston for the second time in school history. The Wildcats played in the Final Four in the Astrodome (next door to NRG Stadium) in 1971, defeating Western Kentucky in the semifinal and losing to UCLA in the championship game. ... Oklahoma senior G Buddy Hield, who was named the USBWA Oscar Robertson Player of the Year on Friday, entered the game averaging 25.4 points this season. He had scored 25 or more points in 18 games with a high of 46 in a loss to Kansas on Jan. 4.


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