Patented Duke basketball weapon has returned in epic fashion

The Duke basketball players made Cameron Indoor Stadium erupt without fans.

So simple, so elegant, so unique. There are some sports traditions that can be copied, scoffed, scorned, but ultimately can’t be topped. The Lambeau Leap, dotting the “i” at Ohio State, Clemson’s walk down the hill from Howard’s Rock are all examples. None of these hold a candle, however, to the in-game adrenaline shot that is Duke basketball’s Cameron Indoor floor slap.

The first time I saw it was when gritty point guard Steve Wojciechowski did it in 1998. A simple plank smack galvanized the team and shot energy throughout the building like a firework.

Over the years, floor slapping has been a signal to everyone it’s time to protect the house. It’s time to bring the emotion and heart that Mike Krzyzewski brought to this school in 1980. It’s time for a defensive stand on Coach K Court.

What was true 23 years ago on Wojo’s Senior Day was certainly true Saturday night during Duke’s 66-65 win over the No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers (15-5, 11-3 ACC).

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Down one point with 2:40 left in the game, senior guard Jordan Goldwire slapped the floor. The rest of the team followed. And what proceeded was subliminal bliss.

Virginia did not score the rest of the way.

The Blue Devils (10-8, 8-6 ACC) trusted J Gold’s energy — for good reason as the man had four steals — and decided the Cavaliers would see nothing else go through the hoop.

Symbol of Duke basketball growth

You can point to many things for Duke’s improvement lately. Communication. The emergence of freshman center Mark Williams. Sophomore forward Matthew Hurt deciding he’s just not going to miss anymore.

But anyone who has seen a Blue Devil version of a championship knows that you can’t win tourney games without heart.

The defense can be taught, and communication is learned over time, but intensity and passion are things that can only be found within. Hard times make strong men, and last night provided hope that these Blue Devils have learned from the hard times and are able to come out of the other side tougher than a fortress made of cafeteria Salisbury steak.

Duke has lost seven games by seven points or less this season, and for a team clawing for its March Madness life, those had to start turning into wins at some point. Now, the Blue Devils may have found their spark, and with four regular-season games left to make an impression on the selection committee, a spark is as vital as air.

While I feel confident that Duke has found a sixth gear and will be playing well into March, I can also truly say that even if it is too little too late for postseason hopes, the effort and passion returned to every game will be a welcome return to normal for all of us Duke basketball diehards.

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