2. 1992 Regional Final vs. Kentucky, The Shot
Just like every other Duke basketball fan, I can’t believe this isn’t No. 1, but you could consider this No. 1A. However, I don’t believe in ties, and this may be the best game in college basketball history, but I don’t think it’s the most important one to Duke.
With that being said, this one checks all the boxes. An absolute barn burner as big, bad defending champ Blue Devils came strolling into the Regional Final having conquered nearly everything in their path that season. Kentucky had legendary status as a program but was more a scrappy little team that could play with its four “Unforgettables.”
The core of homegrown Kentucky favorites Richie Farmer, John Pelphrey, Deron Feldhaus, and non-Kentuckian but equally beloved Sean Woods was clicking at the right time for head coach Rick Pitino. The Wildcats also featured future NBA stalwart Jamal Mashburn and proved from the opening tip that they belonged on the floor that night.
The game was tight throughout, and Duke took a five-point lead into the locker room at halftime. Fouls and tempers heated up throughout the second half as several questionable calls occurred. Kentucky freshman Aminu Timberlake fell to the ground going for a rebound, and Duke basketball senior Christian Laettner stepped on his chest.
While the technical was rightly charged, pretty much everyone in the solar system we occupy thought that Laettner should have been tossed right then and there. We Duke fans have seen that game enough times to know that just a few possessions before, Timberlake gave an all-out push to Laettner, sending him face-first into the basket stanchion.
While this almost broke Laettner’s neck, not a single whistle was heard in the gym. Given this information, a little love-step doesn’t seem so bad, even if it is still out of line.
What followed, though, was gold. Kentucky tied it up and sent the game to overtime. Duke had a 102-101 lead with 7.8 seconds left when Sean Woods hit a beautiful runner from the lane to give the Wildcats the lead.
You know the rest. K calls timeout. Kentucky doesn’t guard Grant Hill’s inbound pass or front Laettner, and Hill chucks it 79 feet to Laettner, who hits the most famous shot in basketball history to send Duke to the Final Four.
On a fun side note, before we move on to No. 1, Christian Laettner had a superhuman game. He scored 31 points on 10-for-10 shooting from the field and 9-for-9 from the foul line (that’s right, he didn’t miss a shot).