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NCAAM Basketball – 1978 – 41st NIT Finals – University of Texas Longhorns VS NC State Wolfpack


In 1978, Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State Wolfpack and Abe Lemons’ University of Texas Longhorns met in the finals of the 41st National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden ….after scoring semifinal victories in contrasting styles.  Before a crowd of 18,504, the largest N.I.T. gathering at the Garden since 1968, North Carolina State staggered to an 86 – 85 triumph over John Thompson’s Georgetown Hoyas….on a 35‐foot jump shot by Clyde Austin as the buzzer was sounding to end a five‐minute overtime session….as Austin’s desperation heave followed a 3‐point play by Hoyas’ Craig Shelton….which had given Georgetown a I‐point lead….and just like in the 1983 NCAA Finals….Valvano’s Wolfpack would pull out a victory just like this 1978 predecesor against Georgetown.  On the other hand, the Longhorns of Texas….under the tutiledge of the masterful leadership of Coach Abe Lemons….who ranks at the top of Bone Daddy’s list of his favorite sports personalities that he has known in his 60 years of being a Sportsphile….so, the Horns had tied Arkansas for the Southwest Conference title before being eliminated in the final of the league tournament by Houston….simply drubbed the Rutgers Knights by 96‐76….after showing a team jammed packed with sterling offensive and defensive play.  Texas made 57 percent of its shots….with “long rang sniper” Jim Krivacs leading the Horns with 25 points…..with PF Tyrone Branyan adding 24 and SF Ron Baxter ….who missed only one of nine field‐goal attempts tallied 19.

In the history of college basketball in the State of Texas….without question….the 3 most accomplished basketall teams were Don Haskins’ 1965-66 Texas Western Miners National Champions team….which opened integration on the basketball court in the Southwestern and Southeastern part of the USA….along with Guy Lewis’ 1982-1983 Houston Cougars’ “Phi Slamma Jamma” team that had the National Championship won until the historic Wittenberg “air ball” that landed in Lorenzo Charles hands for what resulted in a last second victory by none other than Jim Valvanos’ Wolfpack….and last but surely not least….the  1978 Texas Longhorns champions of the 1978 National Invitation Tournament and Texas’ only NIT champion….as seen in this treasure of a video to all fans of Coach Abe’s Texas teams of the 1970’s.

The Longhorns had ended up second in the Southwest Conference to Eddie Suttons’ Arkansas Razorbacks team that advanced to the Final Four….but the Horns were shunned by the 32-team NCAA field….which was a real shame….cuz this Texas team literally thrashed every opponent they faced in the N.I.T….including Temple 72 – 58….Nebraska 67 – 48…and Rutgers 96 – 76….before polishing off North Carolina State 101-93 in the NIT final….as Ron Baxter and Jim Krivacs were tournament co-MVPs….for this team was loaded with talent and would have gone far in the NCAA tournament in 1978….maybe even won the National Championship….cuz if I remember correctly, Arkansas lost by 5 to eventual winner Kentucky in the semi-finals of the 1983 Final Four.

Bone Daddy had a phenomenal 6 year business relationship with Coach Abe Lemons….whom he considers one of the “best people” he has ever met in the universe of sports….which he has been a part of for the better part of 60 years.  As a result of his high regard for Coach Abe Lemons….I have written a dozen or so stories that will be featured in the L E’s Stories Section of Ima Sportsphile….which I am absolutely sure you will enjoy…..cuz Abe Lemons was a man of incredible integrity that was equally matched by his basketball coaching genius and his wonderful “side-splitting” sense of humor that was present in almost anything that came out of his mouth.  

Any way you cut the pie….this video and this Longhorn basketball team was a true joy to watch…..as a team that was incredibly effective on offense with 4 very talented scorers in Tyrone Branyon, Johnny Moore, Jim Krivacs and Ron Baxter….who played “shut-down man to man defense”….who were coached by the legend known as Abe.

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