Feb 9, 2012, 9:16 AM EST
Austin Rivers delivered for Duke when it mattered most. His buzzer-beating 3-pointer over 7-foot Tyler Zeller will be one of the season’s signature moments and an incredible cap to the game’s greatest rivalries. This sequence shows it all.
But how did it get to that point?
How did North Carolina, which had controlled so much of the second half, blow a 10-point lead in just over two minutes, at home? How is it possible?
The Heels led by 10 points until Duke’s Tyler Thornton hit a 3-pointer to make it 82-75 with 2:09 remaining to play. To that point, UNC had been on cruise control, using Tyler Zeller for points in the pain and getting jumper after jumper from Harrison Barnes. But Duke never went away.
“They’re really good and they can knock you out,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “And we didn’t get knocked out. And as a result, we hung in there and we won the last round. I’m not sure we won the whole fight, but the last round, we did, and we won the game. But we fought the entire time. We fought a really good fight.”
No kidding. According to this win probability chart on kenpom.com, the Heels had a 90 percent chance of winning the game after Thornton’s 3. It never got below 75 percent until Rivers hit his 3. The odds were in the home team’s favor for that long.
But maybe you prefer a play-by-play recap. For that, let’s turn to Andy Staples of SI.com:
Minutes earlier, none of this seemed possible. North Carolina led by 10 when Harrison Barnes scored with 2:35 to play. The following five things had to happen to set up Rivers’ rainbow.
- North Carolina had to miss two of its final four free throws.
- Tyler Thornton, who had shot five three-pointers and missed all five, had to bury one from the wing.
- Curry had to drill an off-balance three-pointer from just inside the left sideline. “I was shocked by it,” Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He was almost sitting in my lap.”
- Duke forward Ryan Kelly had to miss a three-pointer, follow his shot and catch a ball bouncing directly to him before draining a baseline jumper.
- North Carolina’s Zeller had to redirect a badly calibrated Kelly shot off the backboard and into the basket. How weird was the play? The ball barely even touched the net as it sailed through.
“I knew he was going to shoot a 3,” Barnes said. “I thought everyone in the gym knew. Z did a good job of contesting, but he made the shot.”
“When the ball went through, it kind of took me a second to process it – to realize that we had lost the game,’’ Kendall Marshall told Robbi Pickeral. “I was stunned.”
Now things get even more interesting in the ACC. The Heels (20-4), Devils (20-4) and Florida State (16-7) are all tied atop the standings at 7-2. The ‘Noles have beaten both teams once, while Duke’s other loss was to Miami. With seven conference games remaining, it’s wide open. The Heels seemed to have the edge.
But now Duke’s remaining schedule is the most favorable. (A trip to VirginiaFlorida State and home against UNC are the biggest obstacles.) The Heels may have blown it. And that stings.
“It really hurts just because of how we played the whole game,” John Henson said. “For us in the last three minutes just to give it up like that is really depressing.”
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.
- Coach K earns career win No. 1,000 in No. 5 Duke’s win over St. John’s 0
- Kentucky lands commitment from international Class of 2016 big man 0
- Saturday’s Snacks: No. 18 West Virginia, Georgetown win absolute thrillers 0
- No. 11 Kansas makes a statement blowing out No. 17 Texas 1
- Bracket Update: Upcoming stretch could have major impact on Duke’s NCAA seeding 2
- Sister’s illness makes for a bittersweet homecoming for Tulsa head coach Frank Haith 0
- Weekend Preview: Things are heating up in the Big 12, plus Coach K No. 1,000? 0
- No. 6 Wisconsin utterly embarrassed No. 25 Iowa for more than one reason (13)
- The Top Ten Players that Coach K has had at Duke (12)
- You think college basketball is unwatchable this year? Turn on an Indiana game (7)
- College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25: So where do we rank Duke? (5)
- You Make The Call: Was this a charge on TaShawn Thomas? (VIDEO) (5)