By Joseph Santoloquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It had sat there for a while with the Villanova Wildcats, that collective twisting, nauseating feeling that something could have been different that day—that it wasn’t really them on the court when they got fried by Oklahoma, back on December 7.
To a man, you sensed, that if they would meet again, it would be different—even if that meeting came in early-April.
The Wildcats played with a vengeance in Saturday’s Final Four game destroying Oklahoma, 95-51, at the NRG Stadium, in Houston, Texas, and advancing to the NCAA championship for the first time in 31 years, on Monday against the winner of North Carolina and Syracuse.
The Wildcats’ 44-point victory was the largest margin of victory of any Final Four game.
Villanova, which shot 71.4, the second-highest percentage in NCAA Tournament history behind the 1985 Wildcats’ national championship victory over Georgetown, used a 25-0 run in the second half to hammer home a point that this wasn’t the same team Oklahoma saw in Hawaii four months ago.
The Wildcats’ Josh Hart led all scorers with 23 points, on 10 of 12 shooting, Kris Jenkins scored 18, Ryan Arcidiacono added 15 and Daniel Ochefu finished with 10.
The Wildcats starters shot an amazing 28-of-38 (74%).
At one point in the second half, Villanova had scored more points (50) than Oklahoma had the whole game (49). The Sooners went 8:20 without scoring a basket in the second half.
Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield was held to 9 points on 4 for 12 shooting.
Villanova took a 42-28 lead into halftime, which was the largest halftime deficit Oklahoma had all season. When Hart knifed through the Oklahoma defense for a layup with 4:09 left in the half, it gave the Wildcats a 37-21 lead—which happened to the biggest lead anyone had on the Sooners all season.
It also helps when as a team you shoot 67%, as the Wildcats did over the first 20 minutes (18 of 27). Hart and Arcidiacono combined for 25 of Villanova’s 42 halftime points on 11 of 12 shooting. Villanova’s starters were 17 of 24 for 71%.
But it was tenacious, get-after-it defense that led to Villanova’s huge halftime edge. The Wildcats took Hield completely out of his game. He had 7 points at the half on 3 of 8 shooting and 1-for-5 from three-point range. Each time Hield touched the ball, he immediately had the attention of every Villanova player on the floor. It wasn’t just one player either that made Hield feel uncomfortable. He was passed off from one player to the next, eliminating any miscommunication on the switches.
Hield’s reverse layup through a maze of Villanova players with 1:16 remaining in the half ended a 15-minute, 3-second scoring drought that last saw him score with 16:19 in the half.
Villanova forced Oklahoma into making 9 turnovers the first 20 minutes.