RADNOR >> Dancing on the Pavilion floor seconds after Kris Jenkins hit his game-winning shot for the NCAA men’s basketball championship, Villanova senior Tom Brawley of Massachusetts said, “This was unbelievable. My Dad (Bob Brawley) is a 1985 grad. I’m going to call him in one minute.”
All of the Villanova fans who packed the Pavilion Monday night were reveling in the Wildcats’ 77-74 win in the NCAA championship game.
“I couldn’t have expected anything like this,” said Villanova freshman Timothy Kubista of Severna Park, Md. “You always hear about a buzzer-beater to win the championship, and it happened here, in my first year [here].”
Villanova freshman Kee Gonruscheinski of Chicago said, “This is an incredible ending – I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Villanova freshman Joe Reiss of Massachusetts said, “Oh my God this game, and the ending, are a once-in-a-lifetime experience, once in 50 years. It’s amazing. Go Nova!”
The excitement at the Pavilion began three hours before the start of game, as the line of Villanova students outside the building began to grow. Just 45 minutes later, the line was all the way out to Lancaster Avenue.
The Pavilion opened its doors at 7 p.m., two hours before game time, and a sea of dark blue-clad fans soon filled the entire floor of the Pavilion, many wearing T-shirts that read, “Nova Nation,” “Party like it’s 1985” or “We BelieVe.”. A huge TV was set up on the north end of the upper level for all to watch the pre-game show and the game.
Villanova fans packed the floor, and danced to the non-stop music that blared from the loudspeakers. By 8:20 p.m., the public address announcer said the lower level was filled to capacity (3,000 people), and that all other fans must go upstairs. Fifteen minutes later, the upper level was jammed to the rafters. The attendance according to the University was 4,200.
At 8:42, when the Villanova players on the TV screen came out for their pre-game warm-ups, the crowd roared, long and loud, then began chanting, “Let’s Go Nova!” over and over.
“This is awesome,” said Villanova freshman Nolan Lauber from Minnesota, as he was enjoying the pre-game activity with friends. “We were here two hours [before the game], enjoying the music and the atmosphere – it’s crazy in here.”
“The 90 minutes of solid music [before the game] has been great,”: said Villanova freshman Kevin Kan of New York City. “The [pre-game excitement] was definitely called for.”
The crescendo reached ear-splitting levels when the Villanova roster began to be introduced at 9:03 p.m., including such players as Lower Merion High School grad Darryl Reynolds.
Just eight minutes before the game, another cheer went up when Rollie Massimino was interviewed on TV, as he said, “We’re all in it together. My whole [national championship] team from 1985 is here for the game tonight.”
During the game, about the only time the Pavilion quieted down was during the advertisements. The large scoreboard above midcourt was fully lit up and operating, for any Villanova student who wanted to look at the Wildcats’ balanced first-half scoring (four players with seven points each).
The Pavilion was a little subdued at halftime – the calm between the first- and second-half storms - as Villanova trailed 39-34, but the students were hopeful.
“We’re [behind] a little bit but I think we’re going to come back,” said Villanova freshman Kevin Kan of New York City. “We’re gonna win. This game has been intense.”
The Villanova students’ cheering resumed at 10:27, as the Villanova players were shown on TV huddling before the second half. The students began chanting, “Let’s Go Nova!”
During a timeout and Villanova holding a slim 49-46 lead, Villanova freshman Madison Puia of Paoli smiled and said, “We’re doing well, but we need to pick it up and keep doing well.”
When Arcidiacono’s 3-pointer went in to put Villanova ahead 53-46, the Pavilion really exploded in noise, and again a minute later when a Villanova basket made it 55-48.
With the Wildcats ahead 60-55, Villanova freshman Colin Ushkowitz of Yardley reflected the crowd’s energy when he said, “This has been a great game. If we go on a run here, we’re unstoppable!”