Bloch Arena does not look like an imposing setting for a basketball game, with its wooden bleachers and small seating capacity. What does make the arena worthwhile is its location of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In the Hawaiian paradise on Sunday,December 1941, thousands of Americans died. The response from many in the United States from this devious and treacherous act was to enlist in the military and risk their lives to combat militarism and defend American ideals. Many of those American ideals were placed on the back of the jersey of the Villanova Wildcats and Oklahoma Sooners. While simplistic, it is a whole hearted tribute to the sacrifices from past generations for ensuring the freedoms all Americans have today.
Now to the basketball game.
Oklahoma and Villanova have many similarities. Both of these programs are returning several key starters and reserves from last year’s squad. Each team was currently undefeated and ranked in the top 10 nationally coming into the game. The backcourts for both teams are their strengths and they both usually play a smaller lineup. While the two squads appear even on paper, the Sooners were able to overwhelm the Wildcats.
The Wildcats had a poor performance against Oklahoma and a blueprint to defeat the Wildcats was perfectly illustrated by the Sooners. They first knew that they would have to take away Villanova’s three point weapon. They knew that ‘Nova’s smaller lineup needed to be taken advantage of, which allowed them to outrebounded Villanova by 10. Additionally, while it sounds simple, they knew that hitting shots (46.7% from the field and 53.8% from 3) would also held upend Jay Wright’s crew.
There were two drastic issues with the Villanova offense in the first half. The Wildcats were passing the ball around the perimeter and settling for 3 point shots. The first problem with the 3 point barrage is none of the shots were falling, as the Wildcats were 4-32 from beyond the arc (12.5%) and 32 out of their 63 shots (50.7%) were from downtown on the night. The second issue was the ‘Nova offense, which was one dimensional and easy to guard. There were very few post touches or drives to the basket.
Oklahoma also held Villanova to one shot. Out of there 43 opportunities, the Wildcats only had 9 offensive rebounds. Overall the Sooners outrebounded the Wildcats by 10. The inability to obtain rebounds is a liability of a smaller lineup which will be predominantly used this season. The alarming issue is that Oklahoma does not have a dominant post presence which could mean a big athletic frontcourt could lead to the demise of Villanova.
There is an old cliché in basketball and that is live by the 3, die by the 3. On this night Oklahoma lived by the 3, going 14-26 (53.8%) from deep. The hot shooting was contagious as five different Sooners drilled a shot. Now the credit can go to Oklahoma for making the shots or to Villanova for not contesting the shots. While at the onset of the game, the Sooners were hitting uncontested 3s. But as the game progressed, many Oklahoma players became more comfortable and pulled up from several feet beyond the arc and were able to convert.
After the loss, Villanova will travel back home to take on La Salle on December 13th.
Photo: Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports