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The Can't-Miss Team? It's Villanova : Underdogs Hit 78.6%, End Georgetown's Bid, 66-64

April 02, 1985|MIKE LITTWIN | Times Staff Writer

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Well, it's time to scratch another would-be dynasty. Blame it on the Villanova.

In the second upset of the century in just three years, Villanova beat Georgetown, 66-64, to win the NCAA basketball championship Monday night at Rupp Arena.

Everyone seemed ready to concede this one to Georgetown, the defending champion. Everyone but Villanova, of course.

One of these days, we're going to catch on. They play these games for a reason.

Like North Carolina State two years ago against Houston, the Villanova Wildcats, a hot team on the make, a team unafraid, played the game of a lifetime. This is how well the Wildcats, 9-point underdogs, played: They shot a tournament-record 78.6% from the field for the game and 90% for the second half against what must surely be the best defense in the nation.

Coach Rollie Massimino had said his team would have to play a perfect game to beat Georgetown, a team for the ages.

"Look at the percentages," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "They couldn't do much better."

And so the Patrick Ewing era at Georgetown ends, with one championship and two second-place finishes for the 7-foot senior. Not bad, of course, but nothing for the poets to write about. They can catch him next in the NBA.

"We might not have won the ball game, but I still think we're No. 1," Ewing said.

The Hoyas played well, shooting a cool 55% themselves. That's the odd thing about this game. But the Wildcats, playing with shatter-proof confidence, took good shots, made tough shots and put the game away on the foul line, hitting 22 of 27.

Perfect? Mary Lou Retton would understand.

And when it ended, Dwayne McClain clutching the basketball to his chest as the final ticks were squeezed from the clock, Villanova understood what that impossible dream was all about.

"We weren't afraid to lose," Massimino said. "We came to win."

That was it, as much as anything else. Villanova (25-10) was not afraid. The Wildcats, who came from the same Big East Conference as Georgetown, had played the Hoyas twice this season, once taking them to overtime. They knew it was possible, even if no one else did.

When, in one stretch in the first half, Ewing made three dunks in a row, two on lob passes, a lesser team might have folded. Villanova had seen it all before.

The Wildcats lost 10 times this season, but they were ready to believe.

"I didn't feel we were Cinderella at all," said Harold Jensen, the reserve sophomore guard who came off the bench to score 14 points, hitting all five of his shots from the field. What does he know about impossibility?

He came into the tournament averaging four points a game, beat Dayton with a last-second jumper and then scored 10 points in the second half to lead Villanova past North Carolina in the regional final.

Georgetown kept putting him on the foul line or putting McClain on the foul line, and the Wildcatscalmly sank one after another.

Only when it was over did the customary celebrating begin.

Oh, maybe it was with 45 seconds that little Gary McLain, the point guard who threaded Georgetown's trap defense and gave up the ball twice all night, began a little dance. Later, he would lock into an embrace with his friend and teammate, Ed Pinckney, who scored 16 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, playing Ewing even up.

Sure, McLain could dance. Remember, Georgetown played well, and somehow Villanova managed to play better.

You don't really explain such phenomena, you just enjoy it. The guy who had the toughest shooting night for Villanova was Harold Pressley. He made 4 of 6.

And yet, Georgetown (35-3), despite Villanova's incredible night, was very much in position to win the game.

David Wingate (16 points) hit a tough jumper off the glass over Pressley to put Georgetown ahead, 54-53, with 4:48 to play. Pinckney, battling Ewing under the basket, got the ball in position to score but lost it out of bounds.

Thompson then spread the floor, calling for his four-corner stall offense. But Bill Martin bounced a pass off teammate Horace Broadnax's foot and Dwayne McClain picked up the loose ball.

It was a minute later before Villanova, the tempo team whose rhythm is slow jazz, took its next shot. Jensen was wide open and hit a 15-footer. Wingate tried the baseline for Georgetown but got tied up by Pinckney, who stole the ball. He was fouled and made two free throws.

When Wingate missed a jumper, Jensen got the long rebound, got fouled and made his two free throws to put the Villanova lead at 59-54 with 1:24 to play.

The lead was still five points with 18 seconds to play when McClain hit two more free throws. But two Michael Jackson drives and one Villanova free throw put the score at 66-64 with two seconds to play. All Villanova had to do was get the ball inbounds.

Against most teams, that's not a problem. Georgetown is not most teams.

Jensen inbounded the ball to McClain, who ran into Wingate, both players falling to the floor. McClain received the ball on his knees and covered it with his body.

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