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Who's afraid of Virginia Tech?
Pat Putnam
April 02, 1973
Nobody, really, except the four NIT teams that lost to the scrambling Gobblers by a total of five points
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April 02, 1973

Who's Afraid Of Virginia Tech?

Nobody, really, except the four NIT teams that lost to the scrambling Gobblers by a total of five points

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"We have to do something to neutralize Shumate," said DeVoe. "If we can, we can stay within reach." North Carolina's Smith suggested the law of averages. "It's not humanly possible to keep shooting like that," he said. Perhaps not, but to make certain, DeVoe ordered his troops to collapse on Shumate whenever he moved inside. When Tech built 10-point leads three times in the first half, the plan appeared sound. But then the Irish went into a full-court press, the Gobblers went into a panic and by halftime Notre Dame's deficit was four.

The intermission did nothing for the Virginians' nerves. The Gobblers began turning over the ball almost faster than Notre Dame could pick it up and score, and with less than eight minutes to play the Irish had streaked to a 10-point lead.

DeVoe called his charges in for a council. Do to them what they are doing to you, he told them. Pressure them. As the Irish suddenly developed stone fingers, Tech sliced the lead. It was two points with five seconds to play. "I had never really given up," said Lieder. "I just figured we were doomed." Then at the buzzer, Lieder hit a 15-foot jumper to send the game into overtime. "I don't believe it," he said.

A few minutes later he felt doomed again after Notre Dame had taken a four-point lead with 55 seconds to play. That's when Bobby Stevens, a 5'10" guard, took command. In three previous tournaments, twice in high school and once in junior college, Stevens' teams had reached the final only to lose. He decided that four times would be too many.

With 43 seconds to play, Stevens hit with a short jumper, was fouled while shooting and made the free throw to cut Notre Dame's lead to one. When the Irish brought the ball into play, the Gobblers' Thomas took a deep breath and fouled Brokaw, who already had scored 23 points. Brokaw went to the line for the one-and-one, missed and Virginia Tech came down with the ball. With 12 seconds to play, Stevens called for a time-out.

And there it was. Sixteen teams, 15 games and it all came down to just one shot. Or, as it turned out, two. Ed Frazier passed in to Stevens, who saw everybody else was covered and decided to throw the ball up. It hit the rim and came down into a crowd. Someone batted it in the air, Stevens ran over and grabbed it and turned loose his second chance just as the buzzer went off. Swish! For a second, none of the Gobblers believed it went in and that they were the 1973 NIT champions. Neither could Shumate, who scored 28 points and was voted the tournament's most valuable player.

"And now we can go home," said Lieder. " New York is a great place but it is awfully expensive. And we're just poor country boys."

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