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Villanova’s win stirs up memories of Wildcats’ 1985 performance

March 25, 2016 Columns 1 Comment

The circumstances, of course, were much different and not nearly as dramatic, but Villanova’s 92-69 demolition of Miami Thursday night in the first game of the NCAA tourney’s “Sweet 16” brought back memories of another earlier Wildcats’ performance.

We’re talking here, of course, of the win over Georgetown in the 1985 national championship game that ranks as one of the greatest (the greatest in my book) upsets in tournament history.

Nobody was giving the Wildcats much of a shot, if any, that night in Lexington, Kentucky. The prevailing thought was that the Patrick Ewing-led Hoyas had pretty much clinched the title with their 77-59 win over Chris Mullin’s St. John’s club in the semifinals.

After all, Villanova had lost 89-75 to St. John’s less than a month before in the Big East tourney semifinals and came into the tournament as an eighth-seed in its region while the Hoyas were No. 1 in theirs and generally considered No. 1 overall in the 64-team field.

The Wildcats, who knocked off Memphis in the humdrum semifinal, also had lost twice to the Hoyas in the regular season, though both were close games (52-50 and 57-50), something that not many really gave much notice to.

Most were too busy comparing No. 1-seeded Georgetown to the UCLA teams that won 10 national titles over a 12-year period from 1964 through 1975.

But as one writer led his game story after Villanova’s win (ahem), they don’t make dynasties the way they used to.

Villanova played a near perfect 40 minutes to oust Georgetown 66-64 and deny the Hoyas a second consecutive championship.

Here are some comparisons between that game and the whipping the Wildcats put on the Hurricanes Thursday night:

In 1985, the Wildcats made 22 of their 28 field goal attempts for 78.6 percent against a Georgetown defense that had held its opponents to under 40 percent for the year. Nobody missed more than two shots, and Harold Jensen (5 of 5) and Gary McLain (3 of 3) were perfect from the field.

Thursday, the Wildcats were 32 of 51 from the field for 62.7 percent, 20 points higher than what Miami had allowed its previous 34 opponents. Nobody was perfect, but Kris Jenkins was 8 of 10 and Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono each 7 of 11 from the floor.

In 1985, the Wildcats were 22 of 27 from the free throw line (81.5 percent). Nobody missed more than one attempt.

Thursday they were 18 of 19 (94.7). Jenkins had the only miss.

In 1985, Georgetown also had a good shooting night, going 29 of 53 (54.7 percent from the field and 6 of 8 (75 percent) from the free throw line.

Thursday Miami was 25 of 47 from the floor (53.2 percent) and 9 of 13 (69.2 percent) from the stripe.

There were differences, of course. There were no three-point baskets in 1985 and no shot clock either. (There is some irony in that the last contest played in the pre-shot clock era produced one of college basketball’s greatest games.)

Also in 1985, three starters-Howard Pressley, Dwayne McClain and McLain-each played 40 minutes. Ed Pinckney, named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, played 37 minutes, Jensen 34. That left only nine minutes to be distributed among three subs.

No player was on the court for more than 35 minutes against Miami, and the final margin let coach Jay Wright get 11 players into the game, three coming in for a minute apiece.

One other big difference: The 1985 game will remain among the greatest upsets ever for all time to come. Thursday’s game was far from an upset and likely will be eclipsed by events still to come in this year’s tourney.

Still, it was hard not to think back to that April Fools’ Day night in Rupp Arena watching the Wildcats carve up the Hurricanes.

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Adam Glatczak says:

    Good stuff Paul, really enjoyed this. I was a tad young to see that game (1987 was first tourney I watched) but have watched the replay of it, one of the all-time championship performances.

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