Austin Rivers left Duke after his freshman year but he left an indelible impression on Blue Devils fans. Why?
Because of what we now call the Austin Rivers Game.
In 2012, UNC sort of had the upper hand in the rivalry, at least briefly. John Henson was an impossible matchup and, well, UNC was very good.
In the Dean Dome shootout that year, UNC was playing well and was cruising. A defeat seemed very likely.
But in the last few minutes, Duke rallied. Tyler Thornton hit a three. Seth Curry hit a really long three. Ryan Kelly hit a shot. Tyler Zeller accidentally tipped a rebound into Duke’s basket (Mason Plumlee may have helped). And poor Zeller missed at the line too.
But most of all, it was Rivers with an iconic finish.
UNC was up 84-82 when Duke got the ball back after Zeller’s miss with 11.9 on the clock. Plumlee gave it to Rivers who brought it up court. He came off a Plumlee pick and faced Zeller one-on-one.
And in one of the coolest things ever, Rivers started to go drive and pull back, drive and pull back, very much like how you’re supposed to give a fish some line before you try to reel him in. And he rocked Zeller off balance and hit a three as time ran out.
The Daily Tar Heel did a documentary film on the rivalry and showed some UNC students in a bar as he shot. It took a few seconds for it to sink in, with one young woman jumping up and down and then, stunned, asking “what just happened?”
And a guy snapped “turn that camera off.”
That was a glorious day in America’s finest rivalry - provided you’re a Duke fan of course.