For almost a quarter of the game, fans were getting exactly what they wanted out of the first Final Four matchup of the night between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Villanova Wildcats.
It was a high-scoring, back-and-forth game with the Wildcats up 19-17 with 11:11 left in the first. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield was having a typical hot start with 5 early points.
Then a timeout was taken.
It was all Villanova and almost no Hield for the rest of the game.
“Thought Villanova played great,” Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger said. “Congratulations to them. I thought they popped us there in the first half and we didn’t respond very well to that.”
The Wildcats would go on a tear after the timeout, reeling off an 18-4 run in a near eight-minute span, and would go into the half up 42-28.
Nova’s First Half
With all eyes on Hield, Villanova’s Josh Hart had his chance to shine.
He led his offense with 15 points on 7-8 shooting. Ryan Arcidiacono followed him with 10 points, 4-4 from the field, 2-2 for three.
“I was able to get a couple shots to fall,” Hart said. “When that happened, I was able to kick out a little bit, get guys shots. So I definitely wanted to come in being aggressive and just try to help them make the right play.”
Hart would finish with a game-high 23 points on 10-12 shooting.
The team as a whole shot 67% from the field, 55% from the three-point line, in the fifth Final Four appearance of the program’s history.
“I’m happy we had one of those games where we just make every shot,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “We had end-of-shot-clock shots we just threw up and went in. It was simply one of those nights.”
Focused on both sides of the court, the defense forced nine turnovers, turning them into 15 points on the other end- 31 points off turnovers for the entire game.
“We were so locked in defensively, locked into the scouting report.” Hart said. “I think that’s just the mindset we came in with.”
They held the Sooners to only 48% from the field, 36% from three. Hield was held stagnant all half, recording seven points on 3-8 shooting, 1-5 from three.
To sum up the Sooners’ game, Buddy Hield would make a layup to begin the second half, and that was the last that was heard of him.
“Just credit them, what they was doing,” said Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield. “Made it tough on me. Throwing a bunch of bodies at me. Just couldn’t get it going.”
Hield went 4-12 from the field, 1-8 from three, for a total of nine points.
They struggled on both sides of the court.
Oklahoma shot 32% from the field and 22% from the three-point line, all while allowing Villanova to shoot a staggering 71%, 61% from three.
“Looking at the stat line, everybody was five for eight, six for seven,” Hield said. “They shot the ball very efficient tonight. If a team do this, I feel they can go win it all.”
The Sooners would have only one player in double-digit scoring, Jordan Woodard (12 points), to Villanova’s six.
Oklahoma’s first Final Four appearance since 2002 ended in the largest margin of defeat for a Final Four game, 95-51.
“Disappointed these guys today have this feeling, but not disappointed in this group for what they’ve accomplished,” Kruger said. “I’m very proud of them. They’ve changed the culture of basketball at the University of Oklahoma and they will have an effect on the program for a lot of years ahead.”
On the other ended, this is Villanova’s first National Championship appearance since 1985 and its first since the Big East conference was reconstructed.
“We know we have to prove ourselves because we’re new,” Wright said about playing in the Big East. “Not because we’re not good, because we’re reinvented, as you said. I’m really happy for our league, happy that our league is in the finals, as happy as I am for Villanova.”
The Wildcats will face the winner between Syracuse and North Carolina in the National Championship game.