The Shot (Duke–Kentucky)

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1992 East Regional Final
"The Shot"
1 2 OT Total
Kentucky 45 48 10 103
Duke 50 43 11 104
Date March 28, 1992
Arena The Spectrum
Location Philadelphia, PA
Attendance 17,848
United States TV coverage
Network CBS
Announcers Verne Lundquist and Len Elmore

The 1992 NCAA Tournament was highlighted by a game between Duke and Kentucky in the East Regional Final to determine the final spot in the Final Four. With 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime, defending national champion Duke trailed 103–102. Grant Hill threw a pass the length of the court to Christian Laettner, who faked right, dribbled once, turned, and hit a jumper as time expired for the 104-103 win. In 2004 Sports Illustrated deemed it the greatest college basketball game of all time,[1] and ESPN included it as number 17 on its list of top 100 sports moments of the past 25 years (see ESPN25). It is ranked number one on the list of the greatest NCAA tournament games of all time compiled by USA Today in 2002.[2]

Background[edit]

The 1991-92 Kentucky Wildcats are one of the most revered teams in UK's long basketball history. The Wildcats were coming off a two-year postseason ban due to major recruiting violations committed during the tenure of Pitino's predecessor Eddie Sutton, although the NCAA found Sutton was not personally liable. The violations mainly centered on alleged cheating by former player Eric Manuel on the ACT college entrance exam and cash payments to the guardian of another former player, Chris Mills. This was notoriously highlighted on the cover of Sports Illustrated called "Kentucky's Shame".[3]

The team's four seniors, three of whom were Kentucky natives, had remained loyal to the program throughout its probation, and would enter Kentucky basketball history as "The Unforgettables". They were:

Although the seniors were the heart and soul of the team, its biggest star was sophomore Jamal Mashburn, who would go on to become a consensus first-team All-American the following season and have a successful 12-year NBA career; he is now an NBA analyst for ESPN.

The legacy of "The Unforgettables" at UK was great enough that the UK program decided to retire their jerseys (but not their numbers) almost immediately after that game. While jersey retirement is not uncommon, it is rare for a school to bestow this honor so soon after a player's career ends.

For Duke, the Blue Devils started the season as the defending National Champions, and were looking to repeat as National Champions for the first time since UCLA did it in 1973. Losing only Greg Koubek and Clay Buckley to graduation, Duke retained its core players including Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill and was able to add recruits Cherokee Parks and Erik Meek to its lineup.

The Blue Devils started the season ranked No. 1 and won its first 17 games. Their unbeaten streak came to an end when they lost a close contest to North Carolina in the Dean Dome by a score of 75–73. However, Duke would only lose another game (to Wake Forest 72–68) for the rest of the season and finished the season with a 25–2 record and the 10th regular-season championship in school history.

Duke entered the ACC Tournament as the No. 1 seed. They defeated North Carolina in the ACC title game 94–74 to capture their 9th ACC Tournament Championship in school history.

The Game[edit]

The game against Kentucky and Duke is arguably the greatest NCAA tournament ever. The game was close for the entire 40 minutes plus the 5 minute overtime. Kentucky had nothing to lose since they were just coming off of a two-year postseason ban, while Duke had everything to lose. Duke had been the favorite all season long and everyone expected them to repeat their championship run for the second consecutive year. At the end of the first half, Duke was leading Kentucky 50-45. During the second half, Laettner was pushed out-of-bounds and thought that Aminu Timberlake was the one who pushed him and made a mental note of it. A few plays later, Timberlake got knocked down during a play and Laettner stomped him on his chest. Many people believed that he should have been ejected from the game, but the referees only assessed him a technical foul. Kentucky tied the game at 93 with 33.6 seconds left in the game by a Deron Feldhaus putback of a John Pelphrey miss. Duke's point guard Bobby Hurley had a chance to win the game as time expired, but he missed the shot and the game went into overtime. [4] In overtime, the teams were going back and forth. Kentucky finally pulled ahead 98-96, then Laettner took over for the Blue Devils, scoring their final six points and giving them the lead 102-101. Kentucky called a timeout with 7.8 seconds left to draw up a last second shot. Sean Woods hit a running one-hander in the lane over Laettner to put Kentucky ahead 103-102 with 2.1 seconds remaining. Duke called a timeout and had a play for Laettner. Grant Hill threw the ball 70 feet to Laettner, who dribbled once, turned, and put up "the shot" as time expired, giving Duke a 104-103 victory.[5] Laettner finished the game with 31 points and 7 rebounds. He went a perfect 10-10 from the field and 10-10 from the free throw line.

Legacy[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Matthew Waxman = 16 Greatest Games Sports Illustrated (On Campus), March 10, 2004
  2. ^ Mike Douchant - Greatest 63 games in NCAA Tournament history. The Sports Xchange, published in USA Today, March 25, 2002
  3. ^ Curry Kirkpatrick - Kentucky's Shame. Sports Illustrated, May 29, 1989
  4. ^ Sims, John. [m.bleacherreport.com/articles/147231-revisiting-the-greatest-game-ever-played-the-1992-east-regional-finals "Revisiting the Greatest Game Ever Played: The 1992 East Regional Finals"] Check |url= value (help). Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  5. ^ Sims, John. [m.bleacherreport.com/articles/147231-revisiting-the-greatest-game-ever-played-the-1992-east-regional-finals "Revisiting the Greatest Game Ever Played: The 1992 East Regional Finals"] Check |url= value (help). Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2 December 2015.