“We play for the ones that came before us.”
The Wildcats are back to begin the 2014-2015 season. Although tonight’s matchup featured a preseason game, it wasn’t the everyday practice game. It was more than just a game. Sure the final score would have no bearing on rankings or standings, but tonight’s special guests made their immortal marks in history.
This season, Rollie Massimino and the 1985 Villanova Wildcats are celebrating their 30th anniversary of their amazing national title run. They pulled what has been billed, “the biggest upset in sports history” when they took down the Georgetown Hoyas. Villanova was a measly 8-seed, whose run looked like it would fall short when they faced the top seeded Hoya squad led by Patrick Ewing. However, the Wildcats had other plans. They pulled the historic 66-64 upset and the rest was history. The 1985 squad was invited back home, along with Massimino – the current head coach of Northwood.
Fans that arrived early to the Pavilion were given the opportunity to meet and receive autographs from the players of the 1985 squad. There was a nice display of memorabilia, including the hardware. Fans were able to take pictures with the national championship trophy. There was a special ceremony honoring the 1985 Wildcats. Each player was called up and given a warm reception as they walked down the student section steps. Unfortunately, Ed Pinckney was not in attendance, but he left a nice video message for the Nova Nation. Each former player met a current member of the basketball team, where they would be given their own framed jersey. Dwayne McClain was the final player to come out and he emerged with the national championship trophy. No pregame ceremony of the 1985 Wildcats would be complete without Rollie. Coach Massimino received a standing ovation as he walked onto the court with his wife at his side. It was a beautiful moment for a coach that led and inspired his team to defy the stacked odds before them.
The celebration had to be put on hold for the next 40 minutes, as there was a game to play. It was now a battle between student and mentor. Jay Wright‘s Wildcats against Rollie Massimino’s Seahawks. As a homage to the 1985 team, streamers came flying in from all angles as Villanova scored the first basket. The Wildcats took the technical foul, but it would not matter. Villanova raced out of the gate, bursting out to a quick lead. The Wildcats looked smooth on the floor, with excellent ball movement and forcing turnovers with good defense off of the press. Even as Villanova began to build a 20+ point lead, Massimino continued to display passion as he challenged his players and the calls made by referees. Of course, the NAIA school Northwood had a herculean task in playing a Division-I school like Villanova. It would require magic similar to the kind Villanova was blessed with in 1985. However, Massimino’s men were not going to pull an upset tonight.
The Wildcats took a 50-23 lead into the half. Their first half play was highlighted with a number of high-flying dunks, menacing chase down blocks, and hard pressed defense. In fact, Villanova’s defense was so good that Northwood would not be able to eclipse the 10+ point mark until seven minutes were remaining in the first half. The second half was more of the same, everyone enjoyed some playing time tonight as the Wildcats cruised to victory. Villanova was on pace to put up a 100, but when the final buzzer sounded, they fell just short. The Wildcats posted a dominating 93-50 performance over the Northwood Seahawks.
While Northwood is just a NAIA school, it was good to see Villanova on the court tonight. As a team, they looked wonderful, as indicated by the score but also the little things that made them possible. Dylan Ennis, Daniel Ochefu and Darrun Hilliard stood out tonight. Ennis did a little of everything, he was able to attack the basket and sink a couple of three pointers. He even added a nice highflying dunk in the first half. It appears that Villanova has answered the question of who will replace James Bell in the starting lineup. Ochefu was great in the paint. The junior center had a double-double for the Wildcats, with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Hilliard was the top scorer of the night, with 20 points. He was 8-for-10 from the field, including a 4-for-6 performance from three point range. Freshman Phil Booth looked solid, chipping in 11 points and five boards.
The Wildcats have one more preseason game before beginning the regular season. Villanova will take on Nyack at the Wells Fargo Center this Sunday. Tip-off is at 12 p.m.