Laettner and Duke beat Kentucky: History 101

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Christian Laettner 300x239 Laettner and Duke beat Kentucky: History 101

In 1992 the Duke Blue Devils returned four starters from their National Championship team the year prior.  1991 was the first National Championship in the schools’ now illustrious basketball history and with the majority of their stars still in place, the Blue Devils and their fans had high expectations for an encore.   Led by point guard Bobby Hurley, forward Grant Hill, and center Christian Laettner, the Blue Devils entered March Madness with an impressive 28-2 record and the Nations’ No. 1 seed.

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In the early rounds of the tournament one by one the Blue Devils cruised by their underdog opponents.  First it was Campbell, then Iowa, and Seton Hall.  By the tournament’s midpoint the Blue Devils could all but taste the Final Four.  All that stood in their way was an East Regional Finals matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats and their sophomore sensation Jamal Mashburn.

The outcome of the game remained in the balance until the final shot.  Duke’s Laettner was 9 for 9 from the floor that day but his 10th shot would be the dagger.  The funny thing about that 10th shot is that it probably never should have occurred.  Earlier in the second half, Laettner purposefully stomped Kentucky freshman Arminu Timberlake in the chest as he lay on the court after a dead ball.  Laettner received a technical foul for his actions but due to the his apparent intent, he probably should have been ejected.

Nevertheless Kentucky took a one point lead with 2.1 seconds remaining in the game and for a moment it looked as the Blue Devils rein and attempt to repeat as champions would come to an end.  But as the saying goes, the beauty about sports is that; it ain’t over, until it’s over.

Grant Hill would inbound for Duke.  His target would be the 6’11 Laettner who stood 70 feet away from him.  70 feet in football terms equates to about 23 yards.  Can you imagine having to complete a 23 yard pass to win a football game?  Where it’s possible it’s also improbable and the thought of getting off a decent shot attempt after completing a near length of the court pass seemed desperate at best.  Like a quarterback, Hill cocked the ball back and hurled it down the court.  What happened after that would make the play one of the greatest in college basketball history.

Laettner caught the pass with his back to the basket. He dribbled once and pivoted left before turning right and taking a 17 foot jump shot.  It was the shot heard round the world as Laettner sank the basket sending Kentucky home and Duke to their 5th straight final four.

The Blue Devils would go on to beat the Michigan Wolverines in the National Championship game for their second consecutive title.

The 1992 Duke – Kentucky game was arguably the best in college basketball history and gets the grade of an A+ in this edition of College Sports University History 101.

Aaron Moon is the CEO of The Sports Blitz Network and can be contacted at amoon@thepenaltyflagblog.com.

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