Here's something weird about this year's Villanova team: The Wildcats are more reliant on threes than any previous year under Jay Wright, yet are also shooting their lowest percentage of his tenure from behind the arc.
That's a less-than-optimal dichotomy that proved fatal in Villanova's first big game of the season Monday night in Pearl Harbor.
The ninth-ranked Wildcats lost 78-55 to seventh-ranked Oklahoma in part because they shot way too many 3-pointers and didn't make nearly enough of them. Thirty-two of Villanova's 63 field goal attempts were from behind the arc, yet the Wildcats only sank four of them.
Especially costly was a 10-minute stretch to open the game in which 11 of the Wildcats' 16 shots came from behind the arc. Only one of those went in, enabling Oklahoma to storm to a 24-12 lead and seize control of a game it led virtually from start to finish.
Josh Hart, Phil Booth and Kris Jenkins are each too good shooters to keep hitting less than one-third of their 3-point attempts all season, yet Villanova still shouldn't be attempting more than 50 percent of its shots from behind the arc even if it improves.
The Wildcats have to display better shot selection.
Too many times Monday night, Villanova settled for a contested 3-pointer set up by only one or two passes, especially egregious considering Oklahoma is long and athletic on the perimeter but often plays without a true rim protector in the paint. The Wildcats should instead be moving the ball around, attacking off the dribble and seeking opportunities to finish at the rim or kick to an open shooter.
Of course, shot selection and poor 3-point shooting aren't the only reasons Villanova lost by 23 on Monday night. For one thing, Oklahoma is really good. The Wildcats were also uncharacteristically poor defending the 3-point line themselves, enabling Sooners stars Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins to both knock down four deep balls apiece.
Oklahoma's win validates its undefeated start and serves notice that the Sooners could be a threat to topple perennial champ Kansas in the Big 12. Villanova's loss adds to its reputation for not winning big games in recent years. The Wildcats are 62-8 the past two seasons, but they've been blown out in several high-profile regular season games and they haven't survived the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament.
That's a trend unlikely to change this March if Villanova is still taking this many threes and making this few of them.
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