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Villanova dominates Oklahoma to advance to championship game

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Junior guard Josh Hart scored 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 percent from the field and won by the biggest margin of victory ever in a Final Four game.

This will be Villanova’s third appearance in the title game and first one in 31 years since they shocked the Georgetown Hoyas as an eight seed in 1985.

Six different Wildcats were in double figures, led by Hart’s 23 points on 10-12 shooting. He added eight rebounds and four assists, while Ryan Arcidiacono scored 15 points with only one missed shot.

Buddy Hield’s brilliant career ended quietly as the Oklahoma guard—who was averaging over 30 points in this NCAA tournament—scored just nine points and made only four baskets.

With the score 54-41 in favor of Villanova early in the second half, the Wildcats opened up a 25-0 run over a five-minute span. Villanova was tight on the defensive end as well by holding Oklahoma to only made one basket over an eight-minute stretch throughout the commanding run. The Sooners turned the ball over 17 times in the game.

The Sooners opened up the scoring when Hield drained a three from the top of the key, but the Wildcats strong defense forced the guard to miss his next three shots. At the 15:45 mark, a Hield turnover resulted in breakaway layup for Arcidiacono to give Villanova a 10-7 lead.

Both teams traded baskets in the following minutes and each shot 53 percent from the field in the opening half. With just over ten minutes remaining in the first half, Hart drove into the front of the paint, spun around and swished a jumper making the score 21-17 in favor of Villanova.

At the 7:07 mark, the Wildcats’ Daniel Ochefu passed the ball to Kris Jenkins, who spun between two Sooners defenders and found himself wide open in the paint. The forward’s easy layup put the Wildcats up 11 points, their biggest lead of the game to that point. During this stretch, Oklahoma turned the ball over six times in their nine possessions and were held scoreless for over five minutes.

The Sooners were given their biggest deficit of the season at 16 points once Hart made another difficult shot. This time the guard made an off balance layup that went over two jumping defenders. The basket was part of a 21-4 Villanova run.

Hield scored his first basket since the 16:22 mark with just over a minute left in the half. The guard pump faked in midair and made a reverse layup cutting the Wildcats lead to 11 points again.

Hart answered, capping off his strong half by knocking down a catch and shoot 3-pointer from the wing in the waning seconds to push Villanova to a 42-28 lead.

Hart scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half in the paint, which was just as many as Oklahoma’s entire team made in the 20 minutes. The Sooners still shot just under 50 percent from the field, but on the other side, the Wildcats shot 67 percent, including 55 percent from behind the arc, and committed five less turnovers.

Oklahoma cut the deficit to single digits first four minutes of the second half once Jordan Woodard collected a rebound off of his own missed free throw and flipped the ball in. The rebound was the Sooners seventh offensive board in the opening second half minutes.

Oklahoma couldn’t capitalize on their second chances, however, as Hield missed his next four shots while Hart though who drained a tightly contested midrange jump shot with three seconds left on the shot clock to put the Wildcats up 15.

The Wildcats dominating performance was highlighted when Jenkins made a full court pass from the baseline to Mikal Bridges, who caught the ball over two Sooners and slammed the ball in the basket before falling to the floor.

The dunk was part of Villanova’s 25-0 run, which finished off any Oklahoma comeback hopes. Despite the rough game, Hield did become the Big 12 Conference All-Time leading scoring with 2,285 points.

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