Tuesday, March 31, 2009

2009 Final Four: Villanova/North Carolina in the NCAAs - March 24, 1985 - #8 Wildcats Stun #2 Tar Heels, 56-44, in Elite Eight

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

Note: I am indebted to
the outstanding chronicle of the 1985 magical run, The Year of the 'Cat by Craig A. Miller, the long-time Sports Information Director at Villanova, for nearly all of the information in this post. It is a magnificent book, and I highly recommend it, for any Villanova fan- or even a non-Villanova fan who wants to learn more about the greatest Cinderella run for any NCAA tournament team, before or since...

Harold Pressley
scored 15 points on 7/13 shooting from the floor, adding three rebounds and an assist, and led all scorers in #8 Villanova's stunning dozen-point upset of #2 North Carolina in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday, March 24, 1985.
The Tar Heels had led 22-17 at intermission, but Villanova won the second half by an astonishing 39-22 margin.

Dwayne McClain and Gary McLain each added 11 points, while Harold Jensen - the hero of the championship game eight days later against Georgetown - also reached double figures with 10 points. McClain was 4/11 from the floor but 3/3 from the line and added five rebounds and a pair of assists. McLain played all but one minute, was 3/5 from the floor and 5/6 from the line, with a pair of rebounds and assists.

Ed Pinckney finished with nine points on 3/6 shooting, 3/6 from the line, seven rebounds, and three assists.

Also seeing action was Dwight Wilbur, who struggled in his nine minutes, going 0/3 from the floor, two rebounds and one assist. Mark Plansky played seven minutes, missing one shot, garnering one rebound and one assist. Chuck Everson played two minutes, missing one shot. All three went scoreless.

For North Carolina, Brad Daugherty had a game-high 17 points on 7/9 shooting, 3/6 from the line, and recording a double/double with a dozen rebounds. No other Tar Heels managed more than half a dozen points - R. Smith and Hunter each had six.

The Tar Heels shot a respectable 20/44 from the floor, compared to Villanova's 22/47, but fell.

The Wildcats had shot just 23.1% from the floor in the first half, as well as just 55.6% (5-9) from the line, but trailed just 22-17. A key sequence at the end of the first half:

The Tar Heels held a commanding 22-14 lead and had the ball, and given the lack of a shot clock and coach Dean Smith's ability to hold the ball, it appeared certain that they would take that lead into the locker room. But North Carolina turned it over with seven seconds left. Dwayne McClain rebounded a Wildcat miss, put it in and was fouled with one second remaining. After the three from McClain, the Wildcats trailed by just five, after being soundly outplayed during the first half.

However, after coach Rollie Massimino had some unique observations at halftime, Villanova's accuracy skyrocketed, as the Wildcats hit 16/21 from the floor, a glittering 76.2%.

According to the The Year of the 'Cat, here is an excerpt of Coach Mass's analysis:
"I told them something like 'Do you think I want to be doing this? Do you think I want to be screaming at you? Do you think I really want to go to the Final Four? Listen, there's much more to life than that.

Do you know what I'd really rather be doing now more than anything? Than being here in this room? I'll tell you. I'd rather be at home, sitting behind a big, steaming, heaping plate of spags [spaghetti]. Yeah, that's right. Macaroni. Linguine with clam sauce. I'd rather do that than be losing this game."
The second half was a different story. The Wildcats embarked on a 14-4 run during the first eight minutes of the second stanza to take a 31-26 advantage (it was a 17-4 run, going back to the end of the first half). A Daugherty hook shot lifted the Tar Heels to within one, 31-30, with less than 14 minutes to play.

But Villanova put the game away after the Daugherty bucket, jetting out of reach with a 12-3 run, with half of those points coming from Jensen. By the 8:13 mark, the Wildcats now had a 43-33 advantage. That might not seem like a big deal today, with the shot clock and three-point shot, but this was the last tournament without those rules. And Rollie Massimino was just as good at killing the clock as Dean Smith. A 10-point deficit, facing Rollie, under those rules - that margin was an abyss, something that offered very little hope for the trailing team.

And Villanova made its free throws down the stretch, hitting all but one of their eight attempts.

Coach Mass made an eerily prescient statement after the game, amidst the celebration marking Villanova's third trip to the Final Four and first since 1971:
"This is one of the nicest things that has ever happened to me. This is such an incredible feeling. But I hope this isn't it. We might as well hang in there, fool around and win a couple more."
The Wildcats, of course, went on to capture the national championship that season, winning their final two games in the national semifinals....

Of course there will be more content, both on Villanova's 1985 tournament run in general and the Villanova/North Carolina Rivalry History as well...

Over the course of the week, I'll be writing up previous games in the all-time Villanova/North Carolina series, culminating the complete Villanova/North Carolina Rivalry History. And of course, there will be a comprehensive preview of Saturday's Final Four clash - so please check back for more...

In the meantime...

You can also take a look at the other Villanova blogs included in Various Viewpoints on the right sidebar, for their takes...

Go Wildcats!
Beat North Carolina!

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