In collaboration with the sportsecyclopedia.com
Duke edges Kentucky 104-103 in overtime in the Eastern Regional Final at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. It is the fifth straight Final Four appearance for the Blue Devils. The game may have been the greatest in the NCAA Tournament, as Duke, coached by Mike Krzyzewski and Kentucky led by Rick Pitino, played an intense back and forth game that had one of the most dramatic endings in NCAA history. After Sean Woods gave the Wildcats a 103-102 lead with a running one-hander, Grany Hill tossed the inbounds pass cross midcourt to Christian Laettner at the foul line. Laettner turned around and hit the game-winner at the buzzer.
It was the greatest class in Duke history. The Blue Devils seeking to become the first team in 19 years to win two consecutive NCAA Tournaments, posted a record of 28-2, spending the entire season ranked #1 as they won the ACC Tournament. On the way to the Eastern Regional Final, the Blue Devils defeated Campbell, Iowa, and Seton Hall fairly easily. The most drama was in their 81-69 win over Seton Hall in the Sweet 16, as Bobby Hurley defeated brother Danny.
Kentucky was a story of redemption. Rising out of the ashes of scandal, Kentucky, led by Rick Pitino, was in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988. The Wildcats had a two-year tournament ban for major NCAA violations, including academic cheating and payments to players. With a ground of seniors called the "the unforgettables" who stayed at the school through the postseason ban, Kentucky posted a record of 26-6, winning the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats reached the East Regional Final as the #2 seed by beating Old Dominion, Iowa State, and UMass.
The game was tight from the start as both Duke and Kentucky were playing at a high level offensively, scoring a combined 95 points as the Blue Devils held a 50-45 lead at the half. Duke appeared to be pulling away in the second half as they stretched the lead to ten points with seven minutes left. Christian Laettner led the way for the Blue Devils as he scored a game-high 31 points. However, he should have been ejected after stepping on the chest of Aminu Timberlake. Laettner was only assessed a technical, but the Wildcats switching to a zone defense would get back in the game, tying the game with a 12-2 run.
The rest of regulation, would see the game turn into a war, as neither side was winning to give in. With the score tied 93-93 with four seconds left, Duke had a chance to win, but Bobby Hurley missed at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime. The game teetered back and forth in overtime, with Kentucky holding a 98-96 lead, when Christian Laettner put the Blue Devils on his back, scoring the next six points to give Duke a 102-101 lead with 7.6 seconds left. Kentucky answered with a running one-hander from Sean Woods to take a 103-102 lead with 2.1 seconds left.
Duke called timeout after the Woods basket. They needed a miracle. In a similar situation early in the season, Grant Hill failed to get the ball to Christian Laettner in a loss against Waker Forest. The Deacons guarded Hill on the inbound pass. Kentucky chose to drop back, allowing the Duke guard an open lane to make the 79-foot pass to Christian Laettner. Laettner caught the ball near the foul line, made one dribble turned, and shot. The ball went through the basket for a 104-103 victory as time expired.
Duke would defeat Indiana in the Final Four and beat Michigan 71-51 in the National Championship Game to complete the repeat championship. The play would become known as "The Shot" as the game is widely considered the best ever in college basketball.