'Cats rise in Dayton's place

(Published in Daily News, March 16, 1985)

DAYTON, Ohio - Villanova center Ed Pinckney has been watching the promos for the NCAA tournament on ESPN.

And the Wildcats' 6-9 senior has gotten hooked on a feeling after hearing the sound track that accompanies the ad campaign.

"ESPN calls it, 'One More Night,' " Pinckney said. "And that's how we feel. We want to play one more night to show that Villanova can hold its own with anyone in the country."

The Wildcats will get that chance here tomorrow when they play Big 10 champion Michigan, the No. 2-ranked team in the country, in a nationally televised (Channel 10) game at noon at the Dayton Arena.

Villanova (20-10) advanced to a meeting with the mighty Wolverines by edging well-coached Dayton, 51-49, before a sellout crowd of 13,260 here last night.

The victory marked the eighth consecutive time the Wildcats had won their opening game in the NCAA tournament and served as another showcase for Pinckney's enormous talents.

Pinckney scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds against the smaller Flyers (19-10). He not only helped the 'Cats establish an effective inside power game, but he also helped neutralize 6-7 junior center Dave Colbert, Dayton's leading scorer.

Colbert came into the game averaging nearly 18 points. But he could manage only two field goals and five points against the Wildcats.

"We're just too small," Dayton coach Don Donoher said. "And Pinckney is such a force in there, it was hard for Dave to go inside to get post-up shots. He just couldn't get over top of him.

"When you watch tapes of Pinckney and then you see him live when it counts, he's a whole lot better than I thought."

Pinckney, who shot 6-for-10 from the field and 8-for-13 from the line, may well be the best center in college basketball shorter than 7 feet. He has been the one constant in coach Rollie Massimino's lineup all year. Pinckney was the 'Cats' only offense in the first half when both teams struggled and Dayton took a 23-21 lead into the locker room. He was Villanova 's salvation in the second half.

"We tried to go to Ed down the stretch," Massimino said. "He did a great job getting open."

Pinckney worked hard enough to put both Colbert and 6-9 backup Jeff Zern in foul trouble, domimating Colbert and eventually fouling Zern out with 7:22 to go. Pinckney, who was fouled while trying to post up, converted both ends of a one-and-one to give the Wildcats a 47-43 lead.

Then, after Dayton scored six consecutive points to take a 49-47 lead, Pinckney tied the game again with 3:34 to go on a layup, setting the stage for a dramatic finish.

Pinckney had to share center stage with sophomore guard Harold Jensen, who scored the game-winning basket with 1:10 to go. But Pinckney was the one who put a stop to Dayton's final threat when he rebounded a missed baseline jumper by Flyers guard Sedric Toney with just three seconds to go.

"All year long," Donoher said, "we've been a team that has relied on an offense. We had been averaging a point per possession. But that wasn't the case tonight.

"We had a bad game, but Villanova had everything to do with it."

Villanova held Dayton, which had been shooting 50.7 percent, to just 37 percent by constantly employing different defenses in the second half.

The Wildcats came up with what Donoher labeled "the back-breaker" with the score tied at 49-49 and only three minutes to go when 6-7 defensive specialist Harold Pressley stripped the ball away from Dayton forward Anthony Grant in the corner.

Villanova immediately went into a spread and finally took the lead when Jensen drove past guard Larry Schellenberg at the wing and beat him to the basket for a driving layup.

"Harold came to me early last week all frazzled," Massimino said. "He told me he didn't think he was contributing enough. But as I've always said, 'Good things come to good people.' "

Jensen scored eight points in 24 minutes against the Flyers. Forward Dwayne McClain, who was held scoreless in the first half, broke loose long enough in the second half to score 11, acting as the beneficiary of Dayton's futile attempts to collapse on Pinckney in the lane.

Villanova struggled in other areas offensively, getting just four points combined from the starting backcourt of Gary McLain and Dwight Wilbur. But the Wildcats managed to win another close game.

"This was a character game," Massimino said. "It was a game anybody could have won."

Dayton had its chances to at least force an overtime. After Jensen's drive, the Flyers held the ball, calling a timeout with 27 seconds left so they would have the last shot.

Backup guard Jim Christie ended up launching a 20-footer against Villanova's zone with 12 seconds left that kicked off the rim. But Toney came up with the rebound and put up a follow that teased everyone.

"It did everything but go in," Donoher said. "It rolled around a couple times and then came out."

After Pinckney grabbed the rebound, he was immediately fouled by Dayton forward Damon Goodwin. Pinckney missed the first part of a one-and-one, but by the time the Flyers could corral the ball, time had all but run out and most of the pro-Dayton crowd was heading for the exits.

Before the prime-time game started, Dayton figured to have a slight advantage, playing on its own floor. The Flyers, after all, were 15-2 at the Arena during the regular season.

"I've been asked that question about 1,000 times this week," Massimino said. "It was probably a little more difficult playing here, but we didn't want to build on that."

Massimino was just interested in surviving. He had his eyes opened earlier in the evening when he watched most of Michigan's surprisingly close 58-55 win over Fairleigh Dickinson. The Wolverines looked extremely vulnerable.

Villanova will find out just how vulnerable tomorrow.