Talk of dynasties and repeating will have to wait for another time and another team. Georgetown defended its NCAA basketball title about as well as any champion could tonight in Rupp Arena. But Villanova was better.
Anyone and everyone in this frantic building, whether aligned with the Hoyas or the Wildcats, probably left feeling there would never be a performance to top this one. Certainly, Villanova's staggering 66-64 upset over Georgetown in this NCAA championship game was one of the best played, most evenly contested games the sport has seen.
Villanova (25-10), with an NCAA tournament-record 79 percent shooting from the field, also made 10 straight free throws before missing two in the final minute, then held on for dear sweet life to spoil Georgetown's hope of becoming the first back-to-back titlist since UCLA in 1973.
"We worked so hard for this," Villanova's Gary McLain, a senior point guard, said through tears. "No one in America knows how hard we worked. This is what can happen when you really work hard."
Villanova, with a masterful job from almost every player and Coach Rollie Massimino, dethroned Georgetown primarily with surreal shooting that broke Ohio State's championship-game mark of 67.4 percent against California in 1960.
The Wildcats made 13 of 18 from the field in the first half and nine of 10 in the second half. "They couldn't get much better than that, could they?" Georgetown Coach John Thompson asked rhetorically.
This unprecedented shooting came against a defense that held opponents to 39 percent this season, and 36 percent through five games in this tournament.
"I don't know whether anything was wrong with our defense," Thompson said. "When you shoot that well in the championship game, from the field and from the line (22 of 27 from the foul line), all praise should go to Villanova."
To put Villanova's shooting into even better perspective, the Wildcats had nearly three times as many turnovers (17) as missed shots (six). Georgetown, led by David Wingate's 16 points and Patrick Ewing's 14, shot 55 percent itself (29 for 53).
The Hoyas twice led by six points in the first half as Reggie Williams scored all of his 10 points. But Villanova shot so well that Thompson had to take Williams out in favor of guard Horace Broadnax to get extra defensive pressure on Villanova.
A half-hour after the loss, Thompson emerged from the locker room and said of his players, "I don't want them to hang their heads, run around and cry and make excuses. We know how to win and now we have to know how to lose."
Broadnax, asked his reaction to the loss, said, "Basically, it hasn't really set in yet. Last year when we won, it didn't set in for a long time. Now that we lost, it hasn't set in yet either. But I'm sure it will."
The Hoyas (35-3) held a 54-53 lead with 4:47 to play. When Ed Pinckney missed a shot for Villanova, Georgetown was only four minutes from its second straight title.
Georgetown went into its delay game, hoping to run time off the clock and pull the Wildcats out of their matchup zone. But senior Bill Martin bounced a pass off Broadnax's knee, with the ball landing right against the chest of sophomore guard Harold Jensen.
Massimino called time with 3:25 remaining, and Villanova took the lead for good, 55-54, on a jumper by reserve Jensen, who made five of five field goal attempts and four of five free throws for 14 points.
Wingate missed two shots and Villanova kept hitting free throws. Pinckney, who scored 16 points and was named the tournament's most valuable player, made two foul shots for 57-54. Forward Dwayne McClain, who led Villanova with 17 points, did miss the front end of a one-and-one situation in the last 59 seconds, as did Jensen.
But a missed shot by Ewing, a turnover by Wingate and another miss by Williams prevented Georgetown from getting closer than three points until Michael Jackson (nine assists, no turnovers) made a layup with six seconds left.
As soon as the final moments of Georgetown's season ticked away, the Hoyas huddled at the foul line -- the last time for Ewing and Martin -- then stood at their bench and applauded as Villanova supporters stormed the court and celebrated.
Many considered this Georgetown team to be unbeatable, and there was solid evidence in its favor. Georgetown, which beat Houston in Seattle for the 1984 title, came into this championship game a 9 1/2-point favorite, having won 17 in a row this season and 16 straight postseason games since losing two years ago to Memphis State in a second-round tournament game. The Hoyas, with a victory tonight, would have become one of only six teams in the tournament's history to win consecutive titles.
Instead, the Patrick Ewing era at Georgetown ended with two championship-game losses in three Final Fours. The Hoyas lost to North Carolina in 1982.
Thompson had said on Sunday that his team's season would not be a disaster if it lost tonight. Asked the same question afterward, he said,". . . 35-3, must we dwell on the obvious?
He continued, "We played as hard as we could. We're disappointed, sure. We feel bad about losing. If I had to lose to somebody, I take some consolation that it's Rollie Massimino."
Both losses in title games, to North Carolina and Dean Smith, and now to Massimino, came to teams coached by close friends. "I hate to lose, and I hate even more to lose to people I don't like," he said. "But I lost to two men I respect."
Massimino, as could be expected, was jubilant. His day began this morning in tragedy when Alex Severance, a Villanova coach for 25 years, died in his Lexington hotel room after a heart attack. He was 77.
By 11 tonight, he was caught up in the spirit of the moment. "Needless to say," Massimino said, "this is the probably the greatest moment in Villanova basketball history."
If the Wildcats hadn't beaten Pitt in the opening round of the Big East tournament, they might not even have been invited to the 64-team NCAA tournament field. Once Villanova was in, it was made only the eighth seed in the Southeast Regional, then was the underdog in every game. Still, it beat three of the nation's top five teams (Michigan, Memphis State and Georgetown).
Georgetown had beaten Villanova twice in the Big East season, but had more trouble with the Wildcats than with higher-ranked St. John's, which it beat three times in four games.
"You wrote us off and didn't think we had a chance to win," Massimino said. "I wanted our kids to think about two things. One, to play not with the idea not to lose, but play to win. Second, I wanted them to tell themselves they were good enough to win. In a one-shot deal, you can beat anyone in the United States.
"I had a good feeling going in. We were the only team to hold them under 60 points (losing, 52-50, in overtime in Philadelphia and 57-50 at Capital Centre). We didn't try to hold the ball, but control the tempo."
Someone held a sign in the Georgetown student section that read, "Cinderella, midnight is here."
But by midnight, the Wildcats were off into the cool Kentucky night, singing and dancing the happy feeling of being champions.
Near the end of the game, McClain said he looked over at the his bench, "and I saw Jensen kiss our trainer, Jake Nevin, on the head and say, 'This one's for you.' When I saw him to that, I felt very confident."