December 06, 2015

It's possible Oklahoma deserves its highest ranking in seven years, and Villanova could have a chance to challenge last season's program record for victories.

Another win could go a long way toward reaffirming each notion, but one of these two perfect starts will end Monday night when seventh-ranked Oklahoma meets No. 9 Villanova in the much-anticipated Pearl Harbor Invitational near Honolulu.

Each team will face its biggest test yet inside Boch Arena at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Oklahoma (5-0) had its highest ranking last week since it was No. 2 during the 2008-09 season, which was also the last time the Sooners opened with six straight wins. They started 12-0 that season before finishing 30-6.

They've had no problems during their early slate in 2015-16, pushing aside four consecutive opponents by an average of 30.5 points after holding off Memphis by six in the opener. Oklahoma's scoring average was bumped to 88.2 by a huge effort Thursday.

The Sooners cruised to an easy 111-68 victory over Central Arkansas by shooting 52.2 percent and sinking 13 of 22 shots from 3-point range. Much of the damage from deep came from Jordan Woodard, who took over early in the second half.

The junior point guard buried Central Arkansas with six consecutive 3s during a 3:30 stretch and matched a career high with 24 points. Woodard had never attempted more than five 3s and made just five in his first four games before finishing 6 of 7.

"Doesn't happen very often, you get a streak like that in a short amount of time," coach Lon Kruger said. "It didn't take long."

It hasn't taken much time for Oklahoma to reel in praise as one of the nation's top teams. A sharp offense led by senior guard Buddy Hield's 21.4 points per game pairs with a stingy defense holding opponents to 32.6 percent shooting and 25.4 from 3-point range.

The Sooners have yet to face an opponent like Villanova (7-0), which hasn't had quite as easy a time in the early going - especially in an 86-72 win at St. Joseph's on Tuesday in the Philadelphia Big Five series that was a closer game than the score indicated.

The Wildcats, who had 33 wins last season, got 18 points apiece from Kris Jenkins and Josh Hartby, and Ryan Arcidiacono added 17, including a key second-half 3-pointer.

Arcidiacono made 3 of 4 shots from long range after making just 2 of 11 in the previous two games. The Hawks went on a 12-2 run to claw within 54-49 with 14:06 to play, but Arcidiacono halted the spurt with a 3 and the Wildcats controlled the game late.

"When teams go on runs and we're finding some adversity, (Arcidiacono is) our leader," Hart said. "He's the guy that has that ready-to-go attitude."

A big storyline in this game could be Villanova's 3-point shooting. The Wildcats have shot just 30.9 percent while attempting an average of 31.4 shots from long range this season after going 11 of 31 against St. Joseph's.

Villanova has won the last two meetings in the series, including an 85-74 home victory as the nation's fourth-ranked team against No. 5 Oklahoma on Dec. 3, 2005. The Wildcats also won 67-51 in Norman on Dec. 6, 2006.

Oklahoma won the first meeting 78-59 in the Elite Eight of the 1988 NCAA Tournament.

You May Like