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On This Date in Sports April 1, 1985 The Perfect Upset

in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

 

Villanova stuns Georgetown 66-64 in the NCAA Championship Game in Lexington, Kentucky. In upsetting Georgetown, the Wildcats coached by Rollie Massimino played the perfect game. They ran a slow four-corners offense to keep the ball away from the Hoyas, while shooting 78.6% (22 of 28) from the field, including missing only one shot in the second half. Ed Pinckney, who had 16 points in the title game, was tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. 

The 1985 NCAA Tournament was all about the Big East, as three of the four teams in the Final Four came from what was the top conference in the country that season. Defending champion Georgetown coached by John Thompson was the top-ranked team in the nation and expected to repeat. St. John’s led by Lou Carnesecca had battled the Hoyas at the top of the rankings, were the top seed in the West, were also expected to be in the Final Four. Memphis State led by Dana Kirk was the second seed in the Midwest Region, while Villanova came out of nowhere as the eighth seed in the Southeast Region.

Villanova posted a record of 19-10 and went into the NCAA Tournament as the eighth seed. Unranked and unheralded it, the Wildcats were not expected to make a big run. Playing a road game, Villanova started the tournament with a 51-49 win over Dayton. In the second round, they upset #2 Michigan, the top seed in the Southeast 59-55. In the Sweet 16, Villanova edged Maryland 46-43 at Birmingham. To reach the Final Four, the Wildcats beat North Carolina 56-44.

Defending champion Georgetown went 27-2 in the regular season, beating Villanova twice. Starting the tournament in Hartford, Georgetown slammed Leigh 68-43 before cruising over Temple 68-46. In the Eastern Regionals, the Hoyas beat Loyola-Illinois 66-53, before slipping by Georgia Tech 60-54 to reach the Final Four. 

St. John’s who had battled Georgetown all season was placed in the Western Regional crushing Southern 83-59 in Salt Lake City. The Redmen survived a scare against Arkansas 68-65 to reach the Sweet 16. From there, they beat Kentucky 86-70 in the Western Regional Semifinals in Denver. From there, it was a win over NC State to get to the Final Four. The lone team not from the Big East in the Final Four was Memphis State, whose appearance would be vacated. The Tigers were the second seed in the Midwest, beating #1 seed Oklahoma 63-61 in Regional Finals in Dallas to make it to Lexington. 

Villanova continued to win on defense in the semifinals, beating 52-45. Dwayne McClain led the way for the Wildcats, scoring 19 points. St. John’s and Georgetown played twice in the regular season, with each winning on the other’s home court. In the Big East Championship, the Hoyas bested the Redmen again 92-82 to hold on the #1 ranking in the final pre-tournament poll. Meeting again in the semifinals, Georgetown won 77-59 to reach the title game for the third time in four years. 

At Rupp Arena, 23,124 fans arrived awaiting a coronation for Georgetown. Instead, they got one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, as Villanova played the perfect game. It would be the final NCAA game played without a shot clock and the three-point shot. Both of which would have made the Villanova game plan impossible. Playing four corners and waiting to take the right shot, Villanova held a 29-28 lead at the half. The Wildcats pressed on defense, unsettling the Hoyas. Each half was close, with the Wildcats making 22 of 28 shots from the field, including nine of ten in the second half. Villanova also made 22 of 27 from the free-throw line. The flawless game was the only chance that Villanova had to win, as they completed the upset with a 66-64 win as Gary McClain went to the floor and covered the ball to end the game.