HOUSTON – Sometimes there are no words. The looks on the faces said it all for Oklahoma. This wasn’t what the Sooners had come to the Final Four to do.
But it’s what happened. OU was in wrong place at the wrong time and on the wrong end of a history-making performance by Villanova in a 95-51 loss in the national semifinal Saturday evening.
The 44-point loss is the most lopsided defeat in the history of the Final Four as the Wildcats shot an astounding 71 percent from the field (35 of 49).
The question had been asked all season. What would happen when there came a day when the Sooners needed to hit their shots the most was the day they hit them the least?
OU shot 32 percent from the field on 19 of 60 shooting and was only 6-of-27 on its 3-point field goal attempts. In other words, a complete role reversal for when Villanova was the ice cold shooting team, making just 4 of 32 attempts from downtown in OU’s 78-55 win in Hawaii on Pearl Harbor Day.
“When they just started making everything,” said senior Isaiah Cousins for when the game got away. “I mean, they just throwing it up there, and everything was falling for them. I just figured that they pretty much had the game. But we just had to keep on playing.”
The hustle, the grit, the passion was still there from senior leaders like Buddy Hield, Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins. But with 2:39 left in the second half and trailing by 43 points, it was clear the magical ride for the trio was done.
The three seniors, to go along with Jordan Woodard, started the last 105 games together. The hope was for No. 106 on Monday evening.
Hield, who will no doubt go down as one of the most accomplished and most loved OU players in history, just couldn’t get on track against the Wildcats defense.
The senior finished 4 of 12 from the field and 1 of 8 from 3-point territory to conclude with nine points and seven rebounds.
“Just credit them, what they were doing,” Hield said. “Made it tough on me. Throwing a bunch of bodies at me. Just couldn't get it going. They made shots. We were trying to find a way to make shots. They just played terrific tonight.”
OU had done such a great job of playing with the lead throughout the tournament. The Sooners had never experienced what happened in the first half.
After leading by seven, 13, 19 and 18 points at halftime in the first four tournament games, OU trailed 42-28 at intermission.
The Sooners worked the margin down to 46-37 before the flood gates were busted open on a 25-0 run to put the game away.
“Buddy and everyone else, I thought Villanova dictated everything,” coach Lon Kruger said. “They were up into us the first half. We didn't rip it strong and attack. We were playing laterally instead of downhill.
“On the other end, you know, they were attacking us off the dribble, winning that battle as well. They just dictated on both ends of the floor. They were great. We didn't respond very well to it. But, you know, got whipped in every way.”
It was OU’s first Final Four appearance since 2002 and illustrates just how far the Sooners have come. It was almost five years ago to the day when Kruger was named OU’s head coach.
He didn’t want to leave UNLV. He has no reason to look elsewhere. He’s made the Sooners relevant once again. And though the senior trio, their mark won’t soon be forgotten.
“Disappointed these guys today have this feeling, but not disappointed in this group for what they've accomplished,” Kruger said. “They've been outstanding. I'm very proud of them. They've changed the culture of basketball at the University of Oklahoma and they will have an effect on the program for a lot of years ahead.
“Love every one of them. Very, very proud of them. Again, I know they're going to do great things going forward.”
Woodard was the lone OU player in double figures, leading the way with all 12 of his points coming in the second half.