When people talk about great Duke buzzer beaters, Christian Laettner’s epic shot against Kentucky in 1991 still tops the list.
After that though, there’s not much that tops what Austin Rivers did to UNC in 2012.
Not to knock Laettner’s incredible shot - people have been talking about it for more than a quarter of a century for a reason - but in some ways, Rivers was better.
Keep in mind that Duke was down 10 with 2:15 to go - in Chapel Hill. So many things had to go right for Rivers to get that opportunity as you’ll see.
First Tyler Thornton had to hit a three. He was a pretty good spot-up shooter but the three here wasn’t one of his typical shots.
Then Mason Plumlee made a steal above the three point circle, dribbled the ball down the baseline and brought the ball up. It ended up with Seth Curry, who hit one of the longest shots of his Duke career.
Then Ryan Kelly drew a charge on UNC’s Harrison Barnes. Then Kelly missed a three, got his own long rebound and scored a two to cut the lead to 82-80 with 1:09 left.
Then there was Tyler Zeller’s accidental tip-in of another Kelly three (you can’t see it here but Plumlee subtly pushed Zeller who lost his balance in-air resulting in the tip-in).
Still, UNC was up 84-82 when Zeller missed a free throw.
Plumlee got the rebound with 12.5 left and kicked it to Rivers, who ran up the left side of the court.
Rivers cut across the court to the right where Zeller warily picked him up.
Rivers backed up to almost the sideline as he studied and stalked the big man.
That’s the iconic part of the play - how he rocked Zeller back and forth until he knew he had him. When he went up, Zeller had no chance.
There’s also a great bit here where he waves on Andre Dawkins, a superb three point shooter who was at the top of the key.
Anyway, as usual DBP did a great job breaking down the video and it’s a lot of fun to see again.
We expect Laettner would vote for his own buzzer beater and ultimately we would too. But we also think Laettner must have loved the arrogance of this freshman seizing the moment, waving off the more experienced Dawkins to swish an absolutely clutch three pointer that stands up to anything in the history of the Duke-UNC rivalry and nearly any buzzer beater ever.