T1. Rivers of Tar Heel tears
No. 10 Duke at No. 5 UNC
Feb. 8, 2012
Imagine, before this game, I just assumed no Duke basketball player would ever top Duhon’s layup as the greatest Dean Dome game-winner.
Then, the day after the buzzer-beater from Cam Reddish at Florida State last season, as part of my list ranking Duke’s top 10 game-winning shots under Coach K, I wrote the following — perhaps a bit prophetically — about the comeback and shot that stood alone, until Saturday night, as the No. 1 Tar Heel soul-crusher:
“I’m convinced that no Blue Devil could ever top the moment in the rivalry when Austin Rivers‘ 3-pointer at the buzzer instantly turned upside down the smiles of more than 20,000 Tar Heels in attendance.
“Yet I hope I’m wrong again.
“But if the shot by Rivers stands as the all-time greatest Duke game-winner in Chapel Hell, I cannot complain; that moment was simply heavenly. The Tar Heels led by 10 with 2:15 to play, but a flurry of incredible shots by the Blue Devils cut into that lead in a hurry. A three from Tyler Thornton. A three — seemingly from Durham — from Seth Curry. A silky baseline jumper from Ryan Kelly.
“And after a tip-in by UNC’s Tyler Zeller — into the basket that he was defending — following a nothing-but-air deep attempt from Kelly, I was officially down on the floor praying for a memory-of-a-lifetime victory. Zeller then missed a free throw with 13 seconds remaining and his team up by two.
“And following a rebound by Mason Plumlee — who handed the ball over to the team’s freshman point guard — and Rivers’ smooth-operator 14 dribbles to the other end, Zeller missed an opportunity to play better defense against a 3-point attempt from Rivers.
“What followed was one of the most beautiful sights these two eyes have ever seen, the memory of which will never leave me.”
Neither will the memory that, in my mind, now deserves this tie at No. 1 here due to the circumstances entering the game, the drama throughout the game, and the abundant mix of both furious and subdued UNC fans today because of the game…