HOUSTON — No individual Villanova player came close to receiving any of the awards or accolades of Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield — which he certainly deserved.
But championships go to teams, not individuals. And together, this Villanova team is championship-caliber.
After a frantic start to the game that saw 11 lead changes, the Wildcats began pulling away, starting with their stifling defense. They beat the Sooners 95-51 — the most lopsided Final Four result ever — and will play for the program’s second national title on Monday night. Villanova will face the winner of North Carolina-Syracuse.
BOX SCORE: Villanova 95, Oklahoma 51
It became clear quickly that Saturday’s semifinal would belong to Villanova. Hield opened the game with a three-pointer, but then didn’t score for the next 15 minutes. On rims not known for being the friendliest to shooters, Villanova’s got all the right bounces. Threes fell; the Wildcats owned the paint. They picked Sooners’ pockets.
In shot, they turned in the most dominant performance of the season with the brightest of lights and the biggest of expectations. Josh Hart led all scorers with 23 points, and five players scored in double figures.
The Wildcats shot 71.4% from the field, 61.1% from three-point range.
Villanova put on a clinic in the first half, taking a 14-point lead into the locker room after shooting 67% from the field and 55% from beyond the arc. Equally as impressive as the Wildcats scoring 1.45 points per possession was their defense.
They forced nine first-half turnovers, and turned those into 15 points. They put different defenders on Hield all night, and the one constant was this: No one gave Hield any room to breathe. One of the nation’s best players was largely a nonfactor in the Final Four, finishing with nine points on 4-for-12 shooting.
Hield’s Sooners will go home, and the Wildcats will move on. Villanova hasn’t been in the title game since 1985, when it upset Georgetown for its first national championship.
Jay Wright, who has coached Villanova for 15 years, will coach in his first title game on Monday night.