Click here to read Part I of "Ice Water in the Veins", which focused on the last-second heroics of Roger Schurig. Part II, below, Howell Peiser recalls the now-legendary buzzer-beaters of Barry Goheen.
A buzzer-beating legend is born
He was a skinny 6-4 guard from Calvert City, Ky. Barry Goheen arrived on campus at Vanderbilt in August, 1985 as part of an excellent recruiting class for Coach C.M. Newton. The Commodores were coming off their worst season in modern history, finishing last in the SEC at 4-14, 11-17 overall, including an 11-game losing streak.
The 1985-86 season brought some improvement, as the Commodores were 2-2 / 8-5 at the season's mid-point. The Tennessee Vols, led by the conference's leading scorer, Tony White, came to Nashville.
The two teams exchanged leads in the first half, with Vandy leading 28-25 at the break. The Commodores extended the lead to eight before the Vols' defense stopped Vandy cold. Over the next 16 minutes, UT outscored Vandy 30-14 to take a 59-51 lead with 0:50 to go. Playing with two freshmen guards in the lineup (Darrel Dulaney missed this game due to injury) in Goheen and Barry Booker, the Commodores pulled off a miracle. Goheen took command of the ball and could do no wrong. Forward Steve Reece took a Goheen pass and connected on a short jumper, getting fouled in the process, to cut the lead to 59-53. Reece missed the foul shot, but Booker got the offensive board and tipped it in to cut the lead to 59-55. There was now less than 0:40 to go.
Tennessee mishandled the ball against Vandy's press. Goheen took the inbounds pass, dribbled down the side, and pulled up to sink a long jumper (one year later it would have been a three) to cut the lead to 59-57.
Tennessee broke Vandy's press, and the Vols got the ball into the hands of their best foul shooter, Anthony Richardson. Richardson hurried his shot a little and it missed. Brett Burrow gathered in the rebound with just over 0:20 to go, but a Bobby Westbrooks turnover gave the ball back.
Tennessee once again broke the press, and began to ice the few seconds left on the clock. This time, Vol hot-shot White took the ball and forced Vandy to foul. White, already with 31 points, went to the line with a chance to ice the game. His foul shot missed, and Burrow rebounded. He fired a long outlet pass to Goheen, who drove all the way to the basket and fired a 6-footer from the side. It missed, but Goheen knew where the ball was going to ricochet and pulled down the offensive board. He fired again while being fouled by Tennessee's Dyron Nix. The shot was true to tie the game at 59-59. Four seconds remained on the clock, as Goheen went to the line with a chance to culminate one of the greatest last-minute comebacks in SEC history.
The shot was dead on. A long prayer by White missed, and Vandy won 60-59. Goheen led the Goldmen with 16 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Almost all the home crowd stayed until the end, and the Vandy players did something that had not been done before at Memorial Gym-- after leaving the floor, they came back to give the fans a standing ovation.
The Comodores lost five of their next six games to fall to 10-10. Needing a win to stay on the NIT bubble, the Dores hosted Florida. The Gators had destroyed Vandy in Gainesville 86-55 one month earlier and were still in the race for second place with Alabama and LSU (Kentucky was well ahead of the rest of the league).
Florida assumed the lead early and held it for the entire first half. In the final half, the Gators extended the lead to eight points, before Vandy cut it to one. Goheen tied the game at 55-55. Florida regained the lead at 59-58 in the final minute of play. The ball went to Goheen, and the freshman worked against Vernon Maxwell. Goheen drove to the top of the key, faked with his forward foot, then stepped back and fired. The ball looked short, but the momentum from the arc carried it just over the rim. Vandy led 60-59 with 0:30 left.
Vandy's tight zone defense kept the ball out of the inside, and Maxwell was finally forced to shoot from well outside. The shot misfired, and Westbrooks rebounded to preserve the win. For the second time in 1986, Goheen was the late-game hero.
Move forward one season. Vanderbilt was vastly improved with the emergence of junior center Will Perdue, and the two Barry's were now the starting guards. After a loss at Duke and a blowout win over UT-Chattanooga, the Commodores came home to upset No. 2 Indiana behind Goheen's career-best 26 points. The next game was against Penn at the venerable Palestra.
This game looked like trouble from the outset. The Quakers, picked to win the Ivy League title, led throughout the second half, before a Vandy run tied the game in the final five minutes. To this point, it was Perdue having a career game that kept the Commodores in contention. The 7-footer was on his way to a 29-point performance capped by several "Perdunks." Goheen had managed only five points in the first 39 minutes of action.
The teams took turns with the lead in the final few minutes. Goheen hit a jumper to put Vandy ahead 69-68, and then Penn went on top 70-69 with less than 0:20 to go. The shot clock was off, as Vandy in-bounded the ball in its backcourt. The strategy was to pass the ball around the horn until Perdue could get open underneath. The Commodores threw the ball around the horn, but the Quakers doubled on the low post, preventing the ball from being entered. There were three seconds left when Goheen caught a pass and realized he'd have to take the shot. Closely guarded, he fired from just inside the arc, and the ball zipped through for the winning points.
The shot that sunk Pitt
In Goheen's junior season, Vandy broke a 14-year drought and made the NCAA Tournament. After beating a good Utah State team in Lincoln, Neb., the Commodores advanced to the second round against heavily favored Pittsburgh. Pitt's inside power reminded many of the Michigan team that beat Vanderbilt in the 1965 tournament.
Vanderbilt opened ice-cold from the field, and Pitt's Jerome Lane controlled the boards. Twelve minutes into the game it looked as though Vandy's season would come to an end, as the Panthers had taken a 25-12 lead. CBS-TV broke away to show vignettes of other games going on simultaneously; but during the cutaway, the "Bomb Squad" began warming up. Barry Booker and Charles Mayes hit a couple of 3's, and the Commodores stormed back to take their first lead just before the break. Pitt tied the game at 34-34 as the first-half buzzer sounded.
The second half saw the lead change hands numerous times, with neither team leading by more than five. Pitt led 67-63 after guard Jason Matthews hit two foul shots with just 0:12 to go. Vandy inbounded the ball quickly, with Goheen racing down the floor. Knowing Pitt would not foul, he drove to the left side of the top of the key and fired for three. The shot was on the mark to cut the lead to 67-66.
Pitt then quickly in-bounded the ball, and Perdue picked up his fifth foul. Smith hit both shots to give Pitt a three-point lead with just 0:06 left. Once again, Goheen took a quick inbound pass and drove down the floor. Pitt sent two men after him to try to foul him before he could get to the top of the key. This time, Goheen pulled up a good six feet in back of the key and fired a 25-footer. The clock expired just after he released the desperation heave. It hit nothing but net, and regulation ended at 69-69.
Even with Perdue out of the game Vandy dominated the overtime over a deflated Pitt team. Goheen scored a game-high 22, as Vandy won 80-74.
But Goheen would save the best for his senior year.
A never-to-be-forgotten senior season
The Commodores began the 1988-89 home schedule against No. 13 Louisville. The Cardinals, led by "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison, took a nine-point lead midway through the final half, when Vandy began its run. Barry Booker and Frank Kornet sparked a rally that tied the game and then put the black and gold up by two late. Louisville tied the game at 62-62 with just 0:03 left. Coach Newton called time.
Everyone in the gym and all the Commodore fans listening on the radio knew who would take the final shot. Louisville knew it as well, and it set up its defense 30 feet out, thinking that was good enough to stop No. 12. They goofed. Goheen took a long inbound pass and dribbled quickly just across half court. He fired from just over the center jump circle, a good 45 feet away. The clock struck 0:00 with the ball in mid air. Zip, the ball went through the net, and the student section spilled onto the floor. SportsCenter showed the shot over and over for the rest of the night and the next morning. Goheen was becoming a cult hero.
By January Vandy was 3-1 in the SEC, one game behind league-leading Tennessee, with Georgia coming to town for an afternoon TV game. By now, hitting a last second shot to win the game wasn't going to be enough. Trailing 35-33 with three seconds remaining in the first half, Goheen raced the ball up the floor but ran out of time before he could cross mid-court. This time, he fired from about 55 feet and banked it in as the buzzer sounded. It was the second-longest made shot in Vandy history, next to one a little longer by Bobby Bland.
Georgia led 75-73 and had a chance to ice the game in the final 0:15. The Bulldogs missed an easy lay-up and then clunked a dunk on the offensive rebound. Booker rebounded and raced down the right side of the floor with time winding down. Eschewing a timeout, he spotted Goheen on the left side of the floor. Goheen had a decent 10-foot shot that could have tied the game, but he passed on the chance. He dribbled back outside the arc on the left side, faked a Bulldog defender out of the way, and fired a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Of course it went in, and Coach Newton just grinned and shook his head. Once again, the last-second legend's heroics were plastered all over ESPN, this time as "The Play Of The Day." Coach Newton's grin and shake of the head got almost as much air time as the two shots.
Goheen had one more savvy act left in his Vandy career, but it was almost anti-climatic. After Vandy hung a 30-point blowout on Kentucky to move to 7-4 in the SEC, Ole Miss came to town. The game was tied late at 69-69 when Goheen was fouled. He hit both foul shots to give Vandy a 71-69 win. In a road game at Athens, after Bulldog coach Hugh Durham was ejected after three technicals, Goheen hit eight consecutive foul shots to lead VU to a road win. Vandy finished the season a game behind Florida; except for a misdirected tennis ball in the home game vs. the Gators, Goheen's heroics would have won an SEC title.
Roger Schurig and Barry Goheen shared a common trait. Neither ever showed any sign of panic. When the game was on the line, both of them wanted the ball and found a way to get it. Neither ever missed in their numerous last-second attempts.
Share your memories of Barry Goheen's buzzer-beaters on VandyMania's men's basketball message board.