HOUSTON, Texas – In less than 48 hours, Villanova and Oklahoma will meet at center court to determine which team will make it to the national championship.
While it could lead to the Sooners’ first ever national championship in men’s basketball, they won’t be facing an unfamiliar opponent.
“They are a great team. They are playing good right now, and we are going to have to have a really good defensive day to stop them and not let them get going,” said OU forward Ryan Spangler.
The two teams faced each other in December, with OU winning that game 78 to 55.
At the time, both teams were ranked in the top 10 and were undefeated.
During that matchup, Villanova only made four of 32 shots from the three-point line.
However, the Sooners say it won’t be so easy to defeat the Wildcats this time around.
“They will probably be very hungry just because they lost and they and going to learn from it. It was a fun game when we played them in December,” said guard Isaiah Cousins.
“We do want them again. They did smack us, and they have gotten better the rest of the year and we have gotten a lot better, and we are looking forward to another opportunity to play against them. That is not the only reason why we are focusing. We are focusing because it is our next game, and we know if we lose this game, we are going home,” said Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono.
Cousins is warning fans to not get wrapped up in December’s score, adding that Villanova will likely be the toughest team they have faced in the tournament thus far.
“They are a completely different team right now than they were back in December. They have a lot of confidence now and they are a completely different team now, better defensively, so it’s going to be a tough battle and I’m looking forward to it,” said guard Buddy Hield.
“We definitely don’t forget it. We watched film on it, and we’ll continue to watch film on it to show us what we can’t do. And if we repeat what happened, the same thing will happen. We took terrible shots. Defensively, we have to be tougher and together, rebound better. We have to close out shooters and make them take tough shots. We can’t get discouraged. Offensively, we have to do what we’ve done lately, be unselfish and make the right play. They have great team and they’re well coached. Hield is a great player, but everyone else is good, too,” said Villanova forward Kris Jenkins.
While OU is known for their ability to score on opponents with weapons like Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins, Villanova has a stout defense.
“They are one of the best defensive teams right now. They are locking up and making it tough on people, so we are going to have to execute Saturday and make it easy for ourselves,” said Spangler.
“I’d be nervous if I was them. But they have great guard play too, so it’s definitely going to be a battle in the back court and we’ve got to hold our own. I feel like that’s why we had the advantage when we played them in Hawaii. It’s tough to guard, that’s why when we’re moving the ball and playing great offense, it’s really hard to beat,” said guard Jordan Woodard.
Hield says it is extremely difficult to beat a team twice in a season, but believes everything has changed since the last time these two teams met in the Pearl Harbor Invitational.
“I’m not worrying about it. It’s a different game, a different atmosphere, different environment, different style of play,” he said.
“There’s not much relationship to the game in Hawaii. They didn’t make shots, we did. That’s kind of it. I was watching film. I was hoping to see a bigger difference than that, but it wasn’t anything bigger than that. They just didn’t shoot the ball very well,” said OU coach Lon Kruger.