August 4, 2007

1985 Georgetown team a juggernaut

Top 10 Profile
Final record: 35-3
Non-conference record: 17-0
Double-digit victories: 28
Average victory margin: 18.6
NBA first-round picks: Two (Patrick Ewing, Reggie Williams)

The Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown teams of the 1980s played for the national championship three times.

They lost twice - by a total of three points - and won once, in 1984.

The Hoyas were heavy favorites to repeat in Ewing's senior season in 1985, the year the NCAA Tournament field expanded to include 64 teams, up from 48. They spent most of the season ranked No. 1.

From their scowling 6-foot-10 coach, to the equally imposing Ewing, to a freshman Gold Gloves champion from New Orleans, this was perhaps the most intimidating team in the history of college basketball. It had size and speed, and it choked the life out of teams on the defensive end. It certainly is deserving of a spot in the Top 10 Teams Since The NCAA Field Expanded To 64.

"My freshman year, that had to be one of the best defensive teams we had," said Perry McDonald, a 6-4 guard. He was the scrappy left-hander out of New Orleans, one of only four players to appear in all 38 of Georgetown's games that season. "We had good perimeter defense and Patrick in the middle. We had Horace (Broadnax), who played good 'D', and Bill Martin."

The wing defenders could be as aggressive as they wanted. Ewing was behind them to erase any mistakes. The Hoyas led the nation in field-goal percentage defense, holding opponents under 40 percent. They held opponents to fewer than 60 points 21 times that season. They trapped relentlessly and dictated tempo from the opening tip.

"They're one of the best defensive teams that I've ever seen," said former Villanova guard Harold Pressley, who now works in the front office for the Sacramento Kings. "I still look back and think, 'wow, those guys were truly amazing.' We'd sit and watch film and watch them on TV and were in awe of how quick they were and how they could trap you. They always seemed to have everybody covered."

The Hoyas took their cues from the All-American Ewing.

"Patrick definitely was the leader," said Broadnax, a senior guard who appeared in all 38 games along with Martin and David Wingate. "He could play at such a high physical level.

"He was unbelievable as a college player. He had so much energy and brought it every night. He ran hard from one end to the other. It was a beautiful thing to see. He was no prima donna. He didn't cut corners. He really worked, and if you were gonna be part of that team you had to work, too."

The Hoyas entered the season ranked No. 1 and gave no reason for anyone to believe otherwise. They won their first 18 games, including a 20-point December blowout of then-No. 2 DePaul.

Georgetown looked on the verge of invincible, but don't forget these were the glory days of the Big East. Chris Mullin-led St. John's was near the top of the polls, too, as were the Orangemen of Syracuse.

Another Big East team also spent some time in the top 20 that season - Rollie Massimino's Villanova squad. It was a senior-laden team that controlled the tempo and also played stifling defense. The Wildcats were led by center Ed Pinckney, one of the few post players in the Big East who held his own against Ewing. They also had some talent around Pinckney in Gary McClain, Harold Pressley and Dwayne McClain.

1984-1985 Georgetown roster
10 Perry McDonald, Forward/Guard
12 Kevin Floyd, Guard
24 Bill Martin, Guard
30 Michael Jackson, Guard
32 Horace Broadnax, Guard
33 Patrick Ewing, Center
34 Reggie Williams, Forward
40 David Wingate, Forward
41 Tyrone Lockhart, Guard
44 Ronnie Highsmith, Forward
51 Grady Mateen, Center
52 Ralph Dalton, Center
Head coach: John Thompson

Getting through the Big East in 1984-85 was like negotiating shark-infested waters in an inner tube. Somewhere along the line somebody was going to take a chunk out of you.

"St. John's had a good offensive team," McDonald said. "They had Chris Mullin and Walter Berry, and Bill Wennington was a pretty good center. Syracuse, they were one of our biggest rivals. They were both really good teams."

The Hoyas lost consecutive games to the Redmen (66-65) and the Orangemen (65-63) at the end of January, and fell from No. 1. But they came back and beat them both in the regular-season rematches, ripping then-No. 1 St. John's 85-69 at Madison Square Garden and routing then-No. 12 Syracuse in their next game, 90-63.

As if that weren't convincing enough, Georgetown beat them both again in the Big East tournament. Syracuse fell 74-65, and St. John's got beat 92-80.

The one team the Hoyas played more than once that season that they never beat soundly was Villanova. Their first meeting, at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, went to overtime before Georgetown pulled it out 52-50. The Hoyas prevailed in the second meeting, but only 57-50.

"Fortunately for us we played them two or three times a year and we knew exactly what was coming," Pressley said. "They put fear into teams that never played in the Big East. But we'd seen them over and over and over again. We worked on breaking their presses and making something good happen after we broke the press.

"We completely knew them inside and out. There was not a play they could run that we didn't know. We heard them call the play, and we knew what they'd try to get out of it. Defensively we were set. Offensively we knew what their tendencies were - when they would trap and double and pick up the tempo. We didn't fall for all of that. We had chances in both regular-season games to beat them. Unfortunately we hadn't, but we absolutely knew we could."

Villanova sat at 19-10 after it had lost to St. John's in the Big East tournament. But six of those losses were to the Redmen, the Hoyas and the Orangemen.

Villanova received a No. 8 seed for the NCAA Tournament. Georgetown and St. John's were both top seeds. Syracuse was a seventh seed. Pittsburgh and Boston College also got invites out of the Big East.

Season Results
Overall: 35-3; Big East: 14-2
11/23at Hawaii-HiloW81-47
11/26at Hawaii-LoaW74-45
12/1S. Conn. StateW80-46
12/5St. LeoW76-56
12/8Nevada-Las VegasW82-46
12/15DePaul (#2)W77-57
12/19Morgan StateW89-62
12/22at New MexicoW69-61
12/28vs. TennesseeW77-64
12/29vs. N.C. A&TW61-56
1/2Seton HallW73-56
1/5Boston CollegeW82-80(OT)
1/8at Seton HallW90-70
1/12at VillanovaW52-50(OT)
1/19at PittsburghW65-53
1/26St. John'sL65-66
1/28at SyracuseL63-65
2/6Florida SouthernW71-39
2/9at Boston CollegeW78-68
2/16at ProvidenceW87-73
2/23at ConnecticutW68-47
2/27at St. John'sW85-69
3/8vs. ConnecticutW93-62
3/9vs. SyracuseW74-65
3/10vs. St. John'sW92-80
3/15vs. LehighW68-43
3/17vs. TempleW62-46
3/21vs. Loyola, Ill.W65-53
3/23vs. Georgia TechW60-54
3/29vs. St. John'sW77-59
4/1vs. VillanovaL64-66

The Hoyas smothered four opponents to reach the Final Four. They didn't yield more than 54 points in any of those games.

The Redmen and the Wildcats also crashed the Final Four. It was the first and only time three teams from the same conference made the national semifinals. Georgetown and St. John's squared off for the fourth time in one game, with Villanova taking on Memphis State in the other.

The Redmen left red-faced. The Hoyas destroyed them for the third consecutive time, prevailing 77-59. The Wildcats upset the Tigers 52-45 to make it an All-Big East final.

Conventional wisdom said hand the crown to Thompson's bunch. Since the January hiccup the Hoyas had looked every bit like the defending national champion. But they knew the Wildcats weren't going to roll over, even if the rest of the nation believed they'd go out meekly.

"When people talk about Villanova, we knew it wasn't going to be a cakewalk," said Broadnax, now the head coach at Savannah State. "We knew we had to play hard to win. Massimino played a controlling style. They would try to keep it in the 50s or 60s."

Villanova knew it had to value each and every possession.

"We had lost those two (regular-season) games because they got us to play their tempo," Pressley said. "They forced us into quick shots - not bad shots, but quick shots. Once you started doing that you were doomed."

Georgetown was able to grab six-point advantages a couple of times early, but Villanova hung with the Hoyas. When Pressley got a putback off his own miss, the Wildcats grabbed a 29-28 halftime lead.

Villanova's first-half shooting percentage was eye-popping. Pinckney and Co. had hit 72.2 percent (13 of 18). Surely they couldn't keep that up.

"We were drilled that it's a 40-minute game, and eventually we'd get it done at the end based on conditioning and pressuring people," Broadnax said. "But they shot it well, and they kept making shots.

"A lot of times teams would start to fall short in the second half because of the tempo and type of game. The final was a chess match between Massimino and Coach Thompson."

The teams exchanged the lead several times in the second half. The Hoyas used a 6-0 run to gain a 54-53 advantage with 4:50 to play, and they decided to try and run some clock. But Dwayne McClain came up with a steal, and it was the Wildcats' turn to manage the clock. With 2:36 to go, freshman Harold Jensen buried a 16-footer, and Georgetown never led again.

The final score was Villanova 66, Georgetown 64.

Improbably, the Wildcats had shot the ball even better in the second half. They hit 9 of 10 from the floor in the final 20 minutes, giving them 78.6 percent for the game. It remains far and away the best any team has shot while playing for the national title.

The Hoyas had shot 54.7 percent. Still, they had nothing to show for it.

"We were beating a lot of teams by double digits," Broadnax said. "We were beating top 10 teams by 20-30 points. We just didn't seal the deal in the end."

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for He can be reached at

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