Villanova handed Oklahoma the worst loss in Final Four history on Saturday night at NRG Stadium in Houston. After 11 early lead changes, the Wildcats strangled control with a 12-0 first-half run and demolished the Sooners by 30 points in the second half in a 95-51 victory.
Here’s how they advanced to Monday night’s championship game against either North Carolina or Syracuse.
For much of the season, Hart was considered one of the nation’s top 15 or 20 players. He did nothing down the stretch to diminish that perception, although the sizzling shooting of teammates’ Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu overshadowed Hart’s steady play in the NCAA tournament.
In the Wildcats’ most important game of the season, under the brightest lights, Hart was outstanding.
As he’s done throughout the season, the versatile 6-6 forward contributed across the box score, scoring 23 points on 10 of 12 shooting with eight rebounds, four assists and two steals.
His signature moment (and when it became clear everything was going Nova’s way) occurred with 12:22 remaining in the second half. Hart appeared to be stuck near the left elbow, 16 feet removed from the rim with less than five seconds on the shot clock. He pivoted several times but couldn’t shake the defender so he launched - and swished - a fade away jumper to push the Wildcats' lead to 15 points.
The Wildcats created open shots the entire game through solid fundamental basketball and teamwork.
Earlier this week, a Big East assistant praised the Wildcats' use of shot fakes and pivots to create open shots. He explained the challenge to remain grounded because defenders had to respect that Nova had multiple versatile players, who could drive, pass or shoot.
Villanova emptied its bag of offensive tricks against Oklahoma and the result was clean looks at the basket.
The Wildcats continued their torrid shooting tear in the postseason (71.4 percent) to tie the seventh-best shooting performance in NCAA tournament history and made 11 of 18 3-pointers. They scored 1.48 points per possession as six players reached double figures.
Villanova now has three of the top nine shooting performances in NCAA tournament history and the top two in the Final Four (78.6 in 1985 title game).
Defense on Buddy Hield
The Oklahoma All-American scored five points in the opening minutes to become the Big 12 career scoring leader, but cooled off quickly as the Wildcats hounded him with multiple defenders all night.
He finished with nine points - his second lowest total of the season - on 4-of-12 shooting and missed seven of his eight 3-point attempts.
Hart said the Wildcats used team defensive concepts to contain Hield, often sending four players his direction.
The Wildcats' relentless defensive pressure not only forced Oklahoma into a season-low 31.7 percent field goal shooting, they also harassed the Sooners into 17 turnovers, which they turned into 31 points.
Despite applying such heat on the ball, Villanova avoided fouling and kept the Sooners from picking up any easy points.
The Wildcats committed only two fouls in the first half and 11 for the game. Oklahoma scored only seven points at the free throw line on 11 attempts.
Wildcats wanted revenge
Villanova coach Jay Wright alluded to it in his postgame television interview.
Losing by 23 points to Oklahoma didn’t sit well with his hyper-competitive players. They heard about it often this week and played as if they wanted to prove to the Sooners - and the nation that they were a much, much, much better team than what they showed on Dec. 7 in a small arena in Hawaii.