In 1986, Patrick Ewing had left Georgetown for the NBA but the Hoyas were still a very solid 24-8. With Reggie Williams, David Wingate, Horace Broadnax and Michael Jackson, among others, John Thompson still had a solid team and the Hoyas entered the NCAA tournament with a record of 23-7. That went to 24-7 when Georgetown knocked off Texas Tech, setting up a second-round game with the Michigan State Spartans.
Jud Heathcote was still coaching the Spartans and this was seven years after Magic Johnson led Michigan State to a national championship over Larry Bird and the Indiana State Sycamores.
Michigan State was led by senior guard Scott Skiles, a 6-1 native of Indiana. Skiles was a very good, hard-nosed player but he had issues, having been arrested for felony possession of cocaine, misdemeanor possession of weed and he also was hit with a DWI and spent 15 days in jail for that.
He also got sent in for a time when he violated parole on a previous marijuana charge.
But he was a tough, hard-nosed guard who never backed down. At one point in the NBA, he actually took on Shaquille O’Neal. We’ve stood next to Shaq and you’d have to be a lunatic to fight a man that big. Where would you even start?
Back to Georgetown.
The Hoyas still had the aura of the Ewing era, but Ewing was gone and the aura was fragile. Skiles put a nail in it when he made a brilliant wrap-around pass to teammate Larry Polec. That’s at about 3:20 in this video if you want to skip ahead.
It was iconic because for four years, everyone was scared to death of Georgetown. Ewing was, in Cliff Ellis’s memorable phrase, agile, mobile and hostile, and no one scored on the Hoyas like Skiles and Polec did on this play. After four years of brilliance by Ewing, it was hard to imagine anyone even could. Skiles broke that aura like a plate glass window.
On the bench for the Spartans: a young assistant named Tom Izzo, who would be heard from later.