Very little of true game action during the national semifinals at NRG Stadium in Houston.
The first game actually had Oklahoma leading briefly 13-12 on a three point basket by Isaiah Cousins. But each time All-American Buddy Hield touched the ball, there were at least two to three defenders hawking his every move.
Each shot was mostly altered and Hield became more and more frustrated. It was easy to find out how his body language changed so quickly by the end of the first half as Villanova went on a 12-0 run from the 11:27 to 7:10 mark. Then, during the second half came a record breaking 25 point run after a Ryan Spangler layup made the score 54-41 with 12:57 left to play. By the time Oklahoma scored even one point on a free throw, six minutes and three seconds had elapsed.
The result was the largest margin of victory in Final Four history 95-51 (44 points), as the Wildcats shattered the previous record during the 1979 first semifinal when Earvin “Magic” Johnson helped lead Michigan State to a 101-67 steamroll job over the Penn Quakers at the Jon M. Huntsman Center In Salt Lake City, Utah–a margin of 34 points.
Buddy Hield played his final college game for Oklahoma and finished with only nine points on 4 of 12 shooting in 36 minutes. Villanova was led by Josh Hart, who shot 10 of 12 from the floor for a game high 23 points. And yes, this group of Wildcats nearly shattered the 1985 title game winners for highest field goal percentage shooting a whopping 35 of 49 (71.4 percent). Oklahoma on the other hand got a lot of good looks, but I think that deep shooters background playing inside these cavernous NFL domed stadiums really hurt the Sooners to the sad tune of 19 of 60 for 31.7 percent.
For you hoops history buffs, ESPN mentioned on Thursday, March 31 during their Bottom Line ticker this interesting statistic:
It was the fourth meeting between a pair of 2 seeds. The winner of the previous three times, they went on to lose during the national championship (but that trend would end in very dramatic fashion the following Monday night).
Methodical, planned attack as North Carolina feasts inside to third win over Orange
In the second semifinal, North Carolina began the game hitting their first five shots inside the paint in this being the seventh all-time matchup of conference foes during the semifinal round (first since 2001 when Duke outlasted Maryland at the old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota).
The Tar Heels mostly made a living hitting many weakside layups and converting on almost every opportunity in the painted area. Small case in point happened shortly after Lydon’s three when Brice Johnson grabbed a rebound off a three point by Nate Britt and stuffed it home to tie the game at 16.
But Syracuse guard Trevor Cooney had other ideas. His first three point attempt bounced high off the top of the backboard before it dropped through the hoop 3 1/2 minutes into the game. Syracuse started hot, hitting 5 of their first 8 attempts from the field. Halfway through the first half, a left corner three by freshman Tyler Lydon gave the Orange their only lead of the game at 18-16.
But by the time Michael Gbinije and Malachai Richardson each picked up their second foul, the turnovers started to mount which led to more layups and dunks at the other end. Finally, Marcus Paige then hit an 18 foot jumper from the left wing to up Carolina’s led to 27-18 with 5:49 left in the first half. But somehow, Syracuse tried to cut into the deficit as Gbinjie converted on an old-fashioned three point play to make the score 33-27 in favor of the Tar Heels with 2:13 left. The key story to this game was weakside baskets as North Carolina made a living shredding that 2-3 zone. By the time Syracuse implemented a zone trap, it was partially effective but it was a case of being too little, too late after North Carolina held a huge advantage scoring in the paint by a 26-14 advantage en route to a commanding 39-28 halftime lead.
The second half was all Tar Heels which included an 11-2 scoring run as the lead ballooned to 51-35. However, Syracuse tried to get back into the game briefly as Trevor Cooney hit another three and followed that up with a steal and coast-to-coast dunk in a 2 1/2 minute span to cut the lead to 60-50. However, by the time Marcus Paige hit the Tar Heels’ first three of the game with 9 1/2 minutes left, the competitive phase of the semifinals ended. The lead grew to as much as 16 before settling at 83-66. North Carolina shot a healthy 35 of 65 for 53.8 percent, while the Orange shot 27 for 66 at a meager 40.9 percent. Rebounding was all Carolina by a 43-31 margin.
As Syracuse became the fourth double digit to fail to win a national semifinal game joining LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006, and VCU in 2011, Trevor Cooney tried as hard as he could finishing with a game high 22 points on 9 of 18 shooting. Malachai Richardson had 17 for Syracuse. The Tar Heels were led in scoring with four guys in double figures: Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson led the charge with 16 points each, while Kennedy Meeks had 15 and Marcus Paige finished with 13.
Concerning that seventh historical conference meeting at the Final Four, the last three instances that team went on to win the national title. So, expect the historical odds to be in North Carolina’s favor as it will be a true…
Clash of titans to decide title on Monday night
The champions of 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, and 2009 from North Carolina will take on Villanova, the one time giant killers as an 8 seed that happened to win the title the very same year this video rocketed up the MTV music charts by Austrian rock band Falco in teaching kids how to appreciate classical music:
See you on Monday night during the NBA’s annual night off.
The action tips off at 9:19 p.m. Eastern time on Ted Turner’s flagship outlet, TBS plus Villanova and North Carolina will have their Team Stream crews back one more time on TruTV and TNT.