Georgetown and Villanova. These two prestigious programs will forever be linked together thanks to that memorable April Fools’ Night twenty-five years ago when the Rollie-Massimino-and-Ed-Pickney-led Villanova Wildcats played the role of Cinderella, upsetting the heavily favored John Thompson II, Patrick Ewing, and the Hoya Paranoia. Times have changed. Both programs have had their share of peaks and valleys and star players since that game. John Thompson III now mans the sidelines for Georgetown in place of his legendary father; while Jay Wright, a Massimino protégé, is at the helm of the Wildcats’ ship. Yet whenever these two teams match up, talk always seems to drift back to that championship game a quarter-century ago.
On Sunday, January 17, 2010, these two programs opposed each other again in another scrappy Big East showdown, albeit with far less at stake. The fourth-ranked Villanova Wildcats defeated the thirteenth-ranked Hoyas of Georgetown 82-77. This time around, a senior guard donning Villanova colors—not a Georgetown senior center clad in Hoyas’ gray—is the biggest star on the court and the prohibitive favorite to win Big East Player of the Year. Scottie Reynolds, who grew up in Herndon, VA which is located approximately 23 miles from the Georgetown campus, scorched his hometown rivals to the tune of 27 points on 8-15 shooting, connecting on 4 of his 7 3-point attempts.
Nevertheless, Reynolds’ biggest play of the game had nothing to do with his shooting; it was his corralling an offensive rebound off a Reggie Redding miss with just under two minutes remaining in the game that helped the Wildcats withstand a second-half surge by the Hoyas.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 46-31 halftime lead using what Thompson III called “junk defenses,” forcing his players into bad turnovers. Thompson and his staff made the necessary adjustments at the break and his squad stormed back into the game on the back and broad shoulders of center Greg Monroe, who had 29 points and 16 rebounds. Junior guard Austin Freeman also played a big role in the comeback, scoring 10 of his 22 points in the initial four minutes of second half. The gritty Hoyas kept grinding away and were able to tie the game a couple of times after intermission; yet, they were ultimately unsuccessful in their attempt to get a second half lead.
Both this game and the 1985 title game resulted in Villanova victories; nevertheless, the Wildcats’ offensive efficiency on Sunday was hardly reminiscent of that Monday night 25 years ago. That night, Ed Pinckney, Harold Jensen, and crew scorched the nets, shooting an astounding 22-28 (nearly 79%) from the field. In the second half of Sunday night’s game, the twenty-ten version of the Wildcats conspired with the twenty-ten Hoyas to miss a combined twenty shots in a row at one point—hardly an offensive masterpiece.
Though their offense bogged down severely in the second half, the Villanova Wildcats made all the clutch plays down the stretch to secure another victory in what is becoming the recurrent theme to their season. From Taylor King’s reverse layup to regain the lead after the long drought enabled Georgetown to tie the game at 67 to Reynolds’ only offensive rebound to Reynolds and Maalik Wayns nailing 8 out of 8 free throws in the waning minute of the game to put it on ice, this team makes one big play after another to manufacture a way to win.
It is this versatility that has piloted these Wildcats to the best start (16-1) in Villanova history since the 1963-64 team began their season 17-1. And it will be this same versatility and clutch playmaking that will hopefully empower this current generation of Villanova players to create their own shining moment, one Monday night this coming April.