Three-point woes hand Wildcats first loss of the season to Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor



Pat Ralph

No. 9 Wildcats (7-1) was handed its first loss of the season by No. 7 Oklahoma (6-0), 78-55, this past Monday night in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Playing on the 74th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, the Wildcats struggled on both ends of the floor in the hot, non-air conditioned Bloch Arena.

Oklahoma’s high-scoring offense, led by All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield, shot a scorching 47 percent from the field and 54 percent from three-point land. 

The Sooners’ 14 threes in the game were a season high. Hield, who ranks in the top 20 in the nation in scoring, finished the game with 18 points. Senior guard Isaiah Cousins led the Sooners with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 10 assists. 

Oklahoma outrebounded Villanova, 41-33 and dished out 18 assists in comparison to only eight assists by Villanova. Senior forward Ryan Spangler finished with an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double in the contest. Junior guard Jordan Woodard added in 10 points of his own, while senior guard Dinjiyl Walker contributed 11 points off the bench. Oklahoma’s offense ranks in the top 15 in the country in points per game. 

From the opening tip to the final buzzer, Villanova didn’t play well in the Aloha State. While the Wildcats shot an abysmal 32 percent from the field, it pales in comparison to their horrific 12 percent (4-of-32) shooting from three-point range on the night. 

Senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono, junior guard Josh Hart and sophomore guard Phil Booth led the ’Cats’ scoring with 10 points each. Senior center Daniel Ochefu finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.

Both teams came out firing from three early in the contest, but only the Sooners’ 3-point shots were falling in the opening minutes of the first half. 

Seeing that the 3-point shot was not going to be their friend on Monday night, the Wildcats’ gameplan switched to getting the ball inside and drawing fouls in order to create better scoring opportunities. Rather than settling for threes, Villanova’s guards looked to drive the rim and get the ball to Ochefu down low. The strategy also gave Villanova an opportunity to slow the game down. 

After falling behind early, the Wildcats regrouped throughout the latter part of the first half after readjusting their offensive attack, and cut Oklahoma’s lead to six at the intermission. But it was all Oklahoma in the second half, as the Sooners outscored the ’Cats 46-29 after the break. 

The only positive takeaway from the game was Villanova’s ability to jump into the passing lanes, forcing Oklahoma into 14 turnovers. 

Other than that, there wasn’t too much to praise about the Wildcats’ poor defensive performance. 

‘’We have not started well any game this season and to do it against a team like that and to try to come from behind against a team like that, you’re going to be in trouble, and that’s what happened,’’ Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said.

Despite it being a 23-point loss, facing a Final Four caliber team with NBA talent this early in the season is just what Villanova needed. The game provided the Wildcats with a good measuring stick to see where this team is right now and how it has to continue getting better. Oklahoma is sure to contend for a Big 12 championship and could make a deep run in March this season. 

Oklahoma, along with Virginia next week, are teams that Villanova must be prepared to play late in the season. It also cannot be forgotten that the Big East already looks much stronger this year. 

In addition, Monday night’s game reaffirms the fact that Villanova is far too dependent on the three-point shot to win games. As the old saying goes, “Shoot ‘em up or sleep in the streets.” 

On Monday in Hawaii, the Wildcats slept on the beach. The Wildcats’ offense looked best on Monday in the latter part of the first half when it focused on getting the ball to the rim, forcing Oklahoma’s defense to collapse, and creating contact in order to get to the free-throw line. Getting high-percentage shots and running the offense through Ochefu will open up more opportunities along the 3-point line for Villanova. 

Next up for the Wildcats is Big 5 rival La Salle at home this Sunday at 5 p.m.