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On The Road To 903

Seminal Games From The Krzyzewski Era At Duke

 With 902 wins at Duke, there are a lot to choose from.  These stand out, good or bad, because of their importance in the Duke career of Coach K.

North Carolina, 1980-81:

Coach K's first win over UNC (on Senior Day no less) came in a spectacular fashion as Gene Banks took an inbounds pass from Kenny Dennard and hit a top of the key jump shot over the outstretched arm of Sam Perkins with just seconds left in regulation.  Pandemonium ensued and Duke won in overtime, 66-65.

Dennard said later that Krzyzewski had called a play for shooting ace Chip Engelland, a strategy he and Banks wordlessly disregarded -- to Duke's great advantage.

Wagner 1/5/83

Despite a stellar freshman class, Duke was struggling. Fans were getting restless -- and bored.  Prior to the Wagner game, only 5,500 had showed up to see Duke play George Mason, a total matched for Wagner.

The Seahawks stunned Johnny Dawkins, Jay Bilas and company, winning on Duke's home floor, 84-77.  Many Duke fans were seriously concerned about the direction of the program and more than a few expressed their concerns to A.D. Tom Butters, who gave Coach K a five-year extension the following January, despite continued unhappiness from some fans.

Virginia 3/11/83

The end to one of Duke's longest seasons came with a crushing 109-66 loss to Ralph Sampson and Virginia, who complained afterwards that Duke played dirty.

At a meal after the game, one of the diners raised his glass and said "here's to forgetting tonight."  Krzyzewski fixed him with a glare and said "here's to never forgetting tonight."   Duke would not lose to Virginia again until 1991, and the lesson was woven into the program's DNA. As seniors, the freshmen on the team which was hammered by Virginia would go 37-3 and would just miss winning the national title, falling to Louisville, 72-69.

Notre Dame 2/16/86

On the way to a record 37-win season, Duke had some close calls, notably a one-point win over St. John's in the Garden. But nothing was as thrilling as a 75-74 February win over Notre Dame.

It's somewhat forgotten now, but then-Irish coach Digger Phelps had a special animus for the ACC and loved sticking it to the conference whenever possible, and he definitely had a chance in this game.

With just seconds left, Duke had the lead 75-74, but Notre Dame had the ball and called timeout.  They got the ball to star guard David Rivers, who was closely shadowed by Duke's Johnny Dawkins.  When Rivers pulled up for a jumper, Dawkins went up with him and stuffed the shot about 18 feet from the basket.  It was one of the greatest defensive clutch plays in Duke's history.

Louisville 3/31/86

Duke's first appearance in a title game culminated in a loss to Louisville and Purvis Ellison, 72-69.  For a lot of programs, that would have been a peak.  For Duke and Coach K, it was a starting point: Duke would make seven Final Fours in a nine year stretch and win back-to-back titles in 91-92.

Temple 3/26/88

Temple's Mark Macon was a sensational freshman guard who drew comparisons to NBA legend Oscar Robertson. That pretty much stopped when the Owls ran into Duke in the 1988 East Regional Finals.

Quin Snyder, Robert Brickey and most of all defensive savant Billy King combined to hold Macon to 6-29 from the floor including eight airballs.

It was yet another example of Duke's ability under Mike Krzyzewski to rise to a difficult defensive challenge.

UNLV 4/2/90

With two astonishing bursts of defense, scoring basket after basket off Duke turnovers, UNLV destroyed Duke in the 1990 title game, winning 103-73.  After the game, Coach K said he wasn't sure if people fully understood just what a great game Vegas had played.  Like the Virginia game mentioned above, it could have ruined a program or ended a career.  It did neither.

UNLV 3/30/91

Before their Final Four rematch, Krzyzewski told his team that Vegas was going to be tight and nervous, and he was right.  Duke kept game pressure on them to the end.  UNLV great Larry Johnson had a chance to win the game on a three pointer, but he balked and passed out to Anderson Hunt, who took a long desperation jumper.  Two days later, on April 1st, the Blue Devils won their first title, beating Roy Williams and Kansas, 72-65.

Kentucky 3/28/92

Duke's legendary win over Kentucky, punctuated by Grant Hill's perfect pass for Christian Laettner's icewater-in-his-veins winning jumper, is in many ways the defining moment of Duke basketball. Laettner's shot and Thomas Hill's incredible mixture of emotions are still shown each March during the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan 4/6/92

After narrowly surviving Michigan's sensational Fab Five freshman dominated team in December, 88-85, the Wolverines were hungry for revenge in the national championship game.   For the first half, it looked as if they might get it: Duke was disjointed and Christian Laettner, usually so reliable in big games, was not himself, while Chris Webber was leading breaks and throwing behind-the-back passes. After halftime, though, Duke was Duke again, and Michigan watched helplessly as the Blue Devils pulled away for their second straight national title.

The Wolverines came to Durham the following year, and after a lot of woofing, fell to Duke yet again, 79-68.

Purdue 3/26/94

Glenn Robinson was the Big Dog in 1994, averaging 30.3 ppg and 11.2 boards.  Purdue featured a number of other talented players, Cuonzo Martin among them.

As great as Robinson was, Grant Hill was a more complete player.  He volunteered to guard Robinson and put a leash on the Big Dog, helping to hold him to 13 points on 6-22 from the floor.  It was one of hte great defensive performances in Duke history and lifted Duke back to the Final Four for the seventh time in nine years.

Clemson 1/4/95

After undergoing back surgery, Coach K tried to will himself through the 1994-95 season.  The long trip back from Hawaiit made things worse though, and after a surprising loss to Clemson and new coach Rick Barnes in Cameron, Krzyzewski took a leave of absence.  With their leader sidelined, Duke fell to 13-18.

North Carolina 2/2/95

1995 turned out to be a dismal season, but the Duke-UNC game in Cameron turned out to be a classic.  Duke struggled for much of the game and UNC's Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace had brilliant outings for the Tar Heels.  Yet hope lived:  Serge Zwikker missed two free throws and Jeff Capel hit a running, 37-foot three pointer to put the game in double overtime.

UNC won, 102-100, but the moment was unforgettable.

North Carolina 2/2/98

Although Elton Brand had missed much of the season with a broken foot, he returned for the UNC game.  Despite falling behind by 17 points with 12 minutes to go, Duke mounted one of the great comebacks in Cameron history.  UNC visibly wilted under the ferocious assault and while they had two chances to win from the free throw line, both Ed Cota and Brendan Haywood missed the front end of their one-and-ones.  Duke pulled it out, 77-75.

 Maryland 3/10/01

Duke beat the Terps 98-96 in College Park, coming back from 10 down with just 54 seconds left,  before losing to Maryland in Durham after Carlos Boozer was injured, 80-91.  A quickly reconfigured Duke team prevailed in the ACC Tournament, 84-82.  By the time the old rivals met in the Final Four, Maryland had had just about enough of Duke.

Maryland shot out to a 39-17 lead.  During a timeout, Krzyzewski told his team that he wasn't calling anymore plays, that they should just play basketball and try to climb back into it.

Good advice, as it turned out:  Duke rallied, held Maryland legend Juan Dixon to three points in the second half and outscored the Terps 57-35, winning 95-84.

West Virginia 4/3/2010

After West Virginia crushed Duke in the NCAA Tournament in 2008, many people expected the Final Four rematch in 2010 to end up the same.  Careful Duke observers knew that West Virginia was going to get Duke's absolute best shot, and they did: the Blue Devils thoroughly controlled the Mountaineers.

Of West Virginia's primary players, only Devin Ebanks shot 50%; the rest of the starters shot 10-33.  Duke won going away, 78-57.

Butler 4/5/2010

Butler's rise to the championship game was a remarkable story, but the little-engine-that-could storyline mostly ignored a brutally physical defense, a staff that uses technology as well as any in the country, and the brilliant coaching of the superbly unflappable Brad Stevens.

The game went down to the wire, of course, and even Brian Zoubek's late heroics (he forced a timeout on an inbounds play, made Gordon Hayward alter a potentially game-winning shot and hit a free throw before deliberately missing his second) were barely enough to hold off the Bulldogs, who, true to their nickname, still almost won on an agonizingly close shot by Hayward which just barely missed.

Duke held Hayward to 2-11, fellow frontcourt star Matt Howard to 3-8, Willie Veasley to 1-9 and Shelvin Mack to 5-14.  Only Ronald Nored (3-8) and Avery Jukes (4-6) had decent shooting nights.

While Zoubek gets massive credit for the clutch plays at the end, Jon Scheyer played a phenomenal floor game which was about as mistake free as is humanly possible.