Villanova rolls to NCAA basketball final with 95-51 victory over Oklahoma
HOUSTON — Heading into Final Four weekend, there were questions on how well teams could shoot in NRG Stadium in Houston, a 70,000-plus seat stadium, primarily the home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
Villanova had an emphatic answer Saturday in the first NCAA Final Four semifinal: No problem whatsoever.
Junior guard Josh Hart 23 points to lead a balanced attack, and the No. 2 seed Villanova Wildcats defeated No. 2 seed Oklahoma Sooners 95-51 to advance to the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game.
As a team, Villanova shot an incredible 72% from the field.
Villanova (34-5) will face either No. 1 seed North Carolina (32-6) or No. 10 seed Syracuse (23-13) in the second semifinal, which is scheduled to tip off around 8:49 pm E.T.
It will be Villanova’s first trip to the national championship game since 1985, when the Wildcats, then a No. 8 seed, improbably beat No. 1 Georgetown with a ridiculous field goal percentage of 78.6.
This year’s NCAA tournament had been all about Buddy Hield, aka “Buddy Buckets.” The senior guard from the Bahamas — who is second in the nation in scoring this season at 25.4 points per game, had been lighting up the scoreboard, averaging 29 points per game in this year’s tournament heading into the Final Four.
Saturday evening was a much different story.
Hield had his worst performance of the tournament. He was held to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, including 1-of-8 from three-point range.
Villanova’s Hart, meanwhile, rarely missed. He finished 10-of-12 from the field.
The game started off with teams trading baskets and keeping it close, and Oklahoma had a 17-16 lead with 12:35 remaining in the half. Villanova, however, caught fire, going on an 11-0 run to take a 28-17 lead with 6:57 remaining in the opening period. The Wildcats’ field goal percentage was 66.7% and they comfortably led at halftime, 42-28.
This was a rematch for the two teams, with drastically different results. Oklahoma beat Villanova 78-55 on December 7 in Hawaii.
Before the game, four student-athletes representing each Final Four school sang the national anthem. While each one of them was cheered, there were some boos when Vice President Joe Biden was shown on the big screens above the court during the performance.
Former President George H. W. Bush, meanwhile, got a nice ovation when he was shown on screen with 1:10 left in the first half.
However, Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, each had a very good reason to attend. Both have ties to two schools in the Final Four: The Vice President graduated from Syracuse law school, while Jill Biden earned one of her two doctorates from Villanova.
The national championship game is Monday night.