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Tournament Throwback: #8 Villanova vs. #4 Maryland (1985)

The Wildcats shut down Len Bias to earn a trip to the Regional Final

Given the cancelation 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 moments.

#8 Villanova Wildcats vs. #4 Maryland Terrapins

Regional Semifinal - Southeast Regional

March 22, 1985

The Daily Times - Salisbury, Maryland

As Villanova prepares for Final Four, relive 1985 NCAA tournament title run


Avenging a 77-74 loss at Cole Fieldhouse earlier in the season, the Wildcats’ team defense on emerging superstar Len Bias led by Ed Pinckney held the Maryland star to just 8 points, breaking his string of 52 straight double-digit scoring games. T

hat was the core of a Terrapin scoring drought that spanned almost 10 minutes and overlapped halftime. In an ugly game in which the Cats played a healthy dose of matchup zone, Villanova got thoroughly into the Terps’ heads, built a double-digit second half lead, then stalled away the last few minutes to reach the Elite Eight.

Adrian Branch did score 21 points for the Terrapins, but it wasn’t enough. Bias would die tragically from a cocaine overdose the next year after being selected by the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA Draft. Though many believed he would have ultimately challenged Michael Jordan as the NBA’s biggest star, he never played a professional game.

The Baltimore Sun

The Villanova Miracle and 63 Other Dreams


When Maryland met Villanova two months earlier, the Terrapins eked out a close win in a high-scoring affair. The rematch would be just as close, but without nearly as much offense, especially from one key player.

Len Bias, who had tormented the Wildcats with a career-high 30 points in their 77-74 shootout on Jan. 27 in College Park, Md., was held to 8 points on 4-of-13 shooting this time, thanks in large part to the defensive effort of Ed Pinckney. “Pinckney just guarded me well,” sad Bias, whose total was his lowest of the season and ended his string of 53 straight double-digit scoring games. “He got in my way in the lane. He didn’t do that much in the first game.”

“Len was getting frustrated,” Villanova’s Harold Presley said. “He was firing bad shots and Eddie made him think. Eddie got to him early and that was important.”

No less important was Pinckney’s offensive contribution. After the teams slogged through a first half that ended with the Terrapins clinging to a 20-19 lead, the Wildcats finally came to life early in the second period by ripping off an 11-0 run that was fueled by Pinckney’s seven points. The Terps, meanwhile, misfired on their first eight shots of the half but still managed to claw within 43-40 with two minutes left.

Villanova coach Rollie Massimino was a master of delay tactics and his ‘Cats milked a minuted off the clock before being sent to the foul line and ultimately icing the victory.

“We had three days to prepare for that game,” Villanova’s Gary McLain said of the first meeting. “We had all week to prepare for this one. You figure we should win if we have that much time.”

For the Wildcats’ three senior stars - Pinckney, McLain, and Dwayne McClain - it would be their third regional final in four years and their last shot at the elusive Final Four. “We’ll go as far as we take ourselves,” a confident Pinckney said. “The only team that can beat us is ourselves.”

WILBUR: To be honest, when we look back at the first Maryland game, I thought we got blown out. It was a funny game. I guess from a player’s point of view, when you’re getting yelled at and you feel like you did something wrong, that’s how we felt.

MCCLAIN: Lenny had a great game (during the first matchup), and he was a phenomenal player, but at the same time, our power forward, Harold Pressley, had a terrible game. I think Harold scored two points, if that. So we knew if Harold had even an average game and we did a better job on Len, then we could avenge that loss.

PINCKNEY: It wasn’t like your run-of-the-mill 30 points (for Bias). It was a spectacular, baseline-dunking, turnaround-jump-shot-shooting performance. He did everything in the game that you could possibly think of.

EVERSON: (During the first game, at Maryland), I came in in the middle of the 2-3 zone, and he got the ball on the block, he took a jump stop into the middle of the paint, jumped, brought the ball down between his legs, I’m already on my downward flight, he’s still in the air, I land, I hit him, and he flips the ball over his head for an and-1, which was the most athletic play I’ve ever seen up close and been a part of. He was so great, he could kind of do whatever he wanted.

Philadelphia Daily News

Philadelphia Inquirer