Villanova destroys Oklahoma with biggest margin in Final Four history

HOUSTON — Villanova is heading to the national championship game for the first time in 31 years — and has looked as dominant as any team in program history in getting there.

In fact, the Wildcats just put up one of the most impressive, forceful, unrelenting victories in the history of the Final Four. Statistically, it was the best ever. The Wildcats’ 95-51 win over Oklahoma is the largest margin of victory ever in a Final Four. National title game, national semifinals, all of it. No team has ever beaten an opponent by as many points on the sport’s ultimate stage as Villanova.

An incredible showing for the pride for the Big East’s best program.

“I feel bad for Oklahoma that it happened to them in the Final Four,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

The win is, flatly, shocking. Nobody could’ve remotely dreamed this to be possible. The expectation entering Saturday night’s national semifinal between a pair of 2 seeds was a tight game between the two squads who’ve continued to play at a high level throughout the tournament. Instead, the Wildcats played their best game of the season, while Oklahoma got far too little out of its National Player of the Year, Buddy Hield (nine points), let alone the rest of its team.

“Yeah, you know, it wasn’t just one guy that was on him,” Wildcats junior Josh Hart said. “We threw a lot of guys at him. Ryan was on him, Mikal was on him, Booth was on him. We were so dialed into not letting him get threes off.”

Villanova was an outrageous 82.7 percent from the field in effective field goal percentage. It shot 71.4 percent from the floor. Wright’s team had 38 points in the paint and 12 steals. They made Oklahoma look like an unworthy opponent, which is saying something, given the Sooners — like the Wildcats — were ranked as the No. 1 team in the country earlier this season.

“We were playing laterally instead of downhill,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “They just dictated on both ends of the floor. They were great. We didn’t respond very well to it. Again, not happy about that, of course. But, you know, got whipped in every way.”

And the game wasn’t a blowout from tip to final horn. After an interesting start that featured 11 lead changes, Villanova pulled away midway through the first half — and that gap only got worse for Oklahoma from there. We’ve rarely seen a team look so good, so stylish and aggressive and unbeatable, on this big a stage.

It’s still shocking to take in.

For Hield, his only highlight from the last game of his college career is passing former Baylor player LaceDarius Dunn to become the Big 12’s all-time leading scorer with 2,291 points. Hield went the final 13:25 without taking a shot. After hitting the opening basket of the game, a 3-pointer, he and his teammates were held to 28 halftime points.

“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.”

Oklahoma went on a six-minute drought down the stretch of the first half that buried the Sooners’ hopes for the final 20 minutes.

“When they just started making everything,” OU senior Isaiah Cousins said. “I mean, they just throwing it up there, and everything was falling for them. I just figured that they pretty much had the game. But we just had to keep on playing.”

And what a turnaround from Nova’s 78-55 loss against Oklahoma in Hawaii on Dec. 7. The Wildcats shot 4 for 32 from 3-point range that day. On Saturday, Nova was 11 of 18 from beyond the arc and finished with an offensive efficiency rating of 156.8. Insane!

Maybe the most incredible stat: Oklahoma’s seven previous losses came by a total of 40 points. Villanova outdid that in one game. Easily. Oklahoma is the second single-digit seed in modern NCAA Tournament history to lose a game by at least 44 points.

Everyone had a huge night, including Mikal Bridges.

Hart led Villanova with 23 points. Kris Jenkins had 18. Ryan Arcidiacono had 15. Wright is one win away from his first national title.

Oklahoma had just one player finish in double figures in points. Jordan Woodard had 12. OU went for broke from 3, shooting 6-of-27. The Sooners were 19-of-60 from the floor and completely overwhelmed by a Villanova team that’s already proven it’s been one of the best in college basketball in the past three years.

Villanova’s 91 points were the most in a national semifinal since Syracuse laid 95 on Texas in 2003, and no rematch in the past 16 years — at least — was more lopsided for a team’s revenge win than what Villanova did to the sooners.

Another glimpse at how easy it was:

“Disappointed these guys today have this feeling, but not disappointed in this group for what they’ve accomplished,” Kruger said. “They’ve been outstanding. 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.”

A fitting final stat: Villanova’s 71.4 shooting percentage from the field on Saturday night is the second best performance in Final Four. The best? Of course it was Villanova’s 1985 championship-winning team, which beat Georgetown 66-64 on 78.6-percent shooting.

And remember: That game didn’t feature a shot clock nor a 3-point line.

Villanova will play the winner of North Carolina and Syracuse on Monday night for the national title.

Villanova's Josh Hart had 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting vs. Oklahoma. (USATSI)
Villanova’s Josh Hart had 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting vs. Oklahoma. (USATSI)

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