With 12:24 remaining in the first half and his team trailing 20-10, Villanova Wildcats junior guard Josh Hart stepped into an uncontested three-point jumper. The ball left his hand, and instead of taking its usual trajectory to the basket, it fluttered for a moment as if it were an unfolded piece of paper and not a large leather sphere before taking a nosedive back to earth, missing the basket completely and landing in the outstretched arms of a waiting Oklahoma Sooner below.
It was that kind of game for the No. 9 Wildcats (7-1), who suffered their first loss of the 2015-16 season Monday night, getting blown out 78-55 by the No. 7 Sooners (6-0) at the Pearl Harbor Invitational in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was their first regular-season loss since January 21st, when Big East rival Georgetown upset the then no. 4 Wildcats by a 20 point margin.
Oklahoma's onslaught was led by senior guard Isaiah Cousins, who scored a game-high 19 points and added 10 assists and six rebounds. The Wildcats had three players in double figures, as Hart, senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono, and sophomore guard Phil Booth all scored 10 points, albeit on a combined 8-28 shooting.
Poor marksmanship was the theme of the night for Villanova, who started the game 4-19 from the field and 1-11 from downtown. Oklahoma took advantage of their opponents' slow start, jumping out to a 15-3 lead after the opening tip. Though the Wildcats battled back to tie the game at 26 after a pair of Hart free throws with 2:55 to play in the first half, the Sooners never trailed, ending the period on a 6-0 run to retake control of the game.
The Sooners opened up the second half on a 15-6 run, and that was all she wrote; Villanova was never closer than eight points the rest of the way.
'Nova's long range shooting didn't improve in as the game wore on, as they finished the game 4-32 from three and shooting 31.7 percent from the field. The Sooners had no such issues, making 14 threes in 26 attempts, good for 53.8 percent.
Really, though, how the Sooners shot was borderline inconsequential. The Wildcats hurt themselves by consistently jacking up trey after trey and refusing to waver from that gameplan, even when the shots weren't falling. This is becoming part of a trend for the Wildcats, a team that takes a lot of three-pointers despite not being all that good at them. After tonight's game, 'Nova's three-point attempts are taking up 50.4 percent of their shots, even though the Wildcats are only making them at a 28.6 percent clip.
Villanova is averaging only 0.86 points per shot on threes, and while the belief within the program is that the shooting will get better, one has to wonder when the poor results from behind the arc cease being a blip on the radar and start being a cause for concern.
While the overall offensive performance was downright putrid, there were some bright spots for the 'Cats: Freshman forward Mikal Bridges continued to impress off the bench, using his length and deceptive quickness to snag rebounds and pick Sooner pockets. He also flashed some spunk off the bounce, and finished with five points, six boards, and three steals in 26 minutes. Senior forward Daniel Ochefu played only 21 minutes for reasons that remain unclear (and become even murkier considering that 'Nova elected to play a stretch with junior forward Kris Jenkins at the five), but still posted eight points and 10 rebounds.
Villanova returns home Sunday for a Philly 5 matchup against LaSalle before heading to John Paul Jones Arena for a date with No. 10 Virgina on December 19th. If tonight's game was any indication, the Wildcats still have plenty of work to do before that showdown in Charlottesville.