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Tournament Throwback: #8 Villanova vs. #9 Dayton (1985)

The ‘Cats squeaked by Dayton to begin their legendary run

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Given the cancellation of this year’s NCAA Tournament, we have decided to use the next few weeks to look back and remember Villanova’s greatest tournament successes of the past. We will be walking through Villanova’s three National Championships on a game-by-game basis. So, as you’re locked inside quarantining and social distancing, share your thoughts, memories, and stories as we relive Villanova’s greatest runs.

#8 Villanova Wildcats vs. #9 Dayton Flyers

First Round - Southeast Regional

March 15, 1985

On March 15, 1985, the Villanova Wildcats kicked off an NCAA Tournament that would ultimately culminate in the school’s first National Championship. The Wildcats had wrapped up the regular season at 18-9 and were coming off being bounced by St. John’s in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament.

The ‘Cats were put in the Southeast Region as an 8-seed and, in a match-up that would’ve given this board some fodder (and days of conspiracy theories), were sent to face the #9 Dayton Flyers in...Dayton, Ohio. The Michigan Wolverines, led by Roy Tarpley, were the #1 seed in the Southeast Region and were likely to face the ‘Cats should they advance against the Flyers.

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Let’s look back at how the game transpired:

Villanova and Dayton played so evenly all game-long Friday...


With the score tied 49-49, Villanova’s Harold Jensen streaked out of a delay offense and hit an easy layup with 70 seconds left to lift the Wildcats to a 51-49 win over Dayton in the NCAA Southeast Regionals.

Dayton held onto the ball until 10 seconds remained, when Dan Christie missed a long jumper. Dayton rebounded and Sedric Toney fired another long jumper that was off the mark and rebounded by Villanova’s Ed Pinckney, who was immediately fouled with only three seconds left.

Pinckney missed his free throw, Dayton rebounded and called time out with one second remaining. But a full-court pass was intercepted by Villanova’s Harold Pressley at the buzzer.

Dayton Daily News

The Villanova Miracle and 63 Other Dreams


Rollie Massimino took his #8 seed Wildcats and his perfect 7-0 record in the opening round of the NCAA tournament into Dayton, Ohio to face the #9 seed Dayton Flyers. Rollie was disappointed by his #8 seeding, but having to face Dayton on their home court, where they only lost twice all year, made him absolutely livid. He used the NCAA’s slight to motivate his team. His Cats responded with a 51-49 victory in a game that could have gone either way.

Dayton was able to go toe-to-toe with Villanova thanks to some dead-eye foul shooting. The Flyers made all 17 of their attempts and had the sellout crowd of 13,260 roaring when they took a 49-47 lead, but Pinckney silenced the throng with a game-tying layup with 3:34 remaining.

Ed Pinckney was the best player on the floor, finishing with a game-high 20 points while completely dominating Dayton star Dave Colbert, whose 5 points were 13 below his season average.

“We’re just too small,” Flyers coach Don Donoher bemoaned. “And Pinckney is such a force in there, it was hard for Dave to go inside to get post-up shots.”

STEVE LAPPAS, assistant coach: (Dayton coach Don) Donoher was such a great coach with no clock, and they were holding the ball with the score tied (at 49-49, with three minutes left in the game). Then Pres stole the ball from Anthony Grant in the corner (with 2:40 to go).

PRESSLEY: It was really just a matter of where (Grant) had the ball. It was really wide open, right in my face, like, “I know you can’t take this.” I was almost like, “Please, are you serious? I’ve got quick hands. I’m a defensive specialist.” It wasn’t a difficult thing; it was there and I took it, and that’s all there was to it. It wasn’t anything magical, I just reached out and grabbed the ball.

BUONAGURO: That was the play that turned the game, that steal. They were holding the ball and it kind of turned the momentum around. They had gone to a delay and we were the ones who were able to convert.

Philadelphia Daily News

Philadelphia Inquirer