March 29th marks the 15th anniversary of Virginia Tech’s victory over marquette in the 1995 NIT Championship Game. Tech won 65-64 in overtime on two Shawn Smith free throws with 0.7 seconds left. Check back Monday night for a TechHoops.com exclusive interview with the star of the 1995 NIT Championship Team, Ace Custis!
In the mean time, here’s a clip of the exciting conclusion (and madness afterwards) of Tech’s quarterfinal win over new mexico state that propelled the Hokies to New York City.
The 1995 team was also snubbed by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. They finished 20-10, including 12-1 at home, despite having just seven scholarship players playing and only 2-3 guys in the rotation off the bench. VT played #3 unc with Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace very tough in Greensboro, and lost to #13 uva (yes, uva actually used to be good at basketball) by just a point in Richmond. But no invitation arrived for the Hokies to the Big Dance.
Instead, Tech ripped through wins over clemson and providence, then blew a huge first half lead against new mexico state before the dramatic win linked above. The Hokies crushed Cindarella canisius in the semifinals, and then won the title game 65-64 in overtime against marquette when Shawn Smith was fouled with .7 seconds left and Tech down a point. Much like the 1973 VT NIT Championship Game (which also went to overtime), it all came down to the last second. Smith nailed both free throws and VT was NIT champs for the second time, exactly 15 years ago.
Shawn Smith was named the Tournament MVP. He was a forward for VT despite being maybe 6’4″ at best. Travis Jackson started in the low post, too, but spent most his time on the perimeter. Ace Custis also played forward. Shawn Good (who had as good of hops as Deron Washington) ran the point while Damon Watlington was Zabian Dowdell long before Zabe – could hit any runner and was also a good outside shooter. Off the bench VT had Myron Guillory at guard and David Jackson (who is now VT’s S&C Coach) as a wing. FYI: David spent more time on the floor than Nancy Pelosi. I believe VT had one more low post player who played. I cannot remember if it was Brandon Price or Keefe Mathews (I think Keefe was redshirting that year but I’m not sure). But that’s it, VT did not have a deep bench. Kelly Mann was the “Paul Debnam” of that team, last off the bench in blow-outs and cost us free McDonald’s by missing a late dunk early in the season (yes, I’m still bitter). But this was a very talented team with four guys (all the starters except Travis Jackson) ranking in the top 50 in career scoring (Ace is 9th, Shawn Smith 17th, Damon Watlington 29th, and Shawn Good 41st).