By the 1989-90 season, it was clear that Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke program had legs. The Blue Devils had been to the NCAA Tournament every year since 1984 and had made the Final Four in 1986, 1988, and 1989, and the Sweet Sixteen in 1987.
Duke wasn’t going away.
But it still wasn't the Duke people know and love (or hate) today. There were no national championships and Christian Laettner was just another hungry sophomore. Bobby Hurley was a somewhat anxious freshman and Grant Hill was still in high school in Virginia a year away.
Duke started Laettner, Hurley, Robert Brickey, Alaa Abdelnaby and Phil Henderson, who just a week or so earlier had called his teammates “a bunch of babies” for not having the kind of heart he (rightly) thought they should.
The heart showed up as this team went all the way to the Finals, where they were blown out by UNLV.
This game was a big part of Duke’s maturation and it was tight, tied 72-72 with 1:00 to go and with just :09 left, Brickey went to the line with Duke up by two. He hit them both to put Duke up 76-72.
By the way, this is pretty great - check out the intro to the Daily Press’s article about this game: “Technically speaking, Duke’s heart and poise carried the Blue Devils again into the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16.
“Aided by a timely technical foul that resulted in a six-point play, Duke overcame a nine-point second-half deficit and its own offensive frustrations to squeeze past St. John’s 76-72 in a second-round NCAA tournament East Region game Sunday at the Omni.”
That sequence takes place with 8:49 left in the second half. It’s worth checking out.