Friday, July 24, 2009

VUHoops: Villanova to take on Maryland Terrapins on December 6, at BB&T Classic in Washington, DC

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

(Note: This post has been significantly expanded, from its original size. So, even if you've already read it once, please take another look at it, as there's now much more substance, on the Villanova/Maryland Sweet 16 game, during the 1985 NCAA tournament.)

As you know, the fine site VUHoops does a fantastic job, in covering our Villanova Wildcats. Earlier today (Friday, July 24), ed of VUHoops reported the following addition, to the 2009-10 Wildcats schedule:

The BB&T Classic will be held on Sunday, December 6 and will showcase Maryland against Villanova preceded by George Washington vs. Navy. The Maryland vs. Villanova game will be featured as Fox Sports Network’s ACC Sunday Night Hoops game and will air on most Fox owned and affiliated networks.
Accordingly, I thought that it would be interesting, to look back at the series rivalry history, between the Villanova Wildcats and the Maryland Terrapins. I also checked to see if Villanova had ever appeared in the BB&T Classic holiday tournament, but there was no record of the Wildcats doing so, in the Villanova media guide.

A journey between Villanova, Pennsylvania, and College Park, Maryland, is an easy trip: 132 miles and two and a half hours (depending on traffic, of course). College Park is in the northern suburbs of Washington - it's even north of the Capital Beltway of I-495. Moreover, both schools have grand basketball traditions, which include a national championship for each.

There's even a Philadelphia connection: the stunningly successful, but increasingly beleaguered, Gary Williams, head coach and alumnus of Maryland, is from Collingswood, New Jersey, went to the Palestra frequently, and aspired to play for Penn.

However, in spite of all of those factors, I was very surprised to learn that Villanova and Maryland have played a grand total of three times, and only twice during the regular season.

Ironically, all three games took place in 1985 and 1986, separated by just over a year. And two of the contests were during the mirabile annu (Latin, for "the year of miracles") - 1985, when Villanova captured its national championship.

Coaching, respectively, was Lefty Driesell for Maryland (whom, ironically, I had just mentioned in the 1969 moon landing retrospective post on Monday, when he was coaching for Davidson), and for Villanova, of course, the legendary Rollie Massimino.

January 27, 1985 - At Cole Field House in College Park, Maryland defeats Villanova, 77-74.

Two months later, in the NCAA tournament, the 8th-seeded Wildcats faced the 5th-seeded Terrapins in Birmingham, , in the Sweet 16. (It was the inaugural year of the 64-team-field tournament.)

March 22, 1985 - Villanova avenged its loss at Cole Field House, prevailing 46-43 (no shot clock or three-point line, back then). As we all know, Villanova went on to topple #2 North Carolina in the Elite Eight, and Memphis State and Georgetown in the Final Four.

Clearly, the deal had been for a home-and-home regular-season series, as Maryland traveled up to the brand-new Pavilion in its inaugural season the following year (1985-86).

February 1, 1986 - The Wildcats eked out a narrow 64-62 victory over Gary Williams's Terrapins squad.

The three games had been decided by a grand total of eight points. Perhaps the heart-stopping endings, were the reason that no further home-and-home series have ever been scheduled.

That having been said, it's surprising that come December 6, it will be the first time in almost a quarter of a century (almost 24 years) that Villanova and Maryland's paths will cross. Both teams have played in a lot of holiday and NCAA tournaments, and you'd think that they'd have met at least once. But it's not the case.

So come December 6, hopefully we'll see an exciting game, in the spirit of its three predecessors. And hopefully it will end the way the last two contests did- a narrow victory for the Villanova Wildcats.

Update - Monday, July 27, 2009

Here are some more details, on the aforementioned 1985 victory over Maryland, in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, on March 22 of that year. The source for these details is the outstanding book on the magical national championship, The Year of the 'Cat: Villanova's Incredible National Championship Story, by Craig A. Miller.

As noted above, Maryland had already defeated Villanova, during the regular season, on January 27. The primary reason for Maryland's victory, was an incredible performance by the ACC Player of the Year, Len Bias. Bias racked up an astonishing 30 point, 13 rebound performance, with teammate Adrian Branch adding 16 points, to lead the Terrapins to victory.

Rollie Massimino's strategy, was to prevent another offensive explosion from Bias. And the clampdown worked like a charm. Despite playing all 40 minutes, Bias shot just 4/13 from the floor, scoring only eight points, never reaching the foul line, while grabbing a relatively-low five rebounds and committing four fouls.

To put the Wildcats' defensive scheme in perspective: it was the first time in 55 games, that Bias had not reached double figures!

So how did Rollie do it?

According to center Ed Pinckney, after the game:
"The main thing I wanted to do was deny him the ball and make them lob over me. Even if they did, I knew I'd have Harold [Pressley] to come over and steal a weakside pass."
And Bias concurred with Pinckney's assessment:
"Every time he posted up, he [Pinckney] was there."
Undoubtedly, however, the main cost of that strategy was to permit Branch to have a tremendous game. Branch improved upon his performance in the first game, playing all but one minute, shooting 9/19 from the floor, 3/5 from the line, with five rebounds and two assists.

Fortunately, Branch was the only Terrapin, to have a fine offensive day. He scored nearly half of Maryland's points, scoring 21 while the entire Terrapin squad scored just 43. Branch and Bias were the only Terrapins to score more than four points, combining for 29 of the 43 points.

Maryland shot just 35.8% from the floor, making only 19 of its 53 field goal attempts, and going to the line just seven times, making five. Villanova also outrebounded Maryland, 40-29.

Of course, since Villanova triumphed by a score of 46-43, the Wildcats did not turn in a particularly good offensive performance, either. The Wildcats were only slightly better than the Terrapins from the floor, at 36.9%, making just 17 of their 46 shots.

The driving force behind the victory was Pinckney, the future Villanova assistant coach, who recorded a double-double with 16 points (on 5/7 shooting) and 13 rebounds, leading the team in both categories. 13 of the 16 points came in the second half. Of particular importance was his performance at the line, where the center made all but one, of his seven free throw attempts.

The only other Wildcat to reach double figures, was Dwayne McClain, who played all 40 minutes. McClain went 5/9 from the floor and 2-2 from the line, finishing with a dozen points, four rebounds, and two assists.

Villanova led early, 13-9, at the 8:21 mark of the first half. But Maryland charged back, and had taken a 20-19 advantage at intermission. Fortunately, it would be Maryland's last lead of the game.

Immediately after play resumed, Pressley, the junior forward, put Villanova up for good, with a putback off a rebound; the Wildcats now led 21-20, and would never relinquish the lead. (Pressley would ultimately score seven points and collect ten rebounds.)

Why did Villanova hold the lead for the rest of the game? Maryland was confounded by Massimino's defensive schemes. The Terrapins were held scoreless, for the first 7:10 of the second half. By the time they got back on track, Villanova held a commanding 32-22 lead.

A ten-point lead doesn't sound like much today. But in a game played with no shot clock or three-point shot, and Rollie's talent for holding the ball, it was a very formidable obstacle for Maryland to overcome.

Villanova still retained a 43-36 lead, with 5:4o to play in the contest. (The Wildcats would score only three points, in the remainder of the game, but it was enough to prevail.) Massimino then ordered stallball, one of his specialties- Rollie was one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport, in terms of his ability to hold the basketball successfully.

And Villanova, ultimately, was able to preserve its lead, through its solid free throw shooting, making 12 of its 18 attempts.

The late scare came, when Maryland, having scored four unanswered points to climb back to 43-40, fouled Pressley for a one-and-one, with just 1:02 remaining. When Pressley missed the front end, Maryland had its chance - but Pinckney stymied them. Pulling down the Pressley miss for yet another rebound, Pinckney was fouled- and he converted both ends of the one-and-one. Villanova now held a 45-40 lead, and went on to win, 46-43.

(Note: Back then, all common fouls, beginning with the fifth one of a half, were one-and-one opportunities. The reason the rule was changed to the current one - one-and-one on fouls 7, 8, and 9, and two shots beginning at 10 - was to reduce the payoff for Massimino's strategy, one which was widely used throughout college basketball.

The rule change was a great decision by the NCAA, as it speeded up games and made them more exciting to watch, instead of just watching teams trudge from foul line to foul line, down the stretch.)

Go Wildcats!

I'll be completing the Senior Farewell series, in which I'll be looking back at the Villanova tenure of Dante Cunningham, this final departing Wildcat. The Dwayne Anderson, Frank Tchuisi, and Shane Clark series are now completed...

There are two ways you can contact Villanova Viewpoint. One is by commenting on this blog. Comments are encouraged, and will always be answered. Also, you can e-mail (Important note: This is a different e-mail address than before. Please use this new one.)


Anonymous said...

Villanova Viewpoint: nice research piece. I am looking forward to reinvigorating the rivalry with Maryland! Ed'77

Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, Ed'77-

Thanks for leaving your comment, as well as the compliment on the Villanova - Maryland series history.

If you go back to the original post, you can see that I've added much more substance on the Sweet 16 win over the Terrapins, in the 1985 NCAA Tournament, in Birmingham, Alabama... I hope you find it equally interesting...

Keep up the great work over at VUHoops - you have an outstanding site over there...

Go Wildcats!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words, but I am just help out. Mike is the guy that makes it all happen. I enjoy your site too, and further enjoyed your expanded coverage of the MD win in 1985 ... can't get enough Nova basketball! Ed '77

Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, ed '77-

As well as the content, which I think is top-notch, I particularly like the site design, with the Block V in the corner...

Thanks for stopping by- keep up the quality stuff on VUHoops...

Go Wildcats!