Villanova Recalls Georgetown Upset

Sunday, April 03, 2005



It was April 1, 1985 when David met and beat Goliath.

It was a game remembered by many as one of the most perfectly-played NCAA championship games ever. It was a game few felt the undermanned Villanova Wildcats had much of a chance winning.

What the capacity crowd in Rupp Arena, and one of the largest national television audiences ever witnessed on April 1, 1985 was as stunning of an upset as there has ever been in an NCAA championship game. Head coach Rollie Massimino’s Wildcats claimed Villanova’s first National Basketball title by shocking one of college basketball greatest teams ever, Georgetown, 66-64.

It was a trio that coined themselves "The Expansion Crew," Ed Pinckney, Dwayne McClain and Gary McLain. And of course it was a typical Villanova team effort with Harold Pressley, Harold Jensen and Dwight Wilbur being most noticeable.

"Everyone wrote us off, didn’t think we had a chance to win," stated an emotional Massimino in a press conference following his squad’s dramatic win. "Every one of you (media) people said we had no shot, shouldn’t even play the game. No one thought we could do it, but I did and so did they."

And Villanova’s victory was no fluke. On April 1, 1985, Villanova was simply the best team.

The Wildcats, as expected, played stellar defense and controlled the tempo just as many thought they would have to in order to keep it a game. Massimino, in a press conference the day before the championship clash, stated that he believed in order for his Wildcats to upend the Georgetown Hoyas it would probably take a perfect game.

His Wildcats weren’t perfect, but they were close. The ‘Cats sank an amazing 22 of 28 field goal tries for a sizzling and unheard of 78.6 percent field goal percentage. Even more startling, the ‘Cats in the second half, when things really began cooking, connected on nine of 10 field goals. 90 percent field goal shooting! From the foul line the ‘Cats went 22 of 27, including 11 of 14 pressure packed ones in the last two minutes.

What made Villanova’s shooting performance even more startling was who it was accomplished against. Pat Ewing and company were the number one defense in the country and had limited opponents to just 39 percent shooting from the field for the entire season.

Having lost twice to Georgetown in the regular season, the two squads were familiar foes. Georgetown jumped on the ‘Cats quickly and enjoyed 10-6, 18-12 and 20-14 leads in the game’s early going. But for every Georgetown offensive, Villanova regrouped and rallied and when Harold Pressley followed up his own missed shot with just four seconds left before half, Villanova went to the locker room leading 29-28 while a nation- wide audience stared in disbelief. 

Villanova’s halftime lead lasted until 10:41 was left when the Hoyas moved into the lead 42-41. The lead would exchange hands five times until Villanova had silently slipped out to a 53-48 advantage. But Georgetown roared back and with 4:50 to go had a 54-53 lead. In possession of a one-point lead and the ball, Georgetown tried to spread the floor and run the clock. However, the ‘Cats Dwayne McClain, a player remembered for his many made big shots in his career, came up with a crucial steal and as Villanova patiently worked for a good shot, freshman Harold Jensen nailed a 16 footer to push Villanova to a 55-54 lead with 2:36 to go.

"I was totally open and I just shot in rhythm," Jensen would later explain. "They were so conscious of protecting against Ed inside that I had the shot."

Pinckney at the other end blocked David Wingate’s driving baseline layup and was fouled retrieving the ball, and after making both free throws, the Wildcats had a 57-54 lead. Villanova’s ability to sink free throws was crucial in the closing minutes and with 18 seconds left Villanova led 65-60. A Villanova free throw and two Georgetown layups made it 66-64 with two seconds left. Dwayne McClain, who had tripped and fallen to the floor, caught the inbound pass on the floor and when the final two seconds ticked off the clock, the victory was Villanova’s.

"Needless to say, this is probably the greatest moment in Villanova basketball history. I am extremely elated, proud and grateful for everything that happened this year. These kids were just great…I think we beat one of the greatest teams in history. Georgetown played extremely well and we played great."

For the Villanova Wildcats, it was a fairy tale finish.




Villanova Remembers 1985 Upset of G’town


Filed at 2:10 p.m. ET

VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Ed Pinckney was sharing an elevator with Pat Riley during their time together with the Miami Heat when the coach asked the big man about a far more exciting ride. “I want to know what Rollie said the second half of the North Carolina game,” Riley asked.

“That’s what you want to ask me?” Pinckney replied, incredulously.

Yes, from Miami to the Main Line, Villanova’s improbable 1985 national championship shadows the Wildcats no matter where they are. Ask Dwayne McClain, who played pro ball in countries all over the world and spent most of the last decade in Australia.

Whenever anyone recognized him, they always said, “Dwayne McClain, from Villanova?”

No upset in the NCAA tournament has ever come close to that April 1, 1985, night in Lexington, Ky., when coach Rollie Massimino led his team to a stunning 66-64 victory over the reigning dynasty of basketball and defending champion Georgetown Hoyas.

“It transcended basketball,” McClain said.

The win was a moment Massimino spent years trying to recapture. Others moved on, enjoying their place in history. But for one player, a stunning admission of drug use left an unwanted footnote

to an otherwise sparkling story.


Maybe it was the clam sauce.

Villanova wasn’t so much an underdog as it was an afterthought going into the NCAA tournament. The heralded senior class of Pinckney, McClain and outgoing point guard Gary McLain — who made a pact their freshman year to take Villanova to the Final Four — instead managed only a 19-10 regular-season record.

Five of the losses were to Big East rivals Georgetown and St. John’s, when those teams were ranked either No. 1 or No. 2. The other five losses were to teams that made the 64-team NCAA field.

Massimino, the fiery paisan who loved people and pasta (not necessarily in that order), was so fed up with his team in one of the final games that he yanked his starting lineup.

Certainly, there was little that made these Wildcats look like a title contender. But they played well to start the tourney.

Using stifling defense and a patient offense in the last NCAA season without a shot clock, they won games against Dayton, top-seeded Michigan and Maryland before a regional final showdown with second-seeded North Carolina.

The Tar Heels took a 22-17 lead into halftime when Massimino let his team have it — in the form of today’s special.

“You know what I want more than going to the Final Four?” he said. “I want a big dish of pasta with clam sauce. And a lot of cheese.”

The Wildcats looked at each other wondering whether their coach had eaten some bad linguini.

“He just wanted us to go out there and have fun,” Pinckney said.

Villanova rolled to a 56-44 win to advance to the program’s third — and still last — Final Four, which also featured fellow Big East teams Georgetown and St. John’s.

McLain, the cool, cocky catalyst, sealed the 52-45 semifinal win over Memphis State with four free throws in the final minute. Georgetown also won, which was good news for the Wildcats, who had lost three regular-season games to St. John’s.

The Hoyas, led by coach John Thompson and future NBA No. 1 pick Patrick Ewing, were the anti-Wildcats. They scowled and intimidated, while bullying their way to three championship games in four seasons.

No one expected Villanova to be competitive — except for the pudgy Massimino and his spunky team.

Massimino had another inspirational speech, this time telling Pinckney if he held Ewing to his season scoring average, the Wildcats could win.

“If he scores 30 against you Pinckney, we have no shot,” Massimino said.

Pinckney jumped up and said, “He’s not scoring 30!”

The Hoyas showed off their trademark physical defense on the last play of the first half when Reggie Williams shoved center Chuck Everson in the face and ran off the court.

Massimino stormed the court looking for a foul, then pumped his fist as he sprinted off to the locker room, his hair disheveled and suit on its way to becoming a wrinkled mess.

The slam served as motivation. In the second half, nearly every shot went in for the Wildcats.

They sank 22 of 28 attempts, including nine of 10 in the second half. They made 22 of 27 free throws, with 11 coming in the final 2 minutes. (Villanova also had 17 turnovers, but few remember that detail.)

Georgetown tried to hold the ball late in the game. McClain, though, came up with a steal and Villanova worked the ball around until Harold Jensen sank a 16-footer for a 55-54 lead with 2:36 left.

Pinckney blocked David Wingate’s driving baseline layup and was fouled grabbing the loose ball. He made both free throws for a 57-54 lead. With about 10 seconds left, Massimino told his team they had done it.

McClain cradled the ball as the last 2 seconds ticked off the clock.

Pinckney outscored Ewing 16-14 and outrebounded him 6-5. The Wildcats were feted with a parade in downtown Philadelphia and remain the area’s last pro or college team to win a championship.

“When your dream culminates right in front of your face, that’s a beautiful thing,” McLain said.


“I was standing in the Rose Garden, wired on cocaine. Nothing new about my being that way. I’d been high on cocaine a lot during my college days at Villanova. I’d even played wired in some games, including our semifinal win over Memphis State in the NCAA Final Four …”

Two years after the Wildcats won the championship, McLain wrote a nearly 10,000-word, first-person account for Sports Illustrated about his cocaine addiction at Villanova and stained the memories of the title run.

The chilling first paragraph — which began on the magazine’s cover with the headline “A Bad Trip” — told of McLain on a coke high when the Wildcats were honored at the White House.

McLain said then and maintains now that he didn’t take drugs before the Georgetown game. He also wrote that he snorted coke with teammates, although none has ever acknowledged using drugs.

McLain, long shunned for tainting the fabled championship, has since become a motivational speaker and made amends with Massimino and many former teammates.

“I have no regrets,” McLain said. “The man that stands before you today has learned from his past mistakes, but also has embraced his mistakes.”


Massimino would never again find that so-called one shining moment. His critics said that success ruined him.

Asked whether he changed, Massimino said, “I never really thought so.”

The Wildcats never got past the regional final again before he left in 1992 after 19 seasons at Villanova.

After stints at UNLV and Cleveland State, and a brief turn as a TV analyst, Massimino has returned to the school as an unofficial adviser. Although the Wildcats have never repeated their success, Pinckney, now an assistant coach, helped them reach the regional semifinals last month.

In January, the school retired a jersey for Massimino and honored his 1985 team in a game against — who else? — Georgetown.

In a cruel twist, the Hoyas won the game 66-64.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press | Home | Privacy Policy | Search | Corrections | RSS | Help | Back to Top


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: