In 1985, Patrick Ewing and Georgetown were at the top of the basketball world.
Ewing had proved himself a ferocious center, a guy who could block a shot and then beat everyone downcourt to dunk the ball over whoever got in his way.
He was an amazing college basketball player.
At that point, the Big East had become a dominant power in college basketball. Georgetown, Syracuse and St. John’s were all riding high.
And then there was Villanova.
The Wildcats were an 8 seed and just 9-7 in the league. Of course that Big East was really, really good. Villanova, as you’ll soon see, led Georgetown twice at the half during the regular season but couldn’t sustain it.
People said they’d have to have nearly a perfect game to beat defending champs Georgetown for the NCAA Championship and they nearly got one.
In the last championship without a shot clock, ‘Nova was very deliberate and worked hard for the best shot - so hard that they only took five shots in the first ten minutes of the second half.
It wasn’t exactly a stall game - Villanova scored 66 points and won 66-64 - but they did use the clock very intelligently and carefully.
One of the most amazing things about this game?
Years later, Gary McClain admitted that he had a heavy cocaine habit and had used it in Villanova’s Final Four win over Memphis State although not, he claimed, in the championship win.
The game would mark Georgetown’s era of near-total dominance. After Ewing left, coach John Thompson’s lack of offensive imagination would be laid bare. Georgetown’s defense would remain intense for the rest of his career but he never was a gifted offensive coach.
The next year, some huge changes would happen in college basketball. First, the shot clock became a permanent part of the game. Then Duke’s rise was cemented with Mike Krzyzewski’s first Final Four trip. And after the NBA Draft, Len Bias would overdose on cocaine, which must have been a sobering moment, pun intended, for McClain.