This week in Villanova history: February 18, 1983

Nova Halts 18 Game UNC Win Skein

Cats Stun No.1 Carolina

By Larry Goanos

Neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night could prevent Rollie Massimino’s Villanova Wildcats from delivering their message to the college basketball world on Sunday.

The announcement, proclaiming th Cats to be one of the top teams in the nation, was punctuated by a 56-53 nationally televised victory over the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels. In the process of avenging last year’s 70-60 NCAA Tournament defeat, Villanova snapped an 18-game Carolina winning streak and joined an elite list of only four non-ACC teams to beat Carolina in Carmichael Auditorium in the last 16 years.

“There’s no question this is our best game of the year,” said Massimino after the win. “We played hard and the kids really deserved it.”

Determined to avoid the hole into which they had dug themselves against Kentucky earlier in the season on national television, the Wildcats built an early 7-0 lead on Dwayne McClain free throws, a John Pinone lay-up, and a three point play by Ed Pinckney, who was fouled on a lay-in.

Carolina finally lit up the scoreboard when junior Matt Doherty buried a foul line jumper at the 16:42 mark to cut the Nova lead to 7-2. Pinckney replied with an alley-oop jam off the feed from Stewart Granger, restoring the Cat lead to seven at 9-2.

Carolina’s standout junior forward Sam Perkins wasn’t about to let his squad wilt, however. The 6’9″ Perkins hit some picture-perfect shots to combat the aggressive inside maneuvering of Pinone and Pinckney. Sparked by guard Michael Jordan’s hustle and the roar of the home crowd, the Heels were able to knot the game on a Perkins slam with almost 2 minutes left in the half. Granger provided the rest of the scoring before intermission, a single free throw, to put Nova up, 24-23.

The Wildcats’ halftime lead was indicative of their relentless hustle; Carolina was out-shooting the Cats (42% to 32%) but Nova held the rebounding advantage (18 to 14) and had managed to launch ten more field goal attempts (31 to 21).

“Neither team shot well in the first half, although both had good shots,” said UNC Coach Dean Smith.

The second half tempo began with Pinckney and Pinone setting up shop under the boards for Villanova on offense, while at the other end Carolina’s Jimmy Braddock was busy airmailing jumpers from the top of the key. With the Cats on top 30-29, Jordan followed a Tar Heel miss with a spectacular move that resulted in a hoop to put Carolina up, 31-30.

The Heels’ lead was short-lived, however, thanks to a Pinone baseline jump shot at the 16:56 mark.

One minute later Villanova fans saw the season flash before their eyes as Pinckney hit the deck with an ankle sprain. Mike Mulquin proved to be a competent replacement. “When Pinckney got hurt, Mulquin came in and gave them a lift with an outside shot,” said Smith.

The Nova margin remained slim until a 2 minute span midway through the half gave Villanova a little breathing room. Freshman Harold Pressley sunk a hook, guard Gary McLain banked in a five-footer off a break, and Mulquin added a lay-up to advance the score to 47-37 with 6:35 remaining.

In order to frustrate Carolina’s comeback bid, Massimino employed a stall, a tactic very familiar to Smith, only this time the shoe was on the other Heel. The Cats executed flawlessly down the stretch.

“They went to the delay game early and we had to chase for an awful long time. Pinone really makes that go because he’s such a good ballhandler,” commented Smith.

Crisp, intelligent passing and sure ballhandling helped Nova to stave off the Tar Heel attack, allowing UNC to come only within three, and that being the final margin of 56-53.

“The name of the game is turnovers, and we didn’t run into turnovers down the stretch like we did against St. John’s,” explained Massimino.

Aside from the lack of turnovers, the Cats also improved their shooting percentage in the second half (60%) and finished the game with nine more rebounds (30 to 21) than the defending national champions.

“We congratulate Villanova. They did a tremendous job, particularly in the second half,” said Smith.

Dan Baker, the executive director of the Big Five, was very pleased with the Villanova victory. “Unquestionably, it is one of the biggest wins ever in the Big Five. It’s not fair for the Big Five to take the credit, but we’d like to think that the competition here helped prepare them [Villanova] for Carmichael Auditorium. We’re proud of their accomplishment,” he remarked.

Exactly how much significance can be attached to this important victory? At the post-game victory celebration in the Field House, assistant coach Mitch Buonaguro referred to the win as putting Villanova basketball on the map. Indeed it did, and all roads point to Albuquerque.