Duke basketball alum guides squad to monumental upset

Former Duke basketball guard and assistant coach Chris Collins (Photo by Peyton Williams/Getty Images)
Former Duke basketball guard and assistant coach Chris Collins (Photo by Peyton Williams/Getty Images) /

A Duke basketball product has regained his footing with a most improbable win.

In 2017, after directing the Northwestern basketball program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in history, head coach Chris Collins was beginning to look like a prime candidate to become Duke basketball’s next leader. Ever since, though, the former Blue Devil guard and assistant hasn’t exactly solidified his job security amid four consecutive losing seasons.

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But the Wildcats are now sitting at 9-6 overall this go-round, albeit only 2-4 in Big Ten play. And they are coming off arguably the most stunning achievement of Collins’ tenure, Saturday’s wild 64-62 win on the road over No. 10 Michigan State.

Absences and iffy calls unable to stymy the Duke basketball alum’s squad

Chris Collins and his gang managed the victory over Hall of Famer Tim Izzo and his Spartans despite being without the services of their primary weapon. That weapon is Pete Nance (ankle), a senior forward averaging 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds for the Wildcats this season while shooting 51.1 percent from the field and 45.7 percent from downtown.

Also, as ESPN anchor and Northwestern alum Mike Greenberg made sure to point out on Twitter, the Wildcats had to combat some “truly embarrassing” officiating in the final moments of the game:

Even more flabbergasting is the fact that Northwestern pulled off the upset while shooting a dismal 34.8 percent from the field.

However, in the end, Collins snagged the W — now sporting a 127-140 record across his nine years at the school since departing the bench in Durham — by placing his complete trust in a collection of gritty role players. Speaking to the media after the battle, the 47-year-old praised his group’s resilience in light of its recent string of collapses in close contests:

“This was a really important win for us after what we’ve been through in the past four games…The last couple of weeks were disappointing. But today, hopefully, can be a positive momentum builder.”

Meanwhile, Izzo was nothing short of complimentary toward Collins:

“Disappointed and happy for Chris Collins. I mean that. He did a hell of a job in rearranging his guys.”

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