When Oklahoma and Villanova scheduled to play each other for the 2015-16 season back in April of 2015, the Wildcats were coming off a 33-3 season and Oklahoma had just went 24-11. Oklahoma had also scheduled a road trip to Memphis to start the season and had a home game against Wisconsin, who was just coming off a national championship loss to Duke. They also had the Diamond Head Classic and a road match against LSU later in the schedule. So the Sooners non-conference slate looked pretty brutal at the beginning of the season to say the least.
But Oklahoma managed it pretty darn well and won every single game against non-Big 12 opponents. They beat Memphis by six, held Wisconsin to 48 points, won their tournament, beat Ben Simmons and LSU on a game winner from Isaiah Cousins, and they defeated Villanova by 23 points on a neutral court!
That last one really stood out as Oklahoma's signature win that earned them a two seed as opposed to a three seed in the NCAA Tournament. It also was Villanova's lone double digit loss all season and is the one outlier on an otherwise remarkable season. The Wildcats were considered for a one seed after winning 19 of their last 21 regular season games, but a loss in the conference tournament really hurt their chances. So they ended up with a two seed, and after defeating the only team on Oklahoma's schedule that they didn't beat, they're now on to the Final Four with a rematch against the Sooners on Saturday.
But let's look back at that December 7th match up, a game that now seems unimportant now but still hard to overlook when you consider the final score.
The game itself had a unique setting for a college basketball regular season game. Bloch Arena, which has a light brown hardwood floor and glass that allows sunlight to be reflected off the court, had about 4,000 in attendance for the 74th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks. In attendance were veterans from the attacks as they were announced and honored during timeouts throughout the game. There was also a moment of silence for the victims of Pearl Harbor during the pregame.
In the first half, neither team found a rhythm scoring the ball. Buddy Hield was the lone player on the court scoring with ease, as he got 14 in the first half. His effort was enough for OU to get up by double digits before Villanova started to creep back and make it tied a little more than halfway through the first half. But Oklahoma scored the next six points before the end of the half to take a 32-26 lead. The defensive effort by the Sooners was very intense all throughout the half and it would continue on for the rest of the game.
Villanova struggled in the second half to stop the Sooners offensively, which led them to trying to come back into the game with three pointers. It didn't work out, as the Wildcats shot 4/32 from three pointers and didn't get a lot of open looks. They didn't go off offensively as Oklahoma did in the second half and they were outscored 46-29 in the final 20 minutes. Isaiah Cousins three pointer to go up 60-44 was the final dagger, as Cousins ended the game with 19 points and 10 assists. The final score was 78-55 as the 23 point win over a top ten team was the most in Oklahoma history.
The strange thing about that score was that it didn't take a big night from Hield to win by that margin. He had 18 points and four rebounds which are both below his season average. Cousins, Ryan Spangler, Jordan Woodard, and Dinjyl Walker all scored in double figures and the Oklahoma bench scored 18 points, which proves that the Sooners need more than just Hield to be at their best offensively.
The deciding factor in the game was easily three pointers, as the Sooners scored 42 points off 26 attempts compared to 12 points on 32 attempts. The 23 point win could of easily been closer as it was for much of the game if both teams shot their averages on three pointers.
The rematch between these two teams might be decided the same way, as they both like to rely on the three point shot no matter if it's working or not. The result last game was a blowout, but this upcoming game is much more likely to be decided in the final minutes.