The matchup of top-10 teams figured to reveal a lot about No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 9 Villanova. The Sooners’ 78-55 victory showed more about what they’re capable of and what areas Villanova needs to work on.
Here are three observations:
The other national title contender: It’s a shame Oklahoma football’s selection into the College Football Playoff will likely overshadow basketball in Norman, Oklahoma, for another month. The Sooners’ basketball team is a legitimate Final Four contender. The checklist is all there.
Defense? The Sooners shut down a Villanova team that ranked eighth in adjusted offense, according to Ken Pomeroy, holding the Wildcats to a season-low 55 points and just 31.7 percent shooting from the field.
Depth? Although the offense runs through senior guard Buddy Hield, Oklahoma had five players score in double figures.
Star player? Hield, who leads the team in scoring, had an off night for him but still netted 18 points.
Deep Shots: Villanova and Oklahoma seemed to be taking their game plans from the Golden State Warriors. The strategy worked for the Sooners, whose leading scorer, Hield, entered shooting 52 percent from behind the 3-point arc. Hield made four of his first five attempts from 3-point range as the Sooners jumped out to an early 12-point lead.
OU is so dangerous from deep because it has multiple players who have to be respected. Center Ryan Spangler doesn’t have a lot of attempts, but he’s 5-for-11 on the season from 3-point range.
And their volume shooters such Hield and Isaiah Cousins — who was 4-for-4 against Nova from behind the arc — shoot high percentages.
That same strategy backfired for the Wildcats. They launched 11 of their first 16 field goal attempts from 3-point range and made just one. It wasn’t until they started driving the ball and getting to the free throw line that they were able to mount a comeback.
Half of Nova’s field goal attempts this season have come from behind the 3-point line. Only the Citadel and Eastern Washington have attempted a higher percentage of 3s.
If the Wildcats continue to be so reliant on 3-pointers, they’ll be prone to struggling in more games when they’re not making a high percentage.
Boards, boards, boards: Nova won’t always struggle shooting, but rebounding might continue to be a concern throughout the season. The Wildcats were bullied on the boards 41-33 by Oklahoma. The Sooners outscored them 10-2 on second-chance points off of eight offensive rebounds.
Center Daniel Ochefu, who had 10 rebounds against OU, puts up workmanlike numbers on the boards, but it’s going to take much more for the Wildcats to be effective.
It might come down to sacrificing run outs and having guards Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson emphasize crashing the boards instead of hedging for outlet passes. Arcidiacono entered the game averaging just 2.6 rebounds and Brunson was at 1.9.