- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
So the Wildcats were more than ready for the champs' nightly dose of snarling and posturing. As when Hoya Reggie Williams confronted McClain early on and mentioned something about "kicking your ass." As when Hoya Michael Jackson pressed McLain into a ballhandling error and suddenly jabbed a finger near his face. "I'm used to that," said Gizmo. "That's not classy. We walked away from two incidents. The classy program was going to win this championship. We're very classy. "There was yet a third incident when, on the last play of the opening half, the spindly Williams, having received a muscular block-out from Villanova sub center Chuck Everson, responded by slapping Everson on the chin.
By then Villanova led 29-28 and there would be no extracurricular nonsense from the Hoyas thereafter. Unlike their routine 77-59 thrashing of St. John's in the other semifinal, this was it, the battle of the Hoyas' lives.
In a contest of rhythms and wills, Georgetown coach John Thompson had unilaterally reversed the tone for good when he removed his most elusive scorer, Williams, midway through the first half. At that point Villanova had made seven of its eight shots. Still, the Cats were behind 20-14, Williams having scored four baskets himself. "Reggie was winded," said Thompson, who then proceeded to run him in and out of the game, alternating him with defensive specialist Horace Broadnax. After his 10-point first half, Williams came up empty in the second.
Ewing had forged his imprint on the game with three straight monster slams before intermission, and then the great center began to tighten the defensive screws in the second half.
But 'Nova was ready for that, too. After McLain would beat Jackson's pressure over midcourt, the heady Gizmo would slow the game to a crawl, set up and command the team to work patiently. Let the Hoyas scratch and bray and intimidate. Animosity never killed no Cats. Pinckney, Harold Pressley, even Jensen, continued taking the ball straight down the pipe at Ewing. And at the other end 'Nova's mystifying matchup zone in all its alterations had Ewing positively locked in prison.
Unable to uncover their hole card buried in this stacked deck, the Hoyas had to deal from afar: 53 shots for the game compared to just 28 for Villanova. Georgetown connected on 54.7%, good enough to win oh, say, two-thirds of all the NCAA championship games ever played. But this wasn't a mere game to 'Nova, remember. This was a crusade.
Twice Villanova, always struggling, pushed its second-half lead, once to six points, at 38-32, then to five, at 53-48. On both occasions Georgetown, like an army defending its king, fought back. Moreover, when the Hoyas' David Win-gate (16 points) drilled a fairly outrageous banker from the wing with Pressley draped all over him, Georgetown, leading 54-53 with 4:50 left, looked to be the stronger side. After Ewing forced Pinckney to cough up the ball, making it three straight possessions on which 'Nova failed to score, Georgetown was ready to begin its dread spread offense and close out the game. But this time the Hoyas blinked. Bill Martin threw a fate-fully bad pass off the foot of Broadnax, and the ball went over to Villanova.
Massimino abruptly called time out. "Settle down," he told his players. "Run a play. Look. This [ Georgetown] is a great team. They were going to make a run all along. But we're going to win this game."
And so here they came again. Jensen set up on the right side. When the now tentative Hoyas chased McLain left, Gizmo reversed the ball to McClain who got it to Jensen. And there it was at 2:36, the opening. Zing—bull's-eye, 55-54 Cats. Villanova would finish with 22 field goals (of 28) and 22 free throws (of 27). Twenty-two-skidoo.
Two minutes, 11 seconds showed on the clock when Jensen rubbed Pinckney's head for luck. Then Eddie E-Z'd in the first pair of 11 Villanova free throws down the stretch. When Pressley went to the line with 10 seconds to go, Jensen ran over to the sideline and gleefully kissed the bald pate of septuagenarian trainer Jake Nevin, there in his wheelchair alongside the Wildcat bench.