Villanova forward Josh Hart was so focused during his team’s 95–51 win over Oklahoma in the Final Four Saturday night that he missed seeing Vice President Joe Biden in the stands. “I didn't know he was here,” said Hart of Biden, whose wife, Jill, earned a graduate degree at Villanova. (Biden went to Syracuse for law school.)
Hart, who led the Wildcats against the Sooners with 23 points, admitted that maintaining that kind of focus has been hard during the Final Four. He said that he relied on coach Jay Wright’s advice and experience to get him through. “Obviously it was difficult, a lot of distractions,” said Hart. “But when you have a head coach, the leadership that this team has, you're able to just keep everybody focused.”
Hart was Villanova’s leading regular-season scorer, averaging 15.5 points per game. The 6’5” junior shot 51% from the field and 37% from three-point range.
During the NCAA tournament, however, he had dropped down to be his team’s third-leading scorer. He was making 47% of his shots, and he was three for 13 on three-pointers.
Hart turned that around on Saturday night. He scored 15 of his points in the first half, and 12 of those were in the paint. That’s as many points down low as Oklahoma had as a team in the first 20 minutes. Overall, Hart went 10 for 12, and he had eight rebounds and four assists.
His dominant performance helped push the Wildcats to the NCAA championship game. Villanova’s 44-point win was the largest victory in a national semifinal. The previous record was a 34-point margin.
When asked about his state of mind during the game, Hart said that he and the team had come into the game with a defensive mindset. “We were so locked in defensively, locked into the scouting report,” he said. “I think that's just the mindset we came in with. Obviously we love when we can hit shots. But this program is really built on just dialing in defensively, being tough.”
Hart continued, “Not being rattled, just when things like that happen, look at your brother in the eye and say, Attitude — continue to be locked in.”
To be successful in Monday’s final against North Carolina, Hart and the rest of the Wildcats will need to bring that same kind of focus and determination.