Editors note: During the game Len Elmore and Dan Shulman were talking about how Villanova has only one championship and I got a little bit sentimental so this is the start of a new series: the Factrospective series this one covers my first trip to the Big East tournament.
In March of 1995 I was six years old. The 1995 season is when my first memories of Villanova basketball were formed so needless to say, the mention of Kerry Kittles, Eric Eberz, Alvin Williams, Jason Lawson, Jonathan Haynes, Chuck Kornegay, Zeffy Penn or Ron Wilson strikes a special chord with me as this was the Villanova team that I cut my teeth with.
I remember walking down the street to my uncle's house in Northern New Jersey (which was right around the corner from mine) to embark on a trip to my first Big East Tournament game. Little did I know at the time, but this would be the game where Villanova finally cleared the hurdle and won a Big East title. Kerry Kittles played out of his mind that season, averaging over 21 points a game, six rebounds and three and a half assists a game on his way to Big East Player of The Year in what was possibly the finest season by a Villanova player since the great Howard Porter graduated from Villanova. Kittles' chief rival in that game was no slouch either.. the sophomore sensation that he was up against is known to some as Jesus Shuttlesworth, but to the masses as Ray Allen.
So anyways.. back to the story. I got to my uncle's house where he, my grandfather and my uncle's good friend and 1985 National Championship hero Harold Jensen were waiting. Standing at six foot five, Harold towered over my four foot tall first grade self. They were waiting for me to get there so we got in the car and took off for New York. When I first walked into the lobby of the Garden, I can remember being in awe of the electric atmosphere, I still get that feeling walking in during the tournament 14 years later. Back then I didn't have the appreciation i have now for the history of that building. I didn't know that Muhammad Ali had suffered his first career defeat at the hands of Joe Frazier in that building, almost 2o years before to the day of my first experience at the Big East Tournament. I also didn't know that this was the sight of countless great pro basketball games from back when the NBA didn't suck. These facts didn't matter to me at the least. All that mattered to me was that the Villanova Wildcats, a team that meant so much to my family that was chock full of Villanova graduates was about to face the UConn Huskies, a team that had previously been ranked number one in America until Kerry Kittles and Villanova shocked them in Gampel Pavillion.
When I walked into Madison Square Garden I saw pictures of legends like Patrick Ewing and Mark Messier. I had remembered that the Rangers won the Stanley cup the previous season in a dramatic seven game series against Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure and the Vancouver Canucks. But anyways.. enough stalling. Kerry Kittles had been magical that season and he continued his magic in the Big East Tournament that year. In the semifinal he scored 29 points in a 15 point victory over the defending champs Providence who were led by Austin Croshere who had a pretty decent career in the NBA. It was clear from this performance that Kerry Kittles was ready for prime time. The matchup was a great one.. Catholic schol against public school, Kerry Kittles against Ray Allen, Cats against Dogs etc. Kerry Kittles and Jason Lawson were simply outstanding. The Junior guard from New Orleans scored 27 points and the Sophomore center from Olney High School in Philly also added 27 points on 10 for 14 from the field. In the End, The Wildcats clinched their first Big East Championship handily, winning by a score of 94-78. The score of this game reflected the high flying nature of a Villanova team led by Kerry Kittles who would eventually become the all time leading scorer at Villanova, finishing his career with 2,243 points.
Unfortunately, the euphoria didn't last long as the third seeded Wildcats were knocked out in the first round of the NCAA tournament against against 14 seeded Old Dominion, Something that became all too familiar under the tenure of Steve Lappas.
Even with the disappointment of the NCAA tournament, I'm proud to say that I got to witness one of the great moments in the history of Villanova Basketball in person.