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1991 College Basketball Season – Always a Bridesmaid, Finally a Bride

December 1, 2015

unlv running rebels


The five starters for defending champion and #1 ranked UNLV.  From front to back: Anderson Hunt, Greg Anthony, Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, George Ackles *photo courtesy of Idiots on Sports

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels had four starters returning from their 1990 NCAA Championship team and there seemed to be no stopping them.  They topped the pre-season polls with #2 Arkansas, #3 Arizona, #4 Michigan State, #5 North Carolina, #6 Duke, #7 Alabama, #8 Indiana, #9 Georgetown, #10 Ohio State.

UNLV and Arkansas would face off in February when they were still #1 and #2 in the nation.  Arkansas lost to Arizona in the Pre-Season NIT Championship and Arizona moved up to #2 before taking on LSU in the deaf dome.  Michigan State was ranked that high with 2nd team All-American Steve Smith coming back.  But they lost to Nebraska and Bowling Green before getting it handed to them by UNLV.  The Runnin’ Rebels would not have anything near a challenge before the Arkansas matchup.

It turned out that Michigan State’s biggest accomplishment that season was giving the 17-0 Ohio State Buckeyes their first loss of the season.  But that would pretty much be it as the Spartans finished 3rd in the Big Ten at 11-7 and 19-11 overall after losing to Utah in the 2nd round of the West Regional.

As for the other Big Ten teams in the top 10, Indiana and Ohio State would face off in a classic in February.  North Carolina and Duke would, of course, be at each others throats.  Alabama, after winning two straight SEC Championships, would get off to a slow start by losing to Southern Mississippi, Wichita State and then getting drilled by UNC.  The Crimson Tide, led by Robert Horry and Latrell Sprewell, finished 4th in the conference but managed to win their 3rd consecutive tournament title after top-seeded Kentucky was made ineligible because they were still on probation from 1989 and LSU was upset by Auburn in the 1st round.  Alabama then lost to Arkansas in the Sweet 16.

Georgetown got off to a good start with a big win over Duke in the last year of the ACC-Big East challenge.  But then they lost to UTEP and Ohio State and never could seem to get it together in the Big East.  The Big East would, in fact, be full of surprises.  The biggest of which would be the top 3 seeds going out in the 1st round of the Big East tournament, which probably helped the NCAA tournament committee to invite 7 teams to the dance.

As the season got to two weeks old, Syracuse and UCLA moved into the top 10.  Syracuse’s big win was against Indiana in the Maui Classic Championship (soon to be the Maui Invitational).  UCLA was off to an 8-0 start with a win over Virginia to its credit.  Minus Michigan State and Alabama (who were moved out of the top 10 in favor of Syracuse and UCLA), all of the teams mentioned above will be covered.

December 8, 1990 – (#2)Arizona Wildcats 82 @(#18)LSU Tigers 92

As mentioned, Arizona moved up to #2 in the nation after defeating Arkansas in the Pre-Season NIT Final.  Lute Olson’s Wildcats had a load of NBA talent and had gotten a big-time newcomer in Chris Mills.  Mills had transferred from Kentucky after the NCAA barred him from playing there because of money his family had received from an assistant coach that helped lead UK to their probation.

Mills was joined in the front court by Brian Williams (the future Bison Dele) and Sean Rooks, who were a strong inside tandem.  Junior Wayne Womack and sophomore Ed Stokes were their backups but could be starting almost anywhere else.  The back court had veterans Matt Othick and Matt Muehlebach with McDonald’s All-American Khalid Reeves set to join them.

But as strong a tandem as Williams and Rooks were, they would get their test in Shaquille O’Neal.  O’Neal had lost most of his star teammates for the year as Chris Jackson went to the NBA and Stanley Roberts and Maurice Williamson were academically ineligible, Roberts went to play in Europe instead of waiting out the semester.

O’Neal would be joined by senior Wayne Sims, junior Vernel Singleton and sophomore Shawn Griggs at the forwards.  Dutch center Geert Hammink was back after a red-shirt season.  The only back court man returning of note was junior Harold Boudreaux.  Dale Brown’s starters were transfers T.J. Pugh and Mike Hansen.  Hansen had actually scored 40 against LSU a few years earlier while playing for Tennessee-Martin.

LSU had opened with a loss to Villanova but had drilled Southeastern Louisiana and Texas.  But now they would get a test in 7-0 Arizona.  The Wildcats took an early lead before O’Neal threw down a lob pass from Singleton for his first field goal 6 minutes into the game.  A periodic problem for LSU during O’Neal’s career was not getting the ball to Shaq enough, or at all.

Ed Stokes came off the bench and hit two turnaround jumpers from the post to give Arizona a 13-7 lead.  But LSU followed with a 7-0 run as O’Neal got going a little bit.  But Shaq sat out a bit in the 1st half because of what was being said as a pulled stomach muscle (I know you’re smart and know the stomach isn’t a muscle, although it sets up the “Shaq eats a lot” jokes).

Wayne Sims came off the bench and scored 7 quick points to give the Tigers a 23-17 lead.  Boudreaux followed with a three and Hansen got a breakaway as LSU took their biggest lead at 28-19.  But Womack and Stokes brought Arizona back and they cut it to 38-35 at halftime.

The second half saw both teams trading baskets for a long time.  LSU had a balanced attack, although Shaq probably still wasn’t getting the ball enough.  Meanwhile, Arizona was led by Brian Williams and their other big people.  They took it to Shaq and drew his 4th foul midway through the 2nd half.

After Shaq went to the bench, Williams and Rooks got easy layups to put Arizona ahead 59-56.  But then Geert Hammink came in and turned around the momentum.  He hit a turnaround jumper in the lane and then put back his own miss.  Singleton followed with a slam and then Hansen got a transition three to put LSU up 65-59.

But the Tigers couldn’t keep their momentum going and Shaq came back in with 6:44 left and LSU still up 65-63.  The big man started his assault by throwing down an alley-oop pass and drawing a foul.  O’Neal then hit a hook after a drop-step on the baseline.  He would later rebound-slam a miss with only his right hand as he reached back, grabbed it, and threw it down.

Even with Shaq now fully involved, Arizona cut it to 74-73 with under 3 1/2 to go.  But Hansen hit a big three after Griggs crossed the ball to him.  Griggs would later lob a pass to O’Neal for a layup and a foul.  Shaq, naturally, missed the free throw but after Hansen penetrated and found Griggs, Shawn alley-ooped it to Shaq, who dunked on Rooks’ head.  LSU now led 81-74.

Arizona made a final run as LSU took some bad shots and turned the ball over.  Two free throws from Othick cut the lead to 83-82 with 56 seconds left.  But even with still a differential of the shot clock and game clock (the NCAA had a 45-second shot clock at the time), Othick fouled Singleton.  Vernel made both free throws.

O’Neal then stole the ball from Rooks and Hansen was fouled with 32 seconds left.  Hansen made both free throws.  Shaq then got a chance to finish off the Wildcats at both ends of the floor.  He blocked Rooks’ shot and then a follow-up by Mills.  Then Pugh found him for a big slam and a foul with 7 seconds to go.  O’Neal would finish with 29 points, 16 rebounds and 6 blocks.

Arizona and LSU would get into the meat of their conference schedules with a few losses under their belt.  Arizona lost three road games at Washington, California and USC.  Following their USC loss was perhaps their toughest road game in the Pac-10, at UCLA.

LSU lost at Illinois and then at Kentucky.  They lost at Tennessee and then had back-to-back losses at home against Mississippi State and then at Vanderbilt.  They came into an early February matchup against Kentucky 5th in the SEC.

Arizona starters (points scored)

Chris Mills (17) – Small Forward

Brian Williams (14) – Power Forward

Sean Rooks (18) – Center

Matt Othick (4) – Point Guard

Matt Muehlebach (6) – Shooting Guard

Arizona bench (points scored)

Wayne Womack (12)

Ed Stokes (9)

Deron Johnson (0)

Khalid Reeves (2)

Arizona Coach: Lute Olson

LSU starters (points scored)

Vernel Singleton (16) – Small Forward

Shawn Griggs (9) – Power Forward

Shaquille O’Neal (29) – Center

T.J. Pugh (4) – Point Guard

Mike Hansen (12) – Shooting Guard

LSU bench (points scored)

Harold Boudreaux (9)

Wayne Sims (9)

Geert Hammink (4)

Danny Moscovitz (0)

Lenear Burns (0)

LSU Coach: Dale Brown

December 10, 1990 – (#18)Kentucky Wildcats 81 @(#9)North Carolina Tarheels 84

This matchup had some historical proportions as both teams came into this game with 1,438 all time wins, tops in college basketball.  So, in essence, this became a tie-breaker for the moment but both programs were in different situations at this point.

Kentucky had been rocked by its scandal in which the death penalty was discussed.  Instead, Kentucky got no post-season appearances in 1990 and 1991, no national TV appearances in 1990 and three new scholarships over those two seasons.

With all of that being said, Rick Pitino came in for the 1990 season without the stars that Kentucky usually had.  But he had good players who stayed at Kentucky despite the turmoil.  The closest thing to a star was 6’8″ (to put it nicely) Reggie Hanson.  Hanson was Kentucky’s center but was more of a swingman.  He would be a senior in 1991.  Pitino would give him his NBA opportunity with Boston in 1998.

The other good players that would stick with Kentucky would come to be known as the Unforgettables.  They were forwards John Pelphrey and Deron Feldhaus, and guards Richie Farmer and Sean Woods.  All four would be the in the senior class of 1992 that led Kentucky back to prominence.  But for 1990, they all finished at 14-14 (10-8 in the SEC).

Pitino would show that we was going to lead Kentucky back when he produced a gem in the recruiting class of 1990.  Although Jamal Mashburn, from the Bronx, wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American, he would prove to be the superstar that led Kentucky to the next level.  Mashburn would finish behind Pelphrey and Hanson in the Kentucky scoring column in 1991 but he would become a legit superstar.

The Wildcats were off to a 4-0 start, including a victory over Kansas.  The Jayhawks had defeated the Wildcats by a score of 150-95 in 1990, so it was a big game on the minds of Kentucky.  But now they were to travel to Chapel Hill, North Carolina for their biggest test so far.

While Mashburn had been a big recruit for Kentucky, despite not being on the All-American list, Dean Smith had grabbed four players off that list to come play at UNC.  They were center Eric Montross from Indianapolis, point guard Derrick Phelps and forward Brian Reese from New York, and forward Clifford Rozier from Florida.  Also picked up by Smith was center Kevin Salvadori and forward Pat Sullivan.  This class drew waves but also presented a problem.

Those 6 players joined the likes of seniors Rick Fox, Pete Chilcutt, King Rice; junior Hubert Davis, and sophomores George Lynch, Henrik Rodl, Kenny Harris and Matt Wenstrom.  All in all, there were 14 guys who felt that they deserved to see the court and part of Carolina’s “struggle” so far that season was trying to find consistent playing time for people so that they could grab a rhythm.  All 14 guys played in this game, but most of the bench didn’t get enough time to establish their flow.

At the end of the day, the younger guys got less minutes but only two players left the program and transferred after the 1991 season, Kenny Harris went to VCU and Clifford Rozier went to Louisville.

Carolina had a 4-1 record to start the season.  Their only loss came against a surprising South Carolina team that got off to a 9-1 start and were ranked as high as 12th before fizzling out and missing the NCAA tournament.  The big win so far had come against UConn.

But Carolina’s play was, more or less, sloppy as they committed 18 first half turnovers.  Kentucky hung in with the Tarheels as a result and then made a run.  Pelphrey nailed a three for his 10th point to give the Wildcats a 30-28 lead.  Then after Pelphrey hit two free throws, Richie Farmer got hot and connected on three triples to put Kentucky ahead 41-30 late in the half.  Three UNC free throws, including the only two points from Rick Fox in the 1st half, cut Kentucky’s halftime lead to 41-33.

The 2nd half was played much better as UNC got their game going when Smith didn’t play his reserves as much and stuck with the upper-classmen.  Kentucky continued their hot shooting and held the lead for awhile.

Chilcutt, Rice and Lynch got into the scoring column early and then Fox got his first field goal after 8 misses.  But threes by Jeff Brassow, Pelphrey and Mashburn kept the Wildcats lead near double digits.  Mashburn had shown off his multi-dimensional game with 9 points early in the half from both inside and outside as well as good defense and rebounding.

Kentucky took their biggest lead at 63-51 when Pelphrey nailed his 4th three-pointer for his 18th point.  But Hanson picked up his 4th foul and Kentucky suddenly went cold, which may tend to happen when you rely on the jump shot.

After the under 12 minute media timeout, Montross hit a turnaround jumper in the post to cut it to 63-54.  Fox then found Rice for a transition layup and, later, Chilcutt connected on a banker while drawing a foul.  This cut the lead to 66-59.  Brassow stemmed the tide for a moment with a three but then Fox drove baseline for a layup and Mashburn’s 4th foul.

Carolina kept inching closer as Fox outletted to Lynch for a breakaway layup and then Fox drove baseline for an easy score of his own.  This cut the lead to 74-70 and forced Pitino to use a timeout at the 4:52 mark.

It didn’t help much as Kentucky was still cold.  Woods, as the floor leader, tried to take over and get some offense going.  He did hit a running banker but took some other bad shots.  Carolina cut it to 76-75 as Chilcutt put back a miss and then Hubert Davis hit a pull-up jumper in transition.  Pitino had to use his last timeout with 2:47 left.

It did work this time as Hanson drove baseline for a layup.  Then after Lynch hit a turnaround jumper in the post, Pelphrey drove baseline for a runner and a foul.  The three-point play gave Kentucky an 81-77 lead with 1:38 left.

But then Fox, who had missed his first 8 shots, nailed a three from the top to cut it to one with 1:23 to play.  Woods missed a jumper, Pelphrey got the rebound but had the ball knocked away from him.  The ensuing scramble made it out to half-court before Rice dove on it and produced one of those UNC baskets.

Rice found Lynch at half-court, who found a streaking Chilcutt for a breakaway slam to give the Tarheels the lead with 1:01 to go.  Kentucky went to its senior Hanson, but without a timeout Pitino couldn’t set a play (or tell his team that if UNC rebounded, they needed to foul).  Hanson missed a banker and Lynch rebounded.

Carolina then ran out almost the entire clock before Rice was fouled with 1 second left.  Partial credit should be given to Carolina’s ability to spread the floor and play keep away but Kentucky not fouling showed that they were still a young team that had a ways to go.

Luckily (I guess) for the Wildcats, they would get more challenges in 1991 without having to worry about the post-season and all the expectations that come from that.  They would lose a close game to Indiana a week later but then went on a 10-game winning streak that included 4 road wins (three in the SEC and the other at rival Louisville).

Carolina would top that by winning 11 in a row, with this Kentucky game and a double overtime road win at Virginia being the only wins in that streak that were decided in single digits.

Kentucky starters (points scored)

Jamal Mashburn (15) – Small Forward

John Pelphrey (24) – Power Forward

Reggie Hanson (10) – Center

Sean Woods (6) – Point Guard

Jeff Brassow (8) – Shooting Guard

Kentucky bench (points scored)

Richie Farmer (9)

Deron Feldhaus (8)

Gimel Martinez (0)

Jody Thompson (0)

Junior Braddy (0)

Henry Thomas (0)

Johnathon Davis (1)

Kentucky Coach: Rick Pitino

North Carolina starters (points scored)

George Lynch (13) – Small Forward

Pete Chilcutt (14) – Power Forward

Eric Montross (2) – Center

King Rice (14) – Point Guard

Rick Fox (14) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Hubert Davis (13)

Henrik Rodl (5)

Derrick Phelps (4)

Clifford Rozier (1)

Brian Reese (2)

Pat Sullivan (2)

Kenny Harris (0)

Kevin Salvadori (0)

Matt Wenstrom (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

December 15, 1990 – Loyola (Marymount) Lions 112 @(#13)Oklahoma Sooners 172

There is almost nothing like a cold slap in the face to remind you that its not 1990 anymore.  Loyola Marymount was off to a 1-4 start, which included a beat-down by UCLA 149-98.  But that would be nothing compared to Oklahoma.

The Lions had lost their three leading scorers from 1990; Bo Kimble, Jeff Fryer, and Hank Gathers.  Per Stumer did not return for his senior season as he was playing for the Swedish National team.  Tony Walker would be out for the season with a broken wrist.  That covered all five starters for most of the season.  Paul Westhead was also replaced as coach by Jay Hillock, who had been Westhead’s assistant since coming over from Gonzaga in 1985.

The Lions bench from 1990 did return and were expected to step into starring roles.  Terrell Lowery led the way, averaging 28.9 points per game.  But Chris Knight was a disappointment as he averaged 8.3 points per game in his final two seasons after taking Gathers’ spot in the starting lineup in 1990.  Other returning players; Tom Peabody, John O’Connell, and Chris Scott never were or became scorers.

Marymount did have a good freshman big man in Richard Petruska.  Petruska hailed from Slovakia and averaged 17 points per game.  He had a good left-handed shooting touch and could stretch the floor.  But he had originally wanted to go to UCLA and followed through by transferring across Los Angeles after this season.

Oklahoma was off to a 7-1 start but their only quality win was at Texas (who would soon become Oklahoma’s conference rival).  The Sooners had gotten killed by Arkansas but they had no starters returning from the end of the 1990 season.

Skeeter Henry and William Davis left as seniors, along with reserve Tony Martin.  Jackie Jones was academically ineligible for the fall semester of 1990 and left for Spain instead of trying to regain eligibility.  Damon Patterson and Smokey McCovery were also ineligible.  Patterson returned for the 1992 season while McCovery transferred to Oklahoma City College.

But Oklahoma did have some returning players who stepped up, as well as newcomers who made an impact.  The biggest newcomer was guard Brent Price, brother of former Georgia Tech star Mark Price.  Price spent two seasons at South Carolina before craving an up-tempo game.  Price would take full advantage against Loyola Marymount.

The other newcomer was freshman Jeff Webster, who would lead Oklahoma in scoring in three of his four seasons in Norman (including his freshman season of ’91).  The returning players was senior (and the only player left from the ’88 Final Four team) Terrence Mullins, big man Kermit Holmes, and sophomore point guard Terry Evans.

Oklahoma was coming into this game with a 50-game winning streak at home (and 74 wins in a row against non-conference opponents).  Neither streak would be challenged on this night, but both would be put to the test a week later against Duke.

OU more than showed off its up-tempo game against a Lions team that, as mentioned above, was coming to the realization that this wasn’t 1990 anymore.  In fact, Hillock more or less slowed down the tempo as the season went on.  The Lions averaged 101.9 points per game, which was still tops in the NCAA but down from 122.4 points per game in 1990.  In 1992, Hillock’s team averaged 91.8 points per game.

After seeing this display of defense, one couldn’t blame Hillock and also had to realize how mad a scientist Paul Westhead was.  After every basket, or miss, from Loyola, Evans pushed it down the court and usually found Price for an open jumper (or driving layup), or Holmes and Webster inside.

Price had 21 1st half points, Webster had 20 and Holmes had 14.  Even reserve big man Roland Ware contributed 11 points.  This helped the Sooners to a 79-55 halftime lead as Lowery was the only Lion contributing with 22 points.  Loyola wasn’t helping themselves with 18 turnovers against OU’s press.  Loyola’s pressing defense may as well have come with white flags.

The 2nd half was more of a travesty (the announcers were even like, “this game’s over, but stick around to see how many points Oklahoma can put up.”).  Price started bombing away three-pointers and nailing them.  Mullins got into the act by nailing threes.  Holmes looked like Shaquille O’Neal playing against high-schoolers inside.

The biggest run came after the under 16 minute timeout when Oklahoma led 102-67.  Price made a three from the wing.  Evans found Price for another jumper.  Price got a steal and layup.  Webster hit a banker from inside.  Webster got a putback after Price got another steal.  Then Evans got a steal off the press and Webster found Bryan Sallier for a layup and a foul.

This forced Hillock to call a timeout with 13:46 to go, exactly two minutes after the media timeout.  From there, Oklahoma didn’t call off the dogs and beat Loyola like a bastard step-child.

Price finished with 56 points on 11 three-pointers and also contributed 9 assists.  Price’s total was 5 points short of Wayman Tisdale’s Oklahoma single-game scoring record.  Kermit Holmes finished with 34 points and 21 rebounds and added salt to the wound by hitting one of his two three-pointers on the season in the final seconds to make the margin 60.

Oklahoma would get an actual test of its home winning streak when they took on Duke a week later.

Loyola Marymount would lose two more high scoring games to LSU and Georgia Tech.  They would be 4-13 toward the end of January when they turned it around and won their final 10 games of the regular season and finished 2nd in the West Coast Conference.  But they missed any chance of an NCAA tournament appearance when they lost to San Francisco in the 1st round of their conference tournament.

Loyola Marymount has yet to make an NCAA tournament appearance since their remarkable run of 1990.

Loyola Marymount starters (points scored)

Chris Knight (8) – Small Forward

Richard Petruska (8) – Power Forward

Chris Scott (6) – Center

Terrell Lowery (41) – Point Guard

Craig Holt (15) – Shooting Guard

Loyola Marymount bench (points scored)

Tom Peabody (11)

John O’Connell (10)

Brian McClowsky (2)

Greg Evans (0)

Greg Walker (4)

Marcus Slater (4)

Ross Richardson (3)

Loyola Marymount Coach: Jay Hillock

Oklahoma starters (points scored)

Terrence Mullins (6) – Small Forward

Jeff Webster (28) – Power Forward

Kermit Holmes (34) – Center

Terry Evans (10) – Point Guard

Brent Price (56) – Shooting Guard

Oklahoma bench (points scored)

Bryan Sallier (8)

Roland Ware (17)

Martin Keane (9)

Keke Hicks (4)

Tommy French (0)

Oklahoma Coach: Billy Tubbs

brent price

Brent Price had a game for the ages against Loyola Marymount in 1990 *photo courtesy of CSTV

December 19, 1990 – Missouri Tigers 81, Illinois Fighting Illini 84

In the annual Braggin’ Rights game between Missouri and Illinois, the Illini had dominated recently.  Missouri’s last win was in 1982.

While this may have been the weakest Illini team that Missouri had played in the last few seasons, Missouri wasn’t the same team they were in the last 4 years.  Anthony Peeler was academically ineligible for the first semester.  This left Missouri without their 2nd leading scorer and the Tigers had next to no offensive help for senior big man Doug Smith.

Smith, an All-American candidate, was flanked by junior shooting guard Jamal Coleman, sophomore Jeff Warren, and talented freshmen point guards Melvin Booker and Reggie Smith and freshman big man Jevon Crudup.  Booker had to take over at point guard when Travis Ford transferred to Kentucky.

Illinois had only one starter returning from the 1990 team.  That was junior shooting forward Andy Kaufmann, who was off to a hot start with two 40-point games so far.  Redshirt freshman Deon Thomas, a subject of controversy that ended up landing Illinois in hot water, was making an impact along with senior guard Larry Smith, who had been red-shirted in 1990.

The other key players for Illinois were senior big man Andy Kpedi (the “K” in silent, so it is pronounced “peddy”) and freshmen Rennie Clemons, Tom Michael and T.J. Wheeler.

This year’s Braggin’ Rights Game had a huge storm cloud (or elephant in the room, whichever you prefer) over it.  Both teams were ineligible for the NCAA tournament.  Handed out on back-to-back days in early November, both schools were cited for lack of institutional control.

The Illinois case started when the NCAA investigated recordings from Iowa assistant Bruce Pearl that Illinois offered amenities to star recruit Deon Thomas.  There was a lack of evidence in that case, but the NCAA found minor violations at Illinois and handed out their penalty on November 8.

The Missouri case started in 1989, when a conversation between Missouri assistant coach Bob Sundvold and the mother of former Missouri player, P.J. Mays, became public.  That conversation included that Sundvold had purchased a round-trip plane ticket for Mays.  It eventually became found that Missouri had given Mays a semester’s worth of scholarship money even though he was ineligible.  The NCAA came down on Missouri on November 9 with its penalty.

With all of that being said, Illinois was off to a solid 7-3 start while Missouri was struggling at 3-3 without Peeler.  But there was still an electric atmosphere at the St. Louis Arena for this game.  It was mainly the Andy Kaufmann/Doug Smith show, with supporting roles from Deon Thomas and Jamal Coleman.

Kaufmann hit a three to put the Illini up 5-0 but a turnaround jumper by Smith and then a pull-up after a steal triggered an 8-0 Missouri run.  But after Illinois regained the lead, Kaufmann hit two more threes to put them up 15-8.  Coleman and Smith led the Tigers back to take a 19-17 lead.

It went on and on like that until the last three minutes of the 1st half with the game tied at 31.  Smith had actually been shut down over the past few minutes as Andy Kpedi had played great denial defense.  But Smith came alive for 6 points as the Tigers finished the half on a 10-3 run to take a 41-34 halftime lead.

Smith finished with 13 points while Kaufmann led the Illini with 14.  A pull-up jumper by Jevon Crudup gave Missouri a 9-point lead, but then Kaufmann hit two field goals in the lane and Deon Thomas started getting to the line.

Thomas had been held to 5 points in the first half but had had a few rejections that showed off his athleticism.  But he became more aggressive early on and got to the line 8 times in the half before the under 16 media timeout.  Thomas had hit only 5 of those shots but had managed to pull Illinois back into a tie.

Then after the media timeout, Larry Smith threw up an alley-oop for Thomas to finish.  This gave Illinois a 47-45 lead.  The teams went back and forth from there as Doug Smith and Coleman continued their effective games and Melvin Booker got involved for Missouri after a scoreless 1st half.  Illinois countered with its two-some of Kaufmann and Thomas.

Kaufmann would hit 7 three-pointers to set an Illini record.  Thomas got to the line 15 times and had 18 2nd half points.  But Doug Smith was getting to the line too as he finished the game 16-for-18 from the stripe.  Smith’s fall-away from the post gave Missouri a 67-65 lead at the 7:19 mark.

Kaufmann tied it with a runner in the lane and then the Illini took a lead when sophomore guard Tim Geers nailed a three for his only points of the game.  Illinois then took a four-point lead when Tom Michael hit a free throw with 4:21 remaining.

Smith twice cut the Illini lead to two with a pair of free throws.  But Illinois regained four-point leads first when Larry Smith drove right by Booker for a finger roll in the lane and second when Thomas put back a miss by Michael.  Kaufmann followed the Thomas basket with a steal and Deon found Larry Smith for a breakaway layup to put the Illini ahead 79-73.

After Norm Stewart used a timeout at the 2:24 mark, Coleman nailed a three to cut the lead in half.  Illinois used a timeout at the 1:28 mark, still holding a three-point lead.  After Lou Henson set strategy, Kaufmann was able to find a cutting Thomas for a slam and a foul.  Deon missed the free throw and Coleman found Doug Smith for a layup.  Illinois took a timeout at 59 seconds.  Missouri took their last timeout 4 seconds later when they deflected a ball out of bounds.

That timeout worked in Missouri’s favor as they forced freshman Tom Michael to throw the ball out of bounds.  Missouri could now tie it with a three and Coleman went for that tie but missed.  Thomas rebounded and found Kaufmann.  Coleman had to foul Andy with 32 seconds to go and Kaufmann made both free throws.

Coleman then nailed a three to cut Illinois’ lead to 83-81.  Another Missouri freshman Lamont Frazier then committed on foul on Tom Michael with 15 seconds to go.  Michael was a 40% foul shooter coming into this game but got an advantage with a new rule in college basketball for 1991.

After a team commits its 10th team foul, the other team gets an automatic two shots instead of a 1-and-1.  This helped Illinois when Michael missed the first free throw.  He made the second for a three-point lead.  Missouri was out of timeouts.

Frazier, who had seen his first action of the game in the final minute, missed an open three.  Coleman rebounded and fired a tying three at the buzzer that was no good.  Illinois had won their 8th straight game over Missouri.  The Tigers would break that string when they killed the Illini 61-44 the next season.

Both teams would end up finishing respectively in their conferences.  Illinois was 21-10 overall and 11-7 in the Big Ten, good for 3rd place.  Missouri would win 7 games in a row after this loss as Peeler came back for their next game against Grambling.  The Tigers were 17-10 to finish the regular season and 8-6 in the Big 8, good for 4th place.

But for some reason, Missouri was allowed to compete in the Big 8 conference tournament.  They took advantage by beating top-seeded Oklahoma State in the Semifinals and 3rd seeded Nebraska in the Finals to win the tournament.  In what turned out to be an embarrassment for the Big 8, Missouri won the tournament and wasn’t allowed to go to the NCAA tournament.

It was a bit of the same for Illinois (the Big Ten didn’t have a conference tournament at the time) as three teams that finished below the Illini in the standings (Michigan State, Iowa, and Purdue) were invited to the NCAA tournament while Illinois had to stay home.

A dark cloud over this game indeed.

Missouri starters (points scored)

Jeff Warren (7) – Small Forward

Jevon Crudup (8) – Power Forward

Doug Smith (30) – Center

Melvin Booker (6) – Point Guard

Jamal Coleman (20) – Shooting Guard

Missouri bench (points scored)

Reggie Smith (8)

Jim Horton (2)

Chris Heller (0)

Lamont Frazier (0)

Missouri Coach: Norm Stewart

Illinois starters (points scored)

Andy Kaufmann (33) – Small Forward

Deon Thomas (23) – Power Forward

Andy Kpedi (6) – Center

Rennie Clemons (4) – Point Guard

Larry Smith (8) – Shooting Guard

Illinois bench (points scored)

Tom Michael (7)

Tim Geers (3)

Scott Pierce (0)

Brooks Taylor (0)

T.J. Wheeler (0)

Illinois Coach: Lou Henson

December 22, 1990 – (#9)Duke Blue Devils 90 @(#11)Oklahoma Sooners 85

The Duke Blue Devils were trying to recover from being demolished in the 1990 NCAA Championship Game.  It was the conclusion of their 4th Final Four in 5 seasons, but with no championships.

Mike Krzyzewski briefly considered an offer to coach the Boston Celtics that summer but returned to Duke.  Krzyzewski had lost seniors Alaa Abdelnaby, Phil Henderson, and Robert Brickey from the previous season.  But he had a new star in McDonald’s All-American Grant Hill, son of former NFL running back Calvin Hill.  Hill came in as a freshman along with athletic big man Antonio Lang.

Hill and Lang joined a team with one senior in Greg Koubek.  But they had two improving players in junior big man Christian Laettner and point guard Bobby Hurley.  Hurley, in particular, had an awful game against UNLV in the previous year’s final and was determined to show he was a better player.  The Blue Devils also had junior Brian Davis and sophomores Thomas Hill and Billy McCaffrey returning.

The Blue Devils were off to their typical good start at 7-2, the losses being to Arkansas in the Pre-Season NIT Semis and against Georgetown.  But they had yet to go into a hostile environment and show how much they had grown, if at all.

They got their chance with the team that had not lost at home since the final game of the 1987 season.  Oklahoma had a 51-game winning streak at the Lloyd Noble Center (and 74 straight wins versus non-conference opponents) and had just beaten Loyola Marymount by 60 points there.

But Duke was not Loyola Marymount and got the first basket when Grant Hill hit a pull-up jumper after controlling the opening tip.  Duke stayed with Oklahoma initially despite the Sooners nailing 7 of their first 8 shots, including 3 three-pointers from Terry Evans.

But the big difference with Oklahoma against Duke rather than Loyola Marymount was Thomas Hill.  Hill was tasked with checking Brent Price, who had just come off a 56-point game against the Lions.  Hill stayed right on Price and didn’t allow him to get many shots off.

Price, to his credit, didn’t force shots and the Oklahoma team ball was serving them well in the first half as they maintained the lead.  The biggest lead actually came when Price hit his only three to put the Sooners up 36-26.

Evans was the hot man for the Sooners with 5 threes.  Jeff Webster and Kermit Holmes also got involved.  Billy Tubbs’ defense was also getting the job done as Bobby Hurley scored only 1 point in the first half and had several turnovers by trying to force the action.  It was a different Bobby Hurley from 1990 in the sense that Hurley was usually passive as a freshman, but in either case, he didn’t let the game come to him.

Oklahoma went to a calculated gamble late in the first half when they switched to the zone.  Grant Hill took advantage by hitting four mid-range jumpers.  Thomas Hill also got into the offensive act with a slam (that briefly pulled the rim loose from its hinges) and then a tip-in of a Grant Hill miss.  Duke was able to cut it to 50-45 at the half.

Hurley’s 2nd half didn’t start off well as he committed his 3rd foul.  But then he had almost a complete 180.  It started when he finished a transition layup while drawing a foul on Price.  Then Hurley got a breakaway after a Laettner steal to cut the Sooners lead to 54-53.  Grant Hill gave the Blue Devils the lead when Laettner got another steal and fed him on the break.

The score went back and forth for a few minutes as Jeff Webster became the scoring machine for Oklahoma on the inside.  Webster scored the Sooners’ next 8 points.  But Hurley had helped counter by finding Laettner for a slam and hitting a pull-up from the foul line.  Antonio Lang was also making a strong contribution off the bench with offensive rebounds and points.

But with under 12 minutes left, Kermit Holmes recovered a free ball and found Terry Evans for a layup.  Oklahoma took a 66-65 lead at that point going into the media timeout.  But Oklahoma went mostly cold from there.

Hurley nailed a corner three and then found Lang on a 3-on-1 break for a layup.  Later, Hurley penetrated and kicked out to Laettner for a three from the top.  Grant Hill then got a three-point play after an up-and-under from the post against the taller Webster.  Duke led 76-68 at that point.

They were able to keep that lead until about the 3-minute mark when Terrence Mullins got a slam after an Evans steal.  Evans followed with a steal and the Sooners found Webster for a turnaround jumper in the post that cut the lead to 83-79 and gave Webster 30 points.

But Brian Davis hit a pull-up from the foul line with 2 1/2 remaining to put Duke back up by 6.  The teams then exchanged a bevy of turnovers before Duke put it away when Laettner found Thomas Hill for a slam with 47 seconds to go.  Oklahoma went 0-for-9 on threes in the 2nd half.

Oklahoma’s home winning streak had come to an end.  But with the way their season went, it would have ended sooner or later.  The Sooners did follow the loss by winning 5 in a row to take their record to 14-3.  But then the injuries and subsequently the losing started.  Terrence Mullins and Kermit Holmes missed time with knee injuries.  Terry Evans missed time with a deep thigh bruise.  As a result, Oklahoma had a 3-12 finish to the season and were NIT bound, where they lost to Stanford in the Championship Game.

Duke starters (points scored)

Grant Hill (19) – Small Forward

Christian Laettner (19) – Power Forward

Crawford Palmer (1) – Center

Bobby Hurley (13) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (16) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Antonio Lang (11)

Billy McCaffrey (4)

Brian Davis (7)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Oklahoma starters (points scored)

Terrence Mullins (8) – Small Forward

Jeff Webster (32) – Power Forward

Kermit Holmes (10) – Center

Terry Evans (17) – Point Guard

Brent Price (11) – Shooting Guard

Oklahoma bench (points scored)

Bryan Sallier (2)

Roland Ware (4)

Martin Keane (1)

Oklahoma Coach: Billy Tubbs

January 14, 1991 – (#3)Indiana Hoosiers 65 @Purdue Boilermakers 62

In 1990, Gene Keady and his Purdue Boilermakers made a surprise run to a 21-7 regular season, finishing 2nd in the Big Ten at 13-5.  Keady had seniors Steve Scheffler, Tony Jones and Ryan Berning; juniors Jimmy Oliver and Chuckie White; and sophomores Woody Austin and Loren Clyburn.

But by the time the Big Ten season got very old in 1991, only Oliver and White (now seniors) were remaining.  Austin, the team’s leading scorer, and Clyburn were academically ineligible for the 2nd semester.  The Boilermakers were 10-3 and should have won the only Big Ten game that they had lost so far as they led Illinois 59-52 with 2:00 left but lost 63-61.

Oliver would become Purdue’s only future NBA player in 1991.  He and White were teamed with senior point guard Dave Barrett, junior center Craig Riley, sophomore guard (and future head coach) Matt Painter, and then freshmen Ian Stanback, Linc Darner, Cornelius McNary and Travis Trice (father of former Michigan State guard Travis Trice).

Bob Knight and Indiana had an amazingly young team in 1990 as there were key freshmen Calbert Cheaney, Matt Nover, Pat Graham, Greg Graham, Chris Reynolds and Chris Lawson.  They finished 9-9 in the Big Ten and made a surprising NCAA tournament appearance.

Now these sophomores were teamed with senior guard Lyndon Jones, juniors Eric Anderson and Jamal Meeks, and 1990 McDonald’s High School All-American Damon Bailey (said to be one of the best high schoolers of all time in Indiana, although he had some great games for the Hoosiers, including one later in this post, he turned out to be another over-rated Indiana white boy who wasn’t that quick, like Steve Alford).

Cheaney and Anderson were the big scorers (only them and Bailey averaged in double figures).  Cheaney was developing into one of the best forwards in the nation.  The Hoosiers were 14-1, with their only loss being to Syracuse in the Maui Classic.

Indiana was on a 12-game winning streak and many of those games weren’t close.  It looked to be the same early on in the rivalry game of the state of Indiana.  Knight started three guards (Meeks, Jones, and Bailey) along with Cheaney and Anderson, and their small lineup worked.

Meeks found Jones for a three.  Meeks penetrated and found Anderson for a layup and a foul.  Meeks penetrated and found Cheaney for three.  Bailey found Jones in transition for another three.  With everybody involved, Indiana was up 12-2 and Chuckie White had two fouls for the Boilermakers.

Four straight points by Anderson gave the Hoosiers a 16-4 lead at 15:22.  Then after Purdue finally put together consecutive baskets, Cheaney came back with a pull-up on the baseline after a spin move.  Then Cheaney followed with a monster slam on a baseline drive.  Reynolds fed Pat Graham for a layup and the blowout was on as Indiana led 22-8.

But then Indiana suddenly couldn’t put the ball in the ocean while riding a speedboat.  White got a three-point play just before the second media timeout.  The next few minutes were a free throw shooting contest, and the contest was who could miss the most.  There were three field goals over the next 8 minutes, all by Purdue, and both teams struggled at the line.

It didn’t help Knight when Anderson and then Cheaney committed their 3rd fouls and had to sit.  Purdue cut it to 28-24 with 3:51 to go before Greg Graham broke an 8:46 drought without a field goal.  Graham followed with a steal and layup.  Indiana was still able to hold a 37-31 halftime lead.

Jimmy Oliver, who had put up 35 points in Purdue’s previous game against Michigan, was held to 6 points in the 1st half as nobody scored in double figures.  Cheaney and Anderson led Indiana with 7 and Ian Stanback had 8 for Purdue.

Purdue got going a little bit to start the 2nd half but their momentum was stymied by a Cheaney three.  But with the Hoosiers up 41-35, Anderson committed his 4th foul and went to the bench.  Stanback continued Purdue’s troubles at the foul line by bricking two but then Oliver came back with a three to cut the lead in half.

Then on the next possession, Cheaney committed an offensive foul for his 4th.  Chuckie White then cut Indiana’s lead to one with an offensive rebound and a slam.

Chris Reynolds briefly saved the Hoosiers when he got a three-point play on a cut.  Reynolds followed with a steal and Pat Graham hit on a driving layup.  But then Indiana went on another drought without their two leading scorers (plus Bailey putting up only 1 point and not playing much in the 2nd half).

Purdue wasn’t exactly burning the nets either but they cut it to 48-47 when White hit on a reverse and drew a foul.  Stanback later hit a jumper in the lane to give Purdue the lead with over 11 minutes to go.  Now Knight had to bring Anderson and Cheaney back in.

A layup by White against Cheaney in the post put Purdue up 52-48.  But Anderson showed his value by hitting a big jumper from the foul line.  Anderson then followed a Purdue field goal with a pull-up jumper from the elbow.

Craig Riley then got involved for Keady as he hit a banker from the post against Anderson.  But this time it was Cheaney who responded with a baseline jumper.  Riley later hit a hook against Anderson in the post, but Cheaney answered with a pull-up from the baseline.

Anderson and Cheaney had kept Indiana to within two and then the Hoosiers took the lead when Jamal Meeks drove down the lane for a layup and a foul.  It was 59-58 Hoosiers with 5 1/2 minutes to play.

Both teams then traded misses and turnovers over the next two minutes before Cheaney fed Anderson on a cut for a layup and a three-point Indiana advantage.  Stanback broke a long Purdue drought by hitting a turnaround jumper in the lane.  But then Reynolds penetrated and kicked out to Anderson for a jumper from the top.

Even with that assist, Reynolds’ big contribution (and the strongest part of his game) was on defense and he shut down Oliver in the 2nd half as he didn’t score over the last 14 minutes or so.  Reynolds forced Oliver to double dribble with 1:33 to go.  But Purdue got another chance after Cheaney missed.

The Boilermakers couldn’t get the good shot for their stars though and Matt Painter had to force one up at 31 seconds, actually he had plenty of time on the shot clock but forced one up.  Pat Graham seemed to put the game away with two free throws.

But after Painter scored, Purdue called a timeout with 8.2 seconds to play.  They then fouled Meeks two seconds later.  Meeks was a 72% foul shooter in 1991 but only went to the line 51 times.  He missed the first.  Purdue iced him by calling their last timeout.  It worked, sort of, as Meeks nearly airballed the 2nd free throw.

White rebounded but it took him a few seconds to find Trice, who was in the game at point guard after Barrett (the senior) fouled out.  Trice fell down and lost the dribble off his foot as he approached the front court and time ran out.

Indiana’s biggest test would come a week later as they hosted 15-0 Ohio State.  The Buckeyes ended the Hoosiers’ 14-game winning streak as they won 93-85.  Indiana and Ohio State would lose a combined one time between that game and their next matchup on February 17.

Purdue would fall into a tailspin as they lost 5 games in a row in late January and early February (including the rematch against Indiana in Bloomington, 81-63).  But Keady would rally his troops for a 6-1 finish and a long-shot NCAA tournament berth as a #7 seed in the East.

They got demolished in the 1st round by Temple 80-63.  Purdue finished their season 17-12 (9-9 in the Big Ten) and would have to sweat out the 1992 season without their big recruit in the 1991 High School class, Glenn Robinson.

Indiana starters (points scored)

Damon Bailey (1) – Small Forward

Calbert Cheaney (14) – Power Forward

Eric Anderson (15) – Center

Jamal Meeks (4) – Point Guard

Lyndon Jones (6) – Shooting Guard

Indiana bench (points scored)

Pat Graham (10)

Chris Reynolds (9)

Matt Nover (0)

Greg Graham (4)

Chris Lawson (2)

Indiana Coach: Bob Knight

Purdue starters (points scored)

Jimmy Oliver (11) – Small Forward

Chuckie White (17) – Power Forward

Craig Riley (10) – Center

Dave Barrett (5) – Point Guard

Linc Darner (0) – Shooting Guard

Purdue bench (points scored)

Ian Stanback (12)

Travis Trice (2)

Matt Painter (5)

Cornelius McNary (0)

Purdue Coach: Gene Keady

calbert cheaney

Calbert Cheaney drives against Chuckie White in Indiana’s rematch against Purdue in Bloomington *photo courtesy of Indianapolis Star

January 16, 1991 – (#13)Connecticut Huskies 79 @(#8)Syracuse Orangemen 81 (OT)

The Connecticut Huskies were the surprise team of the Big East in 1990.  They seemed to be continuing their momentum as they got off to a 12-1 start, including victories in their first 3 Big East games.

But then the challenging part of their schedule came when they had to play St. John’s twice and Syracuse twice (plus a game at Seton Hall) in a 2 1/2 week stretch before the end of January.  It didn’t start out well as they took a home loss to St. John’s 72-59.  Now, 4 days later, they were to travel to the Carrier Dome.

The only senior that Jim Calhoun and the Huskies lost from 1990 was point guard Tate George.  But Nadav Henefeld also didn’t return after the Israeli National team wanted him to play professionally.  But UConn did get another player from Israel, Gilad Katz, who stuck around for two seasons.

Katz joined junior Chris Smith, the Huskies leading scorer, and seniors John Gwynn and Steve Pikiell in the back court.  Up front, junior Rod Sellers and sophomores Scott Burrell and Toraino Walker were starting in this game with seniors Murray Williams and Lyman DePriest and junior Dan Cyrulik coming off the bench.  The starting lineup fluctuated throughout the year as Smith, Sellers and Burrell were the only players to start in all the games.

Syracuse had lost Derrick Coleman and Stephen Thompson from 1990.  But they rebounded by landing the top high school player in guard Adrian Autry.  Autry was a good penetrating guard who led the team in assists and was their 4th leading scorer.  He was strong defensively and got his fair share of rebounds.  But Autry was a weak perimeter shooter, which was Syracuse’s problem.

Autry teamed in the back court with Michael Edwards, who was struggling after having a reasonably strong freshman season in 1990.  But Jim Boeheim’s strength was in the front court.  Billy Owens had become a bonafide superstar, averaging 23.3 points per game to lead the team.  Dave Johnson averaged 19.4 points per game after a 6.5 average as a sophomore in 1990.  Senior LeRon Ellis rounded out by averaging 11.1 and 7.7 rebounds after a slow start to the season.

Syracuse’s bench consisted of sophomores Conrad McRae and Mike Hopkins, and freshman Scott McCorkle.  McRae was the backup big man while Hopkins and McCorkle were shooters.  Boeheim’s bench might have been deeper but Rich Manning transferred to the University of Washington and Tony Scott left for Texas A&M but never got a chance to play there.

Syracuse came out of the gates strongly as they won the Maui Classic by beating Indiana.  They vaulted as high as #3 in the polls after a 13-0 start, including their Big East opener against St. John’s.  But then the Orangemen lost to a team that they had trouble with for whatever reason in Villanova.  This was the Wildcats second straight win at the Carrier Dome.  Syracuse followed by losing to Pitt on the road but rebounded with a win at Seton Hall.

It was apparent in the 1st half that both teams liked to run and struggled when having to set up in the half court.  Connecticut took advantage of Syracuse’s lack of shooting by playing a zone.

After Owens completed a Syracuse 6-0 run by throwing down an alley-oop, the Orangeman went 6 minutes without scoring.  But UConn could only grab a 16-10 lead after a 9-0 run.  Their biggest lead was at 23-15 before Scott McCorkle came in and scored 7 points to bring Syracuse back.

The teams battled to a 39-all tie at halftime as only Smith, with 11, and Owens, 10, were in double figures.

Syracuse got off strong in the 2nd half as Dave Johnson, who had come into the game having scored 20+ points in the previous 6 games but only had 4 in the 1st half, got a steal and layup.  Autry then hit a runner in the lane and Owens got a transition layup from Johnson.  The Orangemen built a 46-39 lead before Burrell hit a three and then a banker in the lane.

The teams played much better offensively in the 2nd half and the game went back and forth.  Smith, Burrell and Walker were the main scorers for UConn while Owens and Scott McCorkle kept the momentum going for Syracuse.  But it seemed that everybody was involved for both teams.

Dave Johnson connected on consecutive threes in the late going to give the Orangemen a 65-62 lead.  But then Rod Sellers scored consecutive baskets before Owens hit a baseline turnaround with 3:43 to go.  UConn then took a 68-67 lead when Sellers got his third straight layup on a Walker feed.

They had a chance to increase that lead with under 2:00 to go but the inexperienced Gilad Katz turned the ball over when he was double-teamed.  After Boeheim called a timeout, Syracuse went to Owens in the middle of the lane.  Billy found an open McCorkle for a corner three.  He missed but Ellis put it back in with 1:12 to play to give Syracuse the lead.

Katz then committed his second straight turnover as Ellis stole his pass.  Katz fouled Owens with 42.9 seconds to play.  UConn was not quite at 10 team fouls however, so Owens got a 1-and-1.  He missed the front end.  UConn rebounded and ran it down to 20.2 before Calhoun used a timeout.

UConn went to their big gun in Chris Smith.  He had the ball at the top as Walker came out to set a screen.  After coming off the pick, Smith pulled up from behind the three-point line and nailed it with 10.5 to go.  UConn led 71-69 and Syracuse had to go full court.

They got it to Johnson, who almost succeeded in taking it coast-to-coast.  However, he missed his layup.  But the ball came off right to LeRon Ellis who dunked it in at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.  With that, Syracuse seemed to have the momentum.

Owens started off the overtime by hitting four free throws.  But then John Gwynn hit a pull-up jumper from the wing to keep UConn in it.  But Syracuse was able to maintain its lead and took a 78-74 advantage with 44.7 seconds to go when Ellis hit his 2nd free throw of the game in 7 attempts.

Chris Smith then broke a 3 minute UConn field goal drought by hitting a pull-up in the lane.  Connecticut players then attempted to call a timeout after the basket but it wasn’t recognized by the officials.  Syracuse took advantage as Ellis snuck down the court and Edwards found him with a long pass for a slam.

Katz came back to nail a three to cut it to 80-79 and this time, UConn’s last timeout was recognized with 20.2 to go.  Smith then fouled Owens with 17.7 left.  Owens missed both free throws and Smith rebounded.  Smith took it up the court and gave it to Gwynn, who took an ill-advised three from the wing and missed.

The rebound was tipped out to Autry, who was fouled by Smith with 4.1 to play.  Autry missed the first free throw but with UConn being in the penalty, he got a second shot and hit it.

Without a timeout, Smith just had to take it the length of the court.  He didn’t end up getting a shot off in time and Syracuse survived.

The Orangemen would beat the Huskies by two points again 12 days later.  The loss would give UConn 6 straight losses that brought them out of the top 25.  They were 0-4 against the two teams that would finish above them in the Big East (St. John’s and Syracuse), and would need to have some big wins in February to stay near the top in the race.

Connecticut starters (points scored)

Scott Burrell (17) – Small Forward

Toraino Walker (10) – Power Forward

Rod Sellers (11) – Center

Gilad Katz (8) – Point Guard

Chris Smith (20) – Shooting Guard

Connecticut bench (points scored)

Steve Pikiell (0)

Dan Cyrulik (2)

John Gwynn (7)

Murray Williams (4)

Lyman DePriest (0)

Connecticut Coach: Jim Calhoun

Syracuse starters (points scored)

Dave Johnson (14) – Small Forward

Billy Owens (19) – Power Forward

LeRon Ellis (16) – Center

Michael Edwards (8) – Point Guard

Adrian Autry (11) – Shooting Guard

Syracuse bench (points scored)

Scott McCorkle (12)

Conrad McRae (2)

Mike Hopkins (0)

Syracuse Coach: Jim Boeheim


All-American Billy Owens was the leader for Syracuse in 1991 *photo courtesy of Autographs for Sale

January 23, 1991 – (#9)Duke Blue Devils 89 @N.C. State Wolfpack 95

Duke seemed to have turned a corner when they broke Oklahoma’s long winning streak at home.  But then in their ACC opener in Virginia, they were demolished 81-64.

Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t happy and held a late practice after they returned to Durham.  It was intense to the point that freshman Antonio Lang accidentally broke fellow freshman Grant Hill’s nose in a collision.

But the after midnight practice did serve as a wake up call.  Duke beat Georgia Tech 98-57, Maryland 94-78, Wake Forest 89-67, The Citadel 83-50 and, most importantly, North Carolina 74-60 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Riding high off of that momentum, Duke prepared for three straight ACC road games starting at N.C. State.

The Wolfpack had a new coach in Les Robinson, who had come back to his alma mater from East Tennessee State.  The Buccaneers had a 28-5 season in 1991 after consecutive NCAA tournament appearances under Robinson.  They had an All-American in point guard Keith Jennings.  One of their wins had come against N.C. State.  But East Tennessee State would miss out on their chance to upset Duke when they lost to Iowa 76-73 in the 1st round of the NCAA tournament.

The Wolfpack were no longer on probation and had senior guards Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe coming back.  They had an improving junior in Tom Gugliotta, who was becoming a star.  They also had some talented sophomore big guys in Bryant Feggins and Kevin Thompson.

Robinson had no bench however and barely used it.  This may have been a factor in some close losses at East Tennessee State, Syracuse and Kansas.  The 4th N.C. State loss was a blowout at Wake Forest.  But the Wolfpack were 8-0 at home and with the way the crowd was in it against Duke, that home crowd could carry you when you’re tired (although I’m sure the crowd wasn’t always that lively, Duke just brings out the liveliness in opposing crowds).

The crowd did usher a good start for the Wolfpack as Thompson and Feggins each hit two free throws.  Then Thompson put back a Gugliotta miss and Corchiani found Monroe for a three from the top.  Gugliotta then put back a miss before Corchiani found Monroe with a touch pass for a breakaway layup.  Corchiani then found Feggins with a long pass, who immediately hit Thompson for a layup.

But Duke was still within 15-10 as Christian Laettner and Billy McCaffrey were off to good starts offensively.  But Krzyzewski did put four starters on the bench for their defensive effort early on.

NC State increased its lead as Monroe, who had scored 48 points against Georgia Tech a week earlier, was scoring in his typical fashion and Feggins was playing out of his mind.  Feggins’ baseline drive put the Wolfpack up 25-13.

Duke responded with 7 straight points before Monroe hit a double-pump banker on the drive and Gugliotta nailed two three-pointers.  The lead was now 33-20.

Bobby Hurley started a Duke run with two three-pointers as they steadily pulled back to within 40-36.  But they could get no closer in the 1st half and the Wolfpack increased their halftime lead to 47-41 when Monroe found Thompson for a layup with 3 seconds to go.

Both Hurley and Corchiani had 7 assists in the 1st half of a very fast paced game, which is how Les Robinson and Mike Krzyzewski liked it.  And unlike most Big East games, it was a fun game to watch as a fan.

Duke started off the 2nd half well after Monroe hit a pull-up from the baseline for his 19th point.  Antonio Lang hit two free throws and then Hurley found him for a slam.  Laettner then hit a jumper from the wing to cut it to 49-47.  Corchiani broke the mini-run with a double-pump lefty banker on the drive.  But Duke then tied it when Thomas Hill hit a runner in the lane and then McCaffrey went coast-to-coast for a layup.

Bryant Feggins broke the tie with a wing jumper and then a transition layup on a Corchiani assist.  Corchiani later found Kevin Thompson for a layup and then Gugliotta for a three.  After Corchiani hit another running banker and Gugliotta nailed another three, N.C. State’s lead was back to 67-57.

It would keep going from there as Corchiani kept finding people and the other four starters kept scoring, led by Monroe (even the one reserve who played for the Wolfpack on this night, freshman Migjen Bakalli, got a breakaway layup on a Corchiani assist).

Even Gugliotta committing his 4th foul and repeated threes from Hurley and field goals from Laettner and McCaffrey couldn’t get Duke back into the game.  Corchiani and Monroe just kept controlling the game.  Monroe even unleashed his Jordan impersonation when he hung in the air while going for a jumper in the lane and managed to just guide it in around the defender with his right hand.

Duke cut it to 84-77 with 3:50 to go but managed to get one possession over the next two minutes as N.C. State forced Duke to commit 5 fouls to get into the penalty.  Feggins then made both ends of the 1-and-1.

Duke would scramble to cut it down to as low as four but were never really a threat as N.C. State held them off to tie North Carolina for the lead in the ACC with a 3-1 record.  Corchiani finished with 14 assists.

Duke would continue its road trip while NC State was about set to start a 3-game ACC road trip.  It didn’t start off well as they lost to Maryland 104-100 and then got blown out by Virginia 104-72.  They couldn’t wait to return home and take on their other in-state rival at the top of the league, North Carolina.

Duke starters (points scored)

Thomas Hill (6) – Small Forward

Antonio Lang (6) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (23) – Center

Bobby Hurley (18) – Point Guard

Billy McCaffrey (17) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Brian Davis (4)

Greg Koubek (4)

Grant Hill (9)

Crawford Palmer (2)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

N.C. State starters (points scored)

Bryant Feggins (17) – Small Forward

Tom Gugliotta (14) – Power Forward

Kevin Thompson (16) – Center

Chris Corchiani (11) – Point Guard

Rodney Monroe (35) – Shooting Guard

NC State bench (points scored)

Migjen Bakalli (2)

NC State Coach: Les Robinson

January 30, 1991 – (#7)Duke Blue Devils 77 @(#23)Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 75

For years, North Carolina had been the team in the ACC that was (for a lack of a better phrase) pulling wins out of their ass.  But it was around this time that Duke was starting to pull off that phenomenon and became a power (and more disliked).  This win was an example.

Although Duke’s execution in the last 40 seconds was great, the fact that they were put in position for a final shot was a break that gave them a chance (and that had nothing to do with the refs or even Georgia Tech failing).

Duke had rebounded from its loss at N.C. State with a resounding 99-70 win over a struggling Clemson team at Clemson.  Now they would head as south as you could go for an ACC game (which was about to change when Florida State was admitted for 1992) and take on a superstar.

Kenny Anderson was the only member of lethal weapon 3 that was back for the 1991 season at Georgia Tech.  Bobby Cremins had to re-tool with a couple of transfers.  Shooter Jon Barry (son of Rick Barry) came from Pacific and center Matt Geiger from Auburn.  Along with them, sophomore big man Malcolm Mackey stepped up and averaged a double-double.

Those four guys were teamed with freshmen Bryan Hill and Ivano Newbill.  But, as per usual with Cremins, he didn’t go very deep into the bench.  Georgia Tech got off to a so-so 3-3 start (the three losses by a combined 5 points) as Kenny Anderson was taking matters into his own hands because he had yet to trust his new teammates.

But then Tech won 6 in a row before traveling to Duke.  They got a wakeup call at Cameron Indoor as they lost 98-57.  They lost at N.C. State 4 days later.  But Tech pulled its biggest surprise after two home wins.  They traveled to Chapel Hill, North Carolina and beat the Tarheels 88-86.  Mackey had the big three-point play to decide that game.  Tech was now a 1/2 game behind Duke at the top of the ACC.

Duke got off to a better start than they had against NC State.  Grant Hill, who was not wearing his nose protector for the first time since breaking it, had a slam on a Bobby Hurley feed and then tipped in a Christian Laettner miss.  Hill then found Billy McCaffrey for a three.  But three-point plays by Mackey and Anderson kept Tech in it through the first media timeout.

Mackey personally kept Georgia Tech even with 7 early points.  The Jackets actually took a 17-15 lead when Anderson found Barry for a breakaway slam.

But then Thomas Hill, who was coming off the bench for this game, got going and scored 10 consecutive points as Duke took a 25-17 lead.  Things got worse for Georgia Tech when Geiger committed his 3rd foul on a charge and Tech was called for a technical when a fan threw something onto the court (the referee had apparently already warned Cremins after debris was thrown previously, but no announcement was made).  The Devils took a 10-point lead when McCaffrey made both technical free throws.

But over the last 8 minutes of the half, Kenny Anderson steadily led the Jackets back.  He scored 10 points during that time to help cut Duke’s halftime lead to 39-35.

Christian Laettner, who was held to 2 points in the 1st half, got going with two quick buckets.  But he also got two quick fouls to bring his total to 4 and had to go to the bench.  Krzyzewski’s only backup big man, Crawford Palmer, picked up his 4th foul not too far after that.

With Duke’s big guys off the court, Geiger and Mackey started to dominate inside on both ends.  Mackey blocked several Duke shots inside and Geiger had consecutive putbacks to give Georgia Tech a 51-50 lead.

Anderson then took over with 6 straight Tech points that concluded on a highlight break.  Anderson got a steal and was 1-on-1 against Hurley in transition.  Anderson went either behind his back or through his legs on a dribble three times while standing right in front of Hurley.  Then Anderson broke to the lane and hit a little floater.  The whole sequence had Dick Vitale going crazy.

It gave Georgia Tech a 58-54 lead but Thomas Hill came right back with a spin and a running banker from the wing.  Duke would then switch to a zone and tie the game at 60 with 8:31 left.

Barry then got the bounce on a corner three and Laettner came back in.  Christian hit a turnaround jumper from the baseline and then Brian Davis tipped in a Grant Hill miss to give Duke the lead.

The game went back and forth before Barry hit another three to give Tech a 70-68 lead.  Billy McCaffrey tied it with a wing jumper.  Mackey put back a Geiger miss and then Geiger fouled out as Laettner drew a foul on him.  Laettner tied it at 72 with two free throws.

Hurley gave Duke a lead with a free throw but Kenny Anderson hit a jumper from the elbow after Mackey gave him a return pass with 1:02 to go.  Anderson then deflected the ball away from Grant Hill and forced a jump ball.  The possession arrow pointed toward Georgia Tech.

After a timeout, Hurley fouled Anderson on the inbounds pass.  Kenny made the front end of the 1-and-1 but missed the second shot.  Tech only led 75-73.

Hurley then found Thomas Hill inside.  Hill’s first shot was blocked by Ivano Newbill but Thomas recovered and threw in a banker while drawing a foul with 31 seconds left.  Hill missed the free throw but here’s where Duke’s “break” came.

Laettner got a piece of the rebound and back-tapped it.  Senior Greg Koubek then dove on the floor and recovered the ball and voila, Duke could set up for a last shot.

Hurley dribbled up top and then penetrated with 4 seconds left.  As he penetrated, Thomas Hill broke free in the post and Hurley gave him a bounce pass.  The ball left Hill’s hands at 1 second and banked into the basket at the buzzer.  Duke had pulled a victory out of their ass and were 2-1 on the 3-game road trip.

Duke would continue its momentum as they went 6-1 over the next 3 weeks and were in their usual position at the top of the ACC and in the top 10 of the polls.

Georgia Tech would briefly rebound with a home win over Maryland before losing to NC State at home, and then at Wake Forest and Maryland.  Despite a victory over Arizona to end that streak, Tech could not fully recover and finished 5th in the ACC with a 6-8 mark.  They lost to NC State for the third time that season in the ACC quarterfinals.  But the NCAA tournament gives one a chance at a revival and Tech would get its chance against a top seed before Kenny Anderson left for the NBA.

Duke starters (points scored)

Grant Hill (14) – Small Forward

Antonio Lang (0) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (12) – Center

Bobby Hurley (5) – Point Guard

Billy McCaffrey (15) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Thomas Hill (20)

Crawford Palmer (4)

Brian Davis (4)

Greg Koubek (3)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Georgia Tech starters (points scored)

Jon Barry (15) – Small Forward

Malcolm Mackey (13) – Power Forward

Matt Geiger (10) – Center

Kenny Anderson (32) – Point Guard

Bryan Hill (5) – Shooting Guard

Georgia Tech bench (points scored)

Ivano Newbill (0)

Brian Domalik (0)

Georgia Tech Coach: Bobby Cremins

kenny anderson

Kenny Anderson would become a 1st-team All-American in 1991 *photo courtesy of Got ‘Em Coach

February 5, 1991 – (#10)Kentucky Wildcats 88 @(#19)LSU Tigers 107

The Kentucky Wildcats had won 10 in a row, including a victory at Rupp Arena over LSU, before losing on the road to Alabama.  They rebounded with wins at Auburn and then against Georgia.  All was for the experience as Kentucky’s season would end once the regular season ended.

LSU was at least playing for something more, but they had fallen on hard times.  The Tigers had lost 3 of their last 4 and had fallen to 6-4 in the SEC, good for 5th place (although technically they were 4th since Kentucky couldn’t win the regular season championship).  Shaquille O’Neal, mainly his father, was starting to make noise about the fouls that were being committed against him and was threatening to go to the NBA.

But LSU and Kentucky had been rivals for the last decade in basketball and at times, they nearly came to blows.  But the Wildcats had nobody that could even think of checking Shaq.  Early on, Jamal Mashburn, the tallest Wildcat player, was put on Shaq.  Mashburn started 1-for-7 from the field as a result.  O’Neal started a little better.

Shaq got three slams to start his night while drawing two fouls.  He later threw down an alley-oop, got a layup after a drop-step, got another layup on an inbounds lob and then rebound-slammed two misses.  O’Neal’s first field goal that wasn’t a layup or a dunk came when he hit a turnaround banker from the post over Mashburn and drew a foul.  By that point, O’Neal had 20 points and was 9-for-9 from the field.

But LSU’s 15 first half turnovers kept Kentucky within striking distance.  Kentucky was also able to nail some threes, but their leading scorer, John Pelphrey, was being shut down by LSU’s defensive ace Shawn Griggs, who transferred to Louisiana-Lafayette after the season.

But Deron Feldhaus made a contribution off the bench to pick up the slack.  Feldhaus scored 5 quick points and Jeff Brassow nailed his third three-pointer of the half to give Kentucky a 35-34 lead.

LSU would run off 8 straight points but still had to hold off the Wildcats in the 1st half when Richie Farmer scored 5 quick points off the bench.  Wayne Sims, a senior who was returning from a month’s suspension for a DUI, hit a jumper from the top with 1 second left to give LSU a 50-46 halftime lead.

Mashburn and Reggie Hanson had committed only 2 fouls while playing Shaq in the 1st half.  Shaq had sat down periodically and had only scored 3 points since his 20 point explosion in the first 12 minutes.

LSU ran out to a 61-53 lead at the first media timeout of the 2nd half, but Shaq had picked up his 3rd foul and sat down again.  But then Mashburn and Hanson picked up their 4th fouls within a minute.  That took out two of Kentucky’s three top scorers and the third, Pelphrey, never really got going.

But LSU was missing free throws and couldn’t put Kentucky away until Harold Boudreaux came off the bench and scored his career-high 19 points.  Boudreaux’s three-point play put LSU up 65-55.  Then after Mike Hansen hit a three, Boudreaux stole a pass at half court and slammed one down to put the Tigers up 70-55.

Boudreaux would make two more dagger jumpers over the next few minutes.  Shaq came back in and had some baskets that put Kentucky away as well.  Hansen and T.J. Pugh had good 2nd halves as well from the back court.  LSU was out of the doldrums, it seemed, as they handled Kentucky easily.

That win started a 7-1 streak heading into the final regular season game at Mississippi State.  Although Kentucky finished at the top of the standings, they couldn’t win the regular season title.  So the winner of the LSU/Mississippi State game would take a top seed into the SEC tournament.

The Bulldogs won 76-73 but, even as the top seed, they lost in the SEC quarterfinals to Tennessee.  But LSU couldn’t take advantage as they lost to Auburn 92-77 in the quarterfinals.

Alabama would win their 3rd straight SEC championship and would be the only team in the conference to advance beyond the 1st round of the NCAA tournament.  LSU was a#6 seed in the Midwest Regional but lost to UConn 79-62 in the 1st round.  Shaq had 27 points and 16 rebounds against the Huskies.  Nobody else was near double figures in either category.

Kentucky starters (points scored)

Jamal Mashburn (19) – Small Forward

John Pelphrey (13) – Power Forward

Reggie Hanson (6) – Center

Sean Woods (8) – Point Guard

Jeff Brassow (13) – Shooting Guard

Kentucky bench (points scored)

Deron Feldhaus (18)

Junior Braddy (3)

Richie Farmer (5)

Gimel Martinez (3)

Johnathon Davis (0)

Kentucky Coach: Rick Pitino

LSU starters (points scored)

Vernel Singleton (7) – Small Forward

Shawn Griggs (5) – Power Forward

Shaquille O’Neal (33) – Center

T.J. Pugh (10) – Point Guard

Mike Hansen (17) – Shooting Guard

LSU bench (points scored)

Harold Boudreaux (19)

Wayne Sims (10)

Geert Hammink (4)

John Picou (0)

Lenear Burns (0)

Danny Moscovitz (0)

Richard Krajewski (2)

LSU Coach: Dale Brown


Shaquille O’Neal was a one-man gang at LSU, but he dominated Kentucky with 20 points in the first 12 minutes *photo courtesy of Sports List of the Day

February 6, 1991 – (#9)North Carolina Tarheels 91 @N.C. State Wolfpack 97

North Carolina had a 13-1 record and an 11-game winning streak when they traveled to Durham, North Carolina to take on rival Duke.  Their streak came to an end as Duke pulled away in the 2nd half to win 74-60.

North Carolina then suffered a home loss to Georgia Tech a week later and now were down to 3rd in the ACC behind Duke and Virginia.  The North Carolina State Wolfpack had fallen on some hard times (mainly because they played three games away from home) as well.

They had lost at Maryland and gotten killed at Virginia before rebounding to win at Georgia Tech 79-73.  But now they were returning home, where they were undefeated.  They stood a half-game behind the Tarheels for 3rd place.

This was also the start of a first for the ACC as UNC and N.C. State were getting set to play a home-and-home series in back-to-back days for the first (and probably last) time in ACC history.

For the first matchup, UNC got off to a 6-0 start after a three-pointer from Rick Fox and a three-point play from George Lynch.  But the Wolfpack scored the next 7 points as Bryant Feggins hit a banker on a baseline drive, Rodney Monroe nailed a three and Tom Gugliotta got a fast-break slam.

The teams battled back-and-forth and were tied at 22 at the 2nd media timeout (with 11:20 to go).  But then N.C. State took advantage of their inspired home crowd and went on a spurt.  Monroe hit a pull-up from the baseline.  Chris Corchiani got a steal and fed Kevin Thompson for a layup.  Monroe hit a three and Corchiani followed with a steal and layup.

The run would continue despite Lynch scoring to cut the lead to 31-24.  Monroe hit an up-and-under scoop after Corchiani got another steal and then Rodney connected from downtown again.  Migjen Bakalli (N.C. State’s only sub) hit two free throws and then Feggins followed up a miss on the break.  The Wolfpack suddenly led 40-24.

North Carolina scored 5 straight points to respond but Corchiani found Feggins for a layup for his 6th assist so far.  Then Gugliotta nailed a three to put the lead back at 16.  But the three-point shot quickly went in favor of North Carolina as Rick Fox nailed three of them over the next few minutes to cut the lead to 46-40.

Then Carolina appeared to have cut their halftime deficit to five when King Rice penetrated and kicked out to Lynch for a three with less than 5 seconds to go.  But N.C. State got it ahead to Bakalli, who found Gugliotta for a three from the deep wing at the buzzer.  This concluded a half where N.C. State shot 61.7% from the field and connected on 8-of-11 threes.  With that being said, UNC was pretty fortunate to be down only 53-45 at the half.

The 2nd half for N.C. State saw a little less balance as it more-or-less became the Rodney Monroe/Tom Gugliotta show.  North Carolina was able to cut it to 64-61 with 7 minutes gone by as Hubert Davis scored 11 points after a scoreless 1st half.

But then Monroe went 1-on-1 against Davis and hit a pull-up on the baseline after stopping on a dime.  Corchiani then drove past Carolina freshman Derrick Phelps for a runner in the lane.

Carolina missed a golden opportunity when Pete Chilcutt missed an alley-oop slam.  Corchiani then pushed the ball and found Gugliotta for a corner three and a 72-64 State lead.  Gugliotta then followed up a Monroe miss for his 25th point and a 10-point lead.

A three from Monroe later increased it to 13 but then UNC started bombing away and hitting with under 4 minutes to go.  Fox hit the first three and then Carolina got a rare five-point play after Chilcutt nailed a three and Eric Montross was fouled underneath.  Montross was given a 1-and-1 (as per rules at the time, the officials ruled that the foul was after the shot so it was as if the shot didn’t go in).  He made both free throws to cut it to 84-79.

Corchiani then drove and kicked out to Monroe for a three from the wing to briefly stem the tide.  But Chilcutt came back with another three and then, after two Corchiani free throws, Davis hit a trey and it was 89-85 with 1:40 left.  Dean Smith used his last timeout at that point.

UNC pressed and N.C. State got the ball to Monroe.  Rodney went coast-to-coast on a drive and managed to get the roll on a little scoop while drawing a foul.  The three-point play would be countered by a three from King Rice though.

After Kevin Thompson missed two free throws for State, Davis cut it to 92-91 with UNC’s 6th trey in the last 3 minutes.  But then, for some reason, Davis fouled Monroe (with 54 seconds left, there was still more time on the game clock than the shot clock, you would think UNC would just try to get a stop).

Monroe made both free throws.  Then Corchiani reached in on Fox and knocked the ball away from him.  The ensuing loose ball resulted in a jump ball and the possession arrow was pointing towards N.C. State.  Phelps fouled Corchiani with 27.1 remaining and Corchiani split the free throws.

But N.C. State put it away after Davis and Fox couldn’t keep the three-point magic going and missed three combined attempts.

North Carolina would destroy State the next night, 92-70 and had a 7-game winning streak going into the final regular season game against Duke.  Naturally, first place was on the line in that matchup.

N.C. State would be battling for third the rest of the season.  Their only losses over the next few weeks would be at Carolina and then at Duke.  Their undefeated home record stayed alive and they had an impressive road win at Connecticut.  But they would be in for a big game against Virginia as the season wound down.

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Rick Fox (22) – Small Forward

George Lynch (13) – Power Forward

Pete Chilcutt (19) – Center

King Rice (8) – Point Guard

Hubert Davis (17) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Henrik Rodl (4)

Eric Montross (4)

Clifford Rozier (0)

Derrick Phelps (2)

Kenny Harris (0)

Brian Reese (2)

Kevin Salvadori (0)

Matt Wenstrom (0)

Pat Sullivan (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

N.C. State starters (points scored)

Bryant Feggins (9) – Small Forward

Tom Gugliotta (28) – Power Forward

Kevin Thompson (9) – Center

Chris Corchiani (10) – Point Guard

Rodney Monroe (37) – Shooting Guard

N.C. State bench (points scored)

Migjen Bakalli (4)

N.C. State Coach: Les Robinson

February 10, 1991 – (#1)UNLV Runnin’ Rebels 112 @(#2)Arkansas Razorbacks 105

‘Twas the matchup that everyone had been looking forward to since the college basketball season became a few weeks old.  UNLV was the pre-season #1 and Arkansas #2, and neither team had disappointed so far with just one combined loss.

UNLV almost didn’t get a chance to defend its national championship when the NCAA infractions committee ruled them to be ineligible for post-season play in 1991 during the summer because of recruiting violations that stemmed back to 1977.  UNLV appealed the ruling and eventually got a compromise just before the season opened.  UNLV would be allowed to participate in the 1991 NCAA tournament, but would be banned from post-season in 1992 and barred from any television appearances.  The compromise also stated that UNLV would no longer fight the NCAA in court.  With all of that, the UNLV players took out their frustrations on their opponents in record-setting style.

UNLV was 19-0 and had now won 30 games in a row.  They were not only beating teams, but demolishing, bulldozing, ram-rodding (and all the synonyms you could think of, combined) the competition.  Their average margin of victory was around 30 points per game.  The closest margin they had so far was a 12-point win at Louisville.  In fact, the last time they had a single-digit margin of victory (the 1990 National Semifinal against Georgia Tech) was the last time that they trailed at the half.  The Runnin’ Rebels biggest deficit in any game all season was 5 points.

But if anybody could put a dent in all of that, it was Arkansas in their own pit.  Barnhill Arena was to the point of delirium for this game, even though it was on a Sunday morning.  Yes, to accommodate television, this game started at noon eastern time, which meant 11 AM in Fayatteville, Arkansas and 9 AM to the body and mind of the UNLV players.

UNLV only lost David Butler from the starting lineup, which meant arguably their best 4 players returned from their National Championship team.  Forwards Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon were 1st- and 2nd-team All-Americans (respectively).  And guards Greg Anthony and Anderson Hunt were among the best in the nation.  Red-shirt senior George Ackles manned the middle after missing the 1990 season with a broken wrist.  Off the bench were talented but inexperienced, compared to the starters, junior Elmore Spencer and sophomore Evric Gray.

Jerry Tarkanian’s team was almost put on probation for the 1991 season.  But it held off for another year, giving Tarkanian a chance to coach what was being billed as perhaps the best college basketball team of all time.

Arkansas, too, was coming off a Final Four appearance.  They were 23-1 (their only loss being to Arizona in the Pre-Season NIT championship) and had talent too.  Junior center Oliver Miller led the nation in field goal percentage.  Fellow juniors Todd Day and Lee Mayberry also averaged double figures.  Day led the way with 21.2 points per game and Mayberry was at 13 along with 5.6 assists per game.

Arkansas also had seniors Arlyn Bowers, Ron Huery and walk-on Ernie Murry who contributed.  Isaiah Morris and Roosevelt Wallace, both JC transfer juniors, helped Miller contribute some beef down low.  But Nolan Richardson’s Razorbacks were a weak rebounding team that was mostly perimeter oriented.  That would cost them against big teams, like UNLV.

After about a two-minute period, the scoring got going between the 3rd and 4th highest scoring teams in the nation.  Johnson fed Augmon for a slam.  Day and Hunt matched three-pointers.  Mayberry pushed the ball to Morris for a jumper and then Miller outletted to Bowers for a breakaway three-point play on a bad goaltending call on Hunt.

UNLV seemed to get a number of breakaways after breaking Arkansas’ press or after steals.  This gave Augmon, among others, numerous chances to show off his athleticism.

The Rebels held a steady lead through the first 12 minutes before Arkansas grabbed a 36-30 advantage with an 11-0 run.  Day, Miller, and Huery were the key contributors in that spurt.  But Augmon and Hunt quickly led UNLV back and into the lead.  Augmon finished the 1st half with 19 points.

Tarkanian had made the rare decision in the last 8 minutes of the half to go to the zone.  This turned out to be a calculated mistake as Arkansas’ perimeter game kept them in it.  And over the last few minutes of the half, three-pointers from Day, Bowers, and Mayberry (who threw in a prayer at the end of the shot clock) gave Arkansas a 50-46 halftime lead.

So for the first time all season, UNLV trailed by more than 5 points in a game and trailed at the half.

But what UNLV had become known for over the last year (and especially in the 1990 National Championship Game) was their spurts.  Spurts that broke the game wide open and usually decided the outcome.

Over the first two minutes of the 2nd half, UNLV went back to man-to-man.  Ackles hit a jumper and Anthony fed Johnson for a layup.  Augmon hit two free throws.  Anthony blocked a Mayberry jumper and then scored at the other end.  Then Greg Anthony penetrated and found Ackles for a slam.  Arkansas had to use a timeout at the 18:02 mark after a 10-0 Rebels run.

The timeout allowed Miller a chance to put the Razorbacks on the board in the 2nd half, but didn’t really halt the momentum.  Johnson tipped in his own miss and then got a layup after penetration from Augmon.  Augmon then followed up a miss on the break and, later, banked one in while facing sideways to the basket.

Six points in a row from Augmon kept UNLV ahead 68-61, then came another spurt.  Anthony found Johnson on a 3-on-1 break for a big slam and a foul.  Then Anderson Hunt got two breakaway layups after two steals from Elmore Spencer.  Nolan Richardson had to use another timeout at the 12:52 mark with his team trailing 75-61.

A minute later, Arkansas had to use another timeout when they couldn’t get the ball inbounds.  They were now out of timeouts, trailing by a wide margin, and tired.  Oliver Miller hit his first 7 shots from the field but was clearly getting more and more gassed as the 2nd half wore on.

Arkansas made some small spurts but they were thwarted by a big shot from UNLV.  The Rebels kept their double digit lead and increased it to as much as 98-75 when Larry Johnson scored on a 4-on-2 break.

As UNLV was building their lead, they were woofing about it to Arkansas as well.  This helped build up frustrations as the game nearly reached its conclusion, especially from Todd Day.

Day drew a technical from Augmon when Stacey gave him a double forearm shiver.  Then with 2 1/2 left and Arkansas making its last desperate attempt having cut the lead to 104-91, Day missed a three and went after the rebound that was grabbed by Johnson.

They ended up getting tangled and swinging at each other (Day’s push connected with a referee trying to separate them).  Both would be ejected but not suspended (per rules at the time: if a player was ejected for fighting, they were automatically suspended for a game – the officials leniently ruled that Day and Johnson were ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct).

Arkansas made the final margin closer when Murry hit two threes in the last 12 seconds.  This allowed Arkansas the distinction of being the first team all season that UNLV defeated by single digits, but they were hardly celebratory about it.

UNLV would end up being a #1 seed in the West and went on to the Final Four at 34-0.  Only one more of their victories would be by single digits (it happened in the tournament and will be featured later in the blog).

Arkansas would suffer a loss at Texas to conclude the regular season.  But they entered the NCAA tournament as a #1 seed in the Southeast Regional and were 30-3 after getting their revenge on Texas 120-89 in the Southwest Conference Tournament Championship Game.

They would be one game away from their 2nd straight Final Four appearance as well but would have some trouble with Kansas.

UNLV starters (points scored)

Stacey Augmon (31) – Small Forward

Larry Johnson (25) – Power Forward

George Ackles (17) – Center

Greg Anthony (8) – Point Guard

Anderson Hunt (26) – Shooting Guard

UNLV bench (points scored)

Emore Spencer (2)

Travis Bice (2)

Evric Gray (1)

UNLV Coach: Jerry Tarkanian

Arkansas starters (points scored)

Todd Day (26) – Small Forward

Isaiah Morris (6) – Power Forward

Oliver Miller (22) – Center

Lee Mayberry (11) – Point Guard

Arlyn Bowers (8) – Shooting Guard

Arkansas bench (points scored)

Ernie Murry (16)

Ron Huery (12)

Roosevelt Wallace (4)

Clyde Fletcher (0)

Arkansas Coach: Nolan Richardson


Stacey Augmon out-jumps Todd Day, as Greg Anthony (#50), Oliver Miller (#25), Larry Johnson (#4) and Roosevelt Wallace look on *photo courtesy of Getty Images

February 10, 1991 – (#5)Arizona Wildcats 105 @(#14)UCLA Bruins 94 (OT)

For most of the Pac-10’s basketball existence, UCLA had dominated the conference.  They had 13 conference championships in the 22 year history of the Pac-10.

But over the last few seasons since Lute Olson got going at Arizona, the Wildcats were starting to take over.  Arizona had won the last three Pac-10 titles and 4 of the previous 5.

The Wildcats were off and running again in 1991, leading the conference with a 7-3 record heading into the UCLA game.  Their losses had been on the road at Washington, Cal, and Southern Cal.  The USC loss happened three days before the UCLA game.  Olson’s team stayed in Los Angeles, where Brian Williams and Chris Mills were from and prepped for another tough road game.

UCLA had had down periods through the 80’s but seemed to be on their way back under Jim Harrick.  They had gone to the Sweet 16 in 1990 and had some talent in junior Don MacLean and sophomore Tracy Murray.  They were the big guys for UCLA who were better on the perimeter (and couldn’t match the bulk of Williams, Ed Stokes, Sean Rooks, and Wayne Womack for Arizona).

UCLA was arguably stronger on the perimeter with junior guards Darrick Martin and Gerald Madkins.  Martin had embraced his role as point guard and was shooting less (he would get even less shots as a senior when Tyus Edney came in as point guard).  Madkins was two years removed from multiple fractures in the pelvis, an injury that took him out for the 1989 season and one in which he was fortunate to walk again.

Harrick also had sophomore Mitchell Butler, senior and former walk-on Keith Owens and sophomore Zan Mason.  But the big prize was to be freshman Ed O’Bannon.  O’Bannon and Shon Tarver had verbally committed to UNLV, but were de-committed when the program was originally placed on probation.  Both then went to UCLA.

But before official fall practice could get underway, O’Bannon tore his ACL and meniscus in a scrimmage and was obviously out for the season.  He would return and have 3 great seasons at UCLA, after struggling as a red-shirt freshman in 1992.  But he would never fully recover and would not make an impact in the NBA.

Even without O’Bannon, UCLA still did very well at 17-5 going into their matchup with Arizona.  The Wildcats had beaten UCLA in a close game a month earlier in Tucson.  The Bruins were tied for 3rd at this moment with a 5-4 conference record.

Two three-pointers from Arizona guards Matt Muehlebach and Matt Othick helped give the Wildcats an early 10-4 lead.  But just over 3 minutes into the half, Chris Mills picked up his 2nd foul and sat for the rest of the 1st half.  He would make his impact later though.

UCLA got back into it but were mainly held off by Brian Williams, who was feasting on MacLean down low with a bunch of turnaround jumpers.  Williams had 12 points in the first 10 minutes as Arizona took their biggest lead at 31-23.

But MacLean and Murray led UCLA back and the Bruins took a 37-35 lead when Darrick Martin got a breakaway layup.  MacLean finished the 1st half with 15 points, including 10-for-10 on free throws, and Murray had 12.

But even without Williams contributing, Arizona was able to whittle their halftime deficit to 47-46 when Sean Rooks, who was getting less playing time because of a lack of effort on defense and on the boards, put back his own miss at the buzzer.

Williams got going again to start the 2nd half as he scored Arizona’s first 8 points to give them a 54-49 lead.  The Wildcats eventually increased their lead to 63-55 when Mills hit a three for his first points of the game.  Williams then scored his 22nd point on a drive to give Arizona a 10-point lead.  Not only had Williams scored 22 points but he was 9-for-9 from the field (albeit all shots were from 5 feet and in, but still dominating down low) and had 11 rebounds.

But Williams picked up his 4th foul when he fouled Madkins while Gerald nailed a runner.  The three-point play cut the Arizona lead to 67-61.  Murray hit a double-pump banker from the baseline to cut the lead to 69-65.  Then Madkins found Butler on a perfect bounce pass for a breakaway slam to cut the lead to two and get the crowd going.

After Mills threw down an alley-oop slam to make it 73-69 Arizona, Murray nailed a three and MacLean hit two free throws to give his team the lead.  The sometimes temperamental MacLean had been having a helluva game so far.  But almost all of it would be wasted by a bush-league move.

With the game tied at 75, Mitchell Butler drove baseline and slammed on top of Brian Williams’ head, knocking him down.  MacLean, perhaps adding insult to injury, threw the ball back at Williams while he was on the ground and it ended up hitting Brian in the nuts.

MacLean was called for a technical and although Muehlebach split the free throws (it was a two-shot technical for all technicals at the time in college basketball), the point may have been the difference between overtime and a UCLA win and Arizona seemed a bit more riled up over the next few minutes.

Rooks hit a turnaround jumper, Williams and Wayne Womack followed with slams (Williams trashed talked back to UCLA after his stuff), and then Williams hit a turnaround jumper with 2:00 to go for his 11th field goal in 11 attempts.  Arizona now led 84-81 and had a chance to increase that lead when Rooks rebounded a missed three from Murray.

But then Williams took a jumper from farther out in the lane and had his first miss.  Madkins then found MacLean for a wing jumper to cut the lead to 84-83 with 35 seconds left.  UCLA committed a foul that it had to give but then, with the Bruins now in the penalty, Williams had the ball stolen from him by Gerald Madkins, who slammed it down to give UCLA the lead with 18 seconds left.

After an Arizona timeout, Olson went to Rooks in the post.  He missed a turnaround and Butler rebounded.  He was fouled by Muehlebach with 6 seconds left.  Butler missed the first but made the second.  UCLA led 86-84.  Arizona had to go full court.

Freshman Khalid Reeves got the ball and pushed it.  He tried to find Rooks inside but Sean fumbled away the pass.  Fortunately for Arizona, the loose ball went right to Chris Mills, who nailed a baseline jumper at the buzzer to send the game into overtime and send the crowd into a shock.

It might have killed UCLA emotionally but they stayed with it, trailing 96-94 with 1:33 to go after Martin hit a driving banker.  But Arizona ran down the shot clock and the ball went to Mills again, this time deliberately.

Mills drove baseline and hit a banker while drawing a foul.  The three-point play gave Arizona a 99-94 lead with 45 seconds left and, this time, UCLA didn’t recover.  Othick and Muehlebach finished the game with free throws.

Arizona would lose only one more Pac-10 game, at Oregon, and won their 4th straight title with a 14-4 conference record (the Pac-10 had a tournament from 1987-1990 but didn’t have one from 1991-2001).  But the Wildcats had some tough non-conference games to finish out the season.  They lost to Georgia Tech in a neutral setting and then got set to host Duke two weeks after this game.  The Wildcats had a home court winning streak to keep alive.

UCLA lost at USC four days later and their conference record went to 5-6.  But they won 6 of their last 7 games to finish 2nd in the Pac-10.  They were named a #4 seed in the East Regional but couldn’t duplicate their 1990 success as they were upset by 13th seeded Penn State 74-69 in the 1st round.  But they would be back and strong in 1992.

Arizona starters (points scored)

Chris Mills (12) – Small Forward

Brian Williams (32) – Power Forward

Ed Stokes (8) – Center

Matt Othick (11) – Point Guard

Matt Muehlebach (12) – Shooting Guard

Arizona bench (points scored)

Wayne Womack (8)

Sean Rooks (11)

Khalid Reeves (6)

Deron Johnson (2)

Case Schmidt (3)

Arizona Coach: Lute Olson

UCLA starters (points scored)

Mitchell Butler (11) – Small Forward

Tracy Murray (23) – Power Forward

Don MacLean (28) – Center

Darrick Martin (4) – Point Guard

Gerald Madkins (18) – Shooting Guard

UCLA bench (points scored)

Keith Owens (6)

Shon Tarver (2)

Zan Mason (2)

Rodney Zimmerman (0)

UCLA Coach: Jim Harrick

brian williams

Brian Williams, certainly the emotional leader of the Arizona Wildcats, had his best game against UCLA with 32 points (on 14-for-15 shooting) and 14 rebounds *photo courtesy of

February 11, 1991 – (#18)Georgetown Hoyas 55 @Connecticut Huskies 61

The Georgetown Hoyas had started the season ranked #9.  It was perhaps a bit too high, despite a victory over Duke.  Georgetown did have its twin towers in Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo.  But all the talent around them in 1990 was pretty much gone.

Mark Tillmon, Dwayne Bryant, Sam Jefferson, and Anthony Allen had finished out their careers as seniors.  But the players that were supposed to step in for them were gone too.  David Edwards transferred to Texas A&M, Michael Tate (or Michael Venson) went to James Madison University, and Milton Bell left for Richmond.  This left John Thompson starting three freshmen with Mourning and Mutombo.

Forward Robert Churchwell and guards Charles Harrison and Lamont Morgan came locally from D.C.  Point guard Joey Brown was from Louisiana.  Forward Brian Kelly was a JC transfer from Cincinnati.  Only Ronnie Thompson, the coaches son, got consistent playing time from the team that was there in 1990, other than Mourning and Mutombo.

Georgetown’s young guys had been impressive in grabbing a 16-point lead over Duke, but they also showed their inexperience as the Blue Devils cut it to 75-74 with 30 seconds left.  The Hoyas did hold them off but Mourning injured the arch of his foot late in the game.  He missed the next 9 games.  Georgetown lost 4 of those games, and then lost a two-point game versus Syracuse after Alonzo returned.  But then the Hoyas won 4 of their next 5 games and were suddenly tied with the Orangemen at the top of the Big East as they prepared to travel to Hartford, Connecticut.

UConn had either been scalding hot or freezing cold in their Big East play.  They won their first three conference games and then lost their next 6 (including two losses to Syracuse by a combined 4 points).  But they rebounded to beat Villanova and Boston College at home.  They were now tied with three other teams for 5th place in the Big East.  But they were only 1-5 against ranked teams and needed to prove that they could beat the best.

If it is possible for a Big East game to be uglier than normal, the 1st half of this game fit the bill.  There were a total of 33 free throws shot in the 1st half, and the team with the lead at halftime didn’t even reach 33 points.

A tone was set when Jim Calhoun and John Thompson were hit with technical fouls in the first 4 minutes.  Calhoun’s came after he thought a foul should have been called on Mutombo.  Thompson’s came after Mourning was called for a cheap 3rd foul.  Mourning, who was still rounding into form after his foot injury, sat for the rest of the 1st half and was scoreless.

Chris Smith seemed to be the only player on the floor who could score as he had 9 of UConn’s first 10 points, including a three, to give the Huskies a 10-5 lead.  But Georgetown went back into the lead as Mutombo controlled the defensive boards and the Hoyas hit enough free throws to take a 16-13 advantage.

Scott Burrell then tied it with a three and Smith followed with a steal and feed to John Gwynn for a layup.  UConn held the lead for the rest of the half (and the rest of the game, actually) and surged in the final 3 1/2 minutes.

Smith went coast-to-coast for a layup after a Burrell steal to give UConn a 26-20 lead.  Rod Sellers threw in a shot over his head.  Smith ended the half with a step-back jumper that was called a three-pointer, but replays showed his foot on the line.  Luckily for UConn, this was in the days before replay could be reviewed so it counted as a three.  Smith had 17 points and UConn had a 32-22 halftime lead.

Smith hit a leaner to give UConn a 12-point lead early in the 2nd half.  But then Georgetown went on an 8-0 brisk jog (one could hardly call it a run if it happened in a span of about 6 minutes).  UConn pulled back ahead 38-30 when Gwynn hit a banker and then went coast-to-coast after a steal.

A three-pointer from Gwynn and then another breakaway layup gave UConn a 47-36 lead with under 8 minutes to go.  Georgetown then made its run (or brisk jog) of the day.  Mourning hit 3 of 4 free throws (he did not have a field goal in this game).  Ronnie Thompson hit a jumper.  Robert Churchwell then concluded the run by following up a miss by Joey Brown to cut the lead to 47-43.

Mourning then committed his 4th foul and Burrell hit two free throws.  Thompson then finally released his only shooter and Charles Harrison made a three-pointer to cut the lead to 49-46.  Harrison had a chance to tie it with another three but missed from the corner.  Burrell rebounded and outletted to senior Lyman DePriest for a breakaway slam and a foul.

Although DePriest missed the free throw, that play put Georgetown away as Smith and Gwynn each hit a pair of free throws to make it 55-46 with 1:17 left.  Georgetown made it closer as Harrison hit two threes and then three free throws after being fouled on an attempt from behind the line.

But for the Hoyas, this loss started a bad streak that lasted until the Big East tournament.  They lost 4 of their final 5 games (their only win was against UConn) and fell to 6th place in the Big East at 8-8.

UConn would climb the 3rd place at 9-7 despite the loss to Georgetown.  But the Hoyas woke up in their 3rd meeting with the Huskies in the Big East Quarterfinals.  Georgetown destroyed them 68-49 and then beat Villanova 71-55 in the Semis.  Their run was cut short by Seton Hall in the Finals but may have saved them an NCAA tournament berth.

Unfortunately, as the 8th seed in the West Regional, a juggernaut was in their path.

Georgetown starters (points scored)

Robert Churchwell (4) – Small Forward

Alonzo Mourning (5) – Power Forward

Dikembe Mutombo (11) – Center

Joey Brown (7) – Point Guard

Charles Harrison (20) – Shooting Guard

Georgetown bench (points scored)

Brian Kelly (4)

Ronnie Thompson (2)

Lamont Morgan (2)

Georgetown Coach: John Thompson

Connecticut starters (points scored)

Scott Burrell (9) – Small Forward

Toraino Walker (1) – Power Forward

Rod Sellers (5) – Center

Steve Pikiell (2) – Point Guard

Chris Smith (27) – Shooting Guard

Connecticut bench (points scored)

John Gwynn (15)

Dan Cyrulik (0)

Lyman DePriest (2)

Connecticut Coach: Jim Calhoun

February 17, 1991 – (#4)Indiana Hoosiers 95 @(#2)Ohio State Buckeyes 97 (2OT)

For 1991, there was no question whatsoever about who the best teams in the Big Ten were.  Ohio State won their first 17 games before losing at Michigan State.  This included a win against Indiana in Bloomington.  Ohio State led by 19 at halftime, and by as much as 22 before holding off a Hoosier comeback 93-85.

The loss to Michigan State remained Ohio State’s only loss and they became #2 in the polls after Arkansas’ loss to UNLV.  The Buckeyes and coach Randy Ayers had a superstar in sophomore Jim Jackson.  Jackson became a 1st team All-American and Big Ten player of the year in 1991 after averaging 18.9 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, 4.3 assists per game and 1.8 steals per game.

The Buckeyes also had some senior big men in Perry Carter and Treg Lee and junior guards in Mark Baker and Jamaal Brown.  All five starters averaged double figures.  The bench consisted of junior big men Bill Robinson and Chris Jent, sophomore guard Alex Davis, and freshman swingman Jamie Skelton.

Indiana’s loss to Ohio State in the first game was still their only defeat during the Big Ten season.  Indiana had been pretty consistently blowing out teams while Ohio State had a few scares here and there (like winning 73-71 at Wisconsin three days before this Indiana game when Mark Baker penetrated and made a turnaround jumper in the lane).

Both teams got off to a slow start and seemed pretty jittery in the first 2 minutes.  But then Jackson found Treg Lee for a slam in transition, the crowd got going, and so did the teams.  Calbert Cheaney, Indiana’s sophomore star, scored 7 points over the next few minutes and Jackson nearly matched him with 5.

Indiana would hold a slight lead over the next several minutes as Damon Bailey (the freshman sensation who was starting to come into his own a little bit) helped Cheaney with the offense.  But Ohio State stayed with them but had a critical play halfway through the 1st half that would end up impacting their season.

Mark Baker penetrated to the lane and kicked out to Jamaal Brown, who nailed a long two-pointer.  But Baker was on the ground writing in pain after coming down on somebody’s foot.  Baker’s sprained ankle kept him out for most of the rest of the game (he tried to play on it early in the 2nd half).  Baker’s role as the point guard on both ends of the court could not be undermined.  He set up the offense, pushed the ball in transition, and was perhaps their best perimeter defender.  Ayers also didn’t have a backup point man, so Jim Jackson filled in.  Baker never really recovered for the rest of the ’91 season and it may have cost the Buckeyes.

Indiana would hold a 42-40 halftime lead and were playing with much more confidence, obviously, than they had in the first half of the first matchup.

The teams would continue to battle evenly throughout the 2nd half.  Jackson and Perry Carter were the catalysts for Ohio State, with contributions from Brown and Lee.  Cheaney, Eric Anderson and Bailey were the big guns for Bob Knight as they led the way offensively.

The main men though were Jackson and Cheaney and they traded baskets to create a 64-all tie with 8 minutes to go.  Then Brown nailed a three to give Ohio State the lead.  But Anderson came right back with three straight Hoosier field goals while the Buckeyes went into a drought and Carter picked up his 4th foul.

Cheaney, despite committing his 4th foul with 4:31 to go, gave Indiana a 76-71 lead with a leaning banker from the baseline.  The Hoosiers had several chances to increase that lead but couldn’t do it.  They had to settle for a 77-72 lead with a minute to go.

This was still good position to be in but Bailey committed a foul on Brown and Jamaal hit two free throws.  Then with Indiana trying to kill the clock, Lee stole the ball from Cheaney and Calbert fouled him on the ensuing breakaway situation with 20 seconds left.  This was Cheaney’s 5th foul and Lee made both free throws to cut the lead to one.

Jackson then fouled Bailey with 12 seconds left and the freshman made the first but missed the second, leaving Indiana with only a 78-76 lead.  Ayers used a timeout with 7 seconds left.

He then got the ball in the hands of Jimmy Jackson up on top.  Jackson went 1-on-1 against Indiana’s best defender, Jamal Meeks, who was giving up some height and weight to Jackson (Jackson and the entire Ohio State front line could have passed for the football team, they were chiseled, especially for college kids).

Jackson got past Meeks with a cross-over and got into the lane for a little runner that went down at the buzzer and sent the game into overtime.  Jackson had already become known for his clutch play at Ohio State, winning some games as a freshman the previous season.  But this would take the cake as it was being billed as Ohio State’s biggest game in about 30 years, since they had made three straight National Championship games from 1960-62.

Both teams lost some big men in overtime as Matt Nover fouled out for the Hoosiers and the Buckeyes lost Chris Jent.  The biggest loss still was Cheaney but Damon Bailey tried to make up for it.  He found Anderson for a jumper in the post and then nailed a three for his 25th point and an 85-81 Indiana lead.

But Lee and Carter led Ohio State back to an 87-all tie.  Lee’s turnaround jumper from the baseline squared the game with 45 seconds to go.  Indiana then went for the last shot but showed that they did miss Cheaney.  Bailey couldn’t get anything off and finally found Chris Reynolds, who airballed a prayer at the buzzer.  2nd overtime.

Ohio State found an unlikely hero in the 2nd overtime as Skelton nailed two three-pointers.  The freshman was now in the game as Baker’s replacement and had shown he wasn’t shy as he had taken (and missed) some jumpers in the tail end of regulation and the first overtime.  But now he made two big ones.

It wouldn’t put Indiana away though as Bailey and Anderson made key field goals.  The Hoosiers had the ball again with under a minute to go and the game tied at 95.  But this time they couldn’t run out the game clock and Anderson missed a turnaround jumper from the post with 6 seconds remaining on the shot clock.

Lee rebounded with 24 seconds to go and Ohio State didn’t use a timeout.  They knew where they were going with the ball, and so did Indiana.  Jackson isolated up top and then penetrated to the lane again.  This time Indiana collapsed but Treg Lee snuck behind Greg Graham to the open spot on the baseline.  Jackson found him and Lee nailed a runner with 2 seconds left to give Ohio State the lead.

Indiana used two timeouts to set up strategy but could not get a good shot as Bailey hit nothing but backboard on a long turnaround three at the buzzer.  Ohio State had kept their streak going in front of a rowdy packed house in Columbus.

The Buckeyes would end up winning the Big Ten as both them and Indiana finished at 15-3.  Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Baker’s injury would be a big key in their late season slump when Ohio State lost at Purdue and Iowa to finish the Big Ten season.  Indiana lost their next game by one point to Iowa at home but won their final 5 games.

Indiana was named a #2 seed in the Southeast Regional.  They won easily over Coastal Carolina and Florida State but were demolished by 3rd seeded Kansas 83-65 in the Sweet 16.  Ohio State was named a #1 seed in the Midwest Regional but had a struggle with 16th seeded Towson before putting them away 97-86.  They would have another tough game with Georgia Tech in the 2nd round.

Indiana starters (points scored)

Calbert Cheaney (26) – Small Forward

Eric Anderson (20) – Power Forward

Matt Nover (10) – Center

Jamal Meeks (2) – Point Guard

Damon Bailey (32) – Shooting Guard

Indiana bench (points scored)

Chris Reynolds (1)

Greg Graham (4)

Pat Graham (0)

Chris Lawson (0)

Indiana Coach: Bob Knight

Ohio State starters (points scored)

Jim Jackson (30) – Small Forward

Treg Lee (14) – Power Forward

Perry Carter (22) – Center

Mark Baker (0) – Point Guard

Jamaal Brown (17) – Shooting Guard

Ohio State bench (points scored)

Bill Robinson (2)

Chris Jent (4)

Jamie Skelton (8)

Alex Davis (0)

Tom Brandewie (0)

Ohio State Coach: Randy Ayers

jim jackson osu

Jim Jackson was Ohio State’s All-American and made two clutch plays to help defeat Indiana on February 17, 1991 *photo courtesy of Eleven Warriors

February 20, 1991 – (#5)Syracuse Orangemen 72 @(#18)St. John’s Red Men 77

Lou Carnesecca’s last good team had been building for two years.  The starting lineup were all upper-classmen, but only one senior.  And they had risen to as high as 5th in the polls in 1991, it seemed like perhaps their chance.

The Red Men were led by junior forward Malik Sealy, who averaged 22.6 points per game, along with 7.7 rebounds.  Sealy was the clear star and the future NBA standout.  Senior Billy Singleton manned the forward spot along with Sealy.  Junior Robert Werdann was in the middle, and fellow juniors Jason Buchanan and Chucky Sproling in the back court.

St. John’s had freshman big man Shawnelle Scott and sophomore point guard David Cain coming off the bench to get most of the reserves’ playing time.  This team started off the season at 9-0 and then were 15-2 at the end of January and ranked #5.

The Red Men then went into a slump and lost 4 of their next 6 games (1-3 on the road) and fell back into the middle of the pack, and were three games behind Syracuse, who was at the top of the standings.  The Orangemen had given St. John’s their first loss of the season in overtime at the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse had won 10 of their last 11 games, but not all was totally well.  Syracuse was being investigated after some testimonials for the book, “Raw Recruits.”  The investigation made the program a little bit uptight, and ended up costing them an NCAA tournament appearance in 1993, as well as lost scholarships and the like.

For whatever reason, in this game, Syracuse started out lackadaisical.  St. John’s wasn’t burning the nets either but at least they were putting the ball in the basket.  Werdann tipped in a miss, Singleton got two layups, and Sproling got two layups after turnovers.  St. John’s had a 10-0 lead 5 minutes into the game.

It got worse.  A free throw from Sinlgeton, a banker by Sealy and then a steal and layup by Sproling made it 15-0.  Finally, a three by Dave Johnson put the Orangemen on the board.  But they would still trail 22-5 with 9:12 to go and had given up 18 points in the paint to the Red Men.

But then the game did a complete 180.  Johnson hit two more threes and Billy Owens, who had missed his first 8 shot attempts, hit two jumpers and then a lefty banker on the drive.  Johnson’s fourth three-pointer cut the lead to 24-20.

Two free throws by Buchanan put St. John’s up by 6 with 3:49 left.  But Johnson and Owens then scored the next 8 points to give Syracuse the lead.  St. John’s had gone completely cold and was giving up turnovers against the Syracuse pressure.

Carnesecca’s Red Men did manage to re-grab the lead with three free throws.  Then Malik Sealy raced down a long inbounds pass and nailed a corner three at the halftime buzzer to give St. John’s a 32-28 advantage at the break.

Owens had hit 6 of his last 7 field goals and had 12 points while Johnson had 14.  St. John’s had a more balanced attack as Sproling and Singleton each had 7, Buchanan 6, and Sealy 5.

It would be more of the same in the 2nd half.  Jim Boeheim could not get anybody going outside of Johnson and Owens.  LeRon Ellis was saddled by foul trouble.  Adrian Autry struggled upon his return to his home area.  He eventually fouled out without scoring a point.

St. John’s kept the lead as Sealy scored 6 points early in the 2nd half by getting on the offensive boards.  Sealy was also in double figures rebounding.  His three-point play gave the Red Men a 53-45 lead with under 8:00 to go.

St. John’s got their lead to as much as 13 before Syracuse started bombing away threes to finally get some offensive momentum going.  A three-point play by Owens followed by triples from Michael Edwards, Owens, and Johnson (twice) eventually cut the lead to 73-70 with under a minute to go.

St. John’s had made a habit out of splitting their pairs of free throws most of the time.  But Syracuse had lost three players to fouls and were out of timeouts.

Buchanan was fouled with 27 seconds to go.  He made two free throws to put the Red Men ahead 75-70.  Buchanan then stole the inbounds pass and laid it in to finish off the ball game.

Both teams finished the regular season by winning their final three games.  Syracuse won the Big East regular season title with a 12-4 record and St. John’s finished 2nd at 10-6.  So it seemed like they were on a collision course for a third matchup in the Big East title game.

It didn’t happen.  Both were upset in the Big East Quarterfinals.  Syracuse lost to 8th seeded Villanova 70-68 while St. John’s fell to 7th seeded Providence 72-64.

St. John’s rebounded after being named a #4 seed in the Midwest Regional.  They beat Northern Illinois and Texas in the first two rounds before upsetting top-seeded Ohio State in a big way, 91-74, in the Sweet 16.  But they lost to Duke 78-61 in the Regional Final.  Carnesecca retired following the 1992 season in which St. John’s underachieved by going 19-11 and losing to Tulane in the 1st round of the NCAA tournament.

Syracuse would not recover from its Big East tournament loss despite being named a #2 seed in the East Regional.  They would end up on the wrong side of history.

Syracuse starters (points scored)

Dave Johnson (25) – Small Forward

Billy Owens (28) – Power Forward

LeRon Ellis (4) – Center

Michael Edwards (13) – Point Guard

Adrian Autry (0) – Shooting Guard

Syracuse bench (points scored)

Conrad McRae (2)

Mike Hopkins (0)

Scott McCorkle (0)

Syracuse Coach: Jim Boeheim

St. John’s starters (points scored)

Malik Sealy (23) – Small Forward

Billy Singleton (12) – Power Forward

Robert Werdann (11) – Center

Jason Buchanan (12) – Point Guard

Chucky Sproling (14) – Shooting Guard

St. John’s bench (points scored)

Shawnelle Scott (5)

David Cain (0)

Sean Muto (0)

St. John’s Coach: Lou Carnesecca

malik sealy

Malik Sealy led Lou Carnesecca’s last good team past Syracuse and eventually to the Elite Eight in 1991 *photo courtesy of New York Daily News

February 23, 1991 – (#20)Virginia Cavaliers 76 @N.C. State Wolfpack 83

The Wolfpack still had not lost at home.  But then again they hadn’t played an ACC home game since beating North Carolina.  They did have an impressive 60-59 win over UConn.  In that game, Rodney Monroe became the all-time leading scorer at N.C. State.

But the Wolfpack fell back to 6-5 in the ACC after losing at Duke.  This tied them with Wake Forest for 3rd place.  Virginia was a half-game behind.

The Cavaliers, at one point, were 17-4 and as low as #11 in the polls.  But they got into the tougher part of their schedule with road games at Duke, North Carolina, and Wake Forest.  They went 0-3 in that stretch and then lost at home to Georgia Tech a week later.  Now they were 19-8, and looking to right the ship.

Virginia’s biggest change from 1990 was at coach.  Terry Holland retired and became the Athletic Director at Davidson.  Assistant and former player Jeff Jones took over.  The stars were junior forward Bryant Stith and senior point guard John Crotty.  Senior forward Kenny Turner also averaged double figures.  The other starters were sophomore center Ted Jeffries and junior guard Anthony Oliver, who did not start in this game because he was recovering from a broken hand.  Freshman Cornel Parker started in his place.  Other reserves included the football quarterback Matt Blundin, sophomore point guard Doug Smith and senior Dirk Katstra.

For the Wolfpack, Chris Corchiani came into the game 10 assists away from becoming the all-time leader in NCAA history.  But early on, Virginia’s defense forced him to score.  He had 9 points early on and N.C. State had a lead.  But Rodney Monroe could not get off, he didn’t even get many shot attempts.  Tom Gugliotta wasn’t scoring either.  This was a pending disaster waiting to happen.

Kenny Turner got open to score 13 points in the first 12 minutes.  Bryant Stith contributed 9 points, including 5 in a row that put Virginia up 30-23.  Their lead was about at that margin until the final 2 1/2 minutes, when they increased it.

Crotty hit a driving layup and then a three that put the Cavaliers ahead 43-32 and forced Les Robinson to use a timeout.  It didn’t help as N.C. State couldn’t score for the rest of the half.  Meanwhile, Blundin hit a baseline jumper and then Turner hit a banker from the post with 5.3 seconds left to make the halftime margin 47-32.

It got worse for the Wolfpack to start the 2nd half.  Corchiani picked up his 3rd foul.  Stith and Crotty hit field goals and it was now 52-32 Cavaliers.  But then it all changed.

Rodney Monroe connected on a three for his 5th point of the game.  Corchiani hit a pull-up jumper in transition.  Gugliotta tipped in a Monroe miss.  Corchiani drove for a layup and then found Monroe for a jumper from the top.  Suddenly, in four minutes, the lead was down to nine.

Then in three subsequent minutes, the lead was down to four.  Gugliotta hit a three from the top and Monroe got a three-point play.  Jeff Jones had to call a timeout with 13:13 to go and the lead down to 55-51.  It was estimated as the one of the fastest comebacks of all time, by amazed broadcasters.

But Virginia kept their lead for awhile despite Monroe continuing to score.  His three cut it to 67-65 with 6 minutes to go.  Crotty responded with a three but Monroe hit four consecutive free throws.  Then the Wolfpack finally took the lead when Rodney hit a jumper from the top.

Monroe then hit a banker from the wing after a spin move to give N.C. State a 75-72 lead.  Stith missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Turner missed two shots in the lane.  Turner then fouled Kevin Thompson on the rebound and Thompson, a 53% foul shooter in 1991, made both free throws.

It was pretty much over from there as Corchiani and Monroe finished out the game with free throws.  Monroe had 30 points in the 2nd half while Corchiani only got 8 assists.  But he did eventually set the all-time assist record, which would be broken two years later by Bobby Hurley.

N.C. State, after its win and a subsequent win over Maryland, was all set up to be the 3rd seed going into the ACC tournament.  They took their undefeated home record against rival Wake Forest.  However, the Demon Deacons pulled out an 89-84 win and would get the #3 seed and host Virginia in the quarterfinals.

Virginia tied with Georgia Tech for 5th place by finishing at 6-8.  But Tech had swept them during the regular season and earned the higher seed.  This meant that they played the Wolfpack, who had tied with Wake for 3rd but had been swept in the season series.  N.C. State won that matchup 82-68 but got killed by Duke in the next round.

N.C. State earned a #6 seed in the East Regional and lost to 3rd seeded Oklahoma State 73-64 in the 2nd round.  It would be the Wolfpack’s last tournament appearance until 2000.

Virginia starters (points scored)

Bryant Stith (18) – Small Forward

Kenny Turner (25) – Power Forward

Ted Jeffries (2) – Center

John Crotty (19) – Point Guard

Cornel Parker (2) – Shooting Guard

Virginia bench (points scored)

Anthony Oliver (6)

Matt Blundin (2)

Doug Smith (2)

Dirk Katstra (0)

Virginia Coach: Jeff Jones

N.C. State starters (points scored)

Bryant Feggins (12) – Small Forward

Tom Gugliotta (9) – Power Forward

Kevin Thompson (10) – Center

Chris Corchiani (18) – Point Guard

Rodney Monroe (32) – Shooting Guard

N.C. State bench (points scored)

Migjen Bakalli (2)

N.C. State Coach: Les Robinson

corchiani and monroe

Rodney Monroe (left) and Chris Corchiani made up one of the all-time greatest backcourts in NCAA history. *photo courtesy of Rush the Court

February 24, 1991 – (#7)Duke Blue Devils 96 @(#9)Arizona Wildcats 103 (2OT)

The Duke Blue Devils had a 7-game winning streak going before dropping a game at Wake Forest.  They rebounded by beating N.C. State and holding Rodney Monroe to 4 second half points.  But there were still some chinks in the Blue Devil armor, mainly the free throw line and a lack of a big man behind Christian Laettner.

The latter would especially be a problem against the likes of Brian Williams, Ed Stokes, and Sean Rooks.  Duke was also battling the aura of the McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona.  The Wildcats had won 60 games in a row there coming into this game.  It was a streak that went back to the 1987 NCAA tournament.

Duke was 23-5 and Arizona was 21-5.  It was a big matchup for seeding and for confidence.  Despite Chris Mills scoring 6 early points, Duke stayed with Arizona and didn’t let their big men get off early on.  The Blue Devils trailed 14-13 eight minutes into the game.

But Duke was also missing some quality chances on seemingly easy field goal attempts.  They were also 10-for-17 from the foul line in the 1st half and couldn’t take advantage of 16 Arizona turnovers.

The Blue Devils had as much as a 28-21 lead after Williams committed his 3rd foul.  But Arizona came back to tie it at 31 at the half.  Laettner and Mills led their respective teams with 10 points.

The 2nd half was played much better.  Both teams took and delivered punches.  Brian Williams was much more effective inside after only 4 1st half points.

The biggest thing he did was that he kept drawing fouls on Duke.  Thomas Hill, who had 9 1st half points, and Grant Hill each picked up their 4th fouls.  But Arizona was now missing their free throw attempts and Duke hung around helped by their bench.

Billy McCaffrey and senior Greg Koubek hit three-pointers.  McCaffrey then hit another jumper to give Duke a 52-50 lead with 11:38 to go.  Laettner followed with a three-point play but Arizona crawled back in the next minute to tie the game at 55.

Koubek then got credit for a driving basket when goaltending was called on Wayne Womack.  Koubek hit a subsequent free throw to complete the three-point play and then Laettner hit a hook shot in the lane.  Brian Williams brought Arizona back into a 60-all tie with two field goals.

Matt Othick then committed his 4th foul for Arizona and Laettner hit two free throws for his 20th point.  Bobby Hurley followed with a three and Duke had its third five-point lead in the last 4 minutes.

But for the third straight time, Arizona tied it with a 5-0 run after Thomas Hill fouled out.  Freshman Khalid Reeves capped it with a driving layup against Hurley and Mike Krzyzewski called a timeout with 6:52 to go.

Laettner picked up his 4th foul 27 seconds later but Duke was able to maintain a 70-68 lead when Koubek hit his second three.  Sean Rooks then tied it with a layup after recovering a loose ball.

While Arizona had dominated inside, there was a mis-match that Duke could go to and they did in the late going.  Grant Hill, as the power forward, took Brian Williams outside and went 1-on-1 against him.  This produced two baskets and a 74-70 Duke lead.

Lute Olson used a timeout with 2:27 to go but Hurley got a steal and Mills committed his 4th foul.  But the Blue Devils missed their chance to take a 6-point lead in the late going when Brian Davis missed two free throws.

Mills hit a pull-up in the lane with 1:09 to go.  The teams exchanged turnovers before Wayne Womack fouled Grant Hill with 47.1 seconds to go.  Hill was a 64% foul shooter as a freshman but made these two for a 76-72 Duke lead.

Matt Muehlebach fed Brian Williams for a layup and Arizona used their last timeout with 33.1 seconds to go.  They put on their press and Muehlebach stole a Laettner feed to Hill.  Muehlebach then found Womack for a layup to tie the game at 76.  Duke called a timeout with 18.8 to go.

They went to Laettner, who drove and drew Williams’ 4th foul with 12.2 left.  Laettner, who had missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1 second to go in a 77-75 loss to Arizona in 1989, calmly made both shots.

Arizona was without a timeout but Othick found Rooks inside for a spinning hook in the lane to tie it again.  Duke used a timeout with 1.6 to go but couldn’t get a shot off.

The first overtime would be more of the same.  Williams scored two baskets while Rooks got another layup.  Duke almost matched them as Koubek and Laettner hit field goals, but they still trailed 86-83 with under 1 1/2 to go.  But McCaffrey penetrated and found Hurley for an open three in the corner to tie the game.

Williams then missed two free throws and committed his 5th foul when Grant Hill went 1-on-1 against him again.  Williams had had another strong game but watched Hill hit two more free throws with 29.7 seconds to go.

Arizona could not get into a crisp offensive set and were lucky to have Duke deflect it out of bounds with 14 seconds remaining.  Muehlebach was then able to find a cutting Mills for a baseline runner on the inbounds to tie the game again.  Muehlebach then stole the ball from Hurley but his prayer shot wasn’t answered.

However, it was Muehlebach that got Arizona off to a strong start in the second overtime.  He hit a three and then two free throws with 3:42 to go to give Arizona a 95-88 lead.  Muehlebach then put in the dagger by penetrating and finding Sean Rooks for a slam that gave the Wildcats a 99-91 lead with 1:22 to go.

Arizona’s streak lived on and would for the rest of the season.  They won the Pac-10 and were a #2 seed in the West Regional.  They wouldn’t get a chance to play UNLV though as Seton Hall upset them 81-77 in the Sweet 16.  The Pirates, who are featured in the next game, made a late run in the Big East.

This loss didn’t cost Duke anything in the ACC, they went into the final game of the season against North Carolina tied for the top spot with the Tarheels at 10-3.  It would be another big game in this rivalry.

Duke starters (points scored)

Brian Davis (8) – Small Forward

Grant Hill (19) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (26) – Center

Bobby Hurley (14) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (11) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Billy McCaffrey (5)

Greg Koubek (11)

Crawford Palmer (2)

Clay Buckley (0)

Antonio Lang (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Arizona starters (points scored)

Chris Mills (19) – Small Forward

Brian Williams (26) – Power Forward

Ed Stokes (11) – Center

Matt Othick (7) – Point Guard

Matt Muehlebach (14) – Shooting Guard

Arizona bench (points scored)

Sean Rooks (16)

Khalid Reeves (7)

Wayne Womack (3)

Case Schmidt (0)

Deron Johnson (0)

Arizona Coach: Lute Olson

chris mills

After transferring from Kentucky, Chris Mills had some clutch heroics in his first season at Arizona *photo courtesy of ebay

February 27, 1991 – (#20)Seton Hall Pirates 60 @Connecticut Huskies 62 (OT)

On the same night that president George H.W. Bush announced that the Gulf War had ended, the two surprise teams from the Big East over the last two seasons competed in a huge late-season matchup (I know the events pale in comparison, but this is a basketball blog and this game just happened to fall on an important date in U.S. history.  So, yes, I will be talking about the least important event of the two because I’m more of an expert, nerd alert, in that).

The Connecticut Huskies had won 4 Big East games in a row following their 6 straight losses, but a defeat at Georgetown set them back to 7-7 and needing a win to secure an NCAA tournament bid (although the Big East ended up sending 7 teams, Villanova’s upset of Syracuse in the Big East tournament secured their bid as it was their second defeat of Syracuse that season).

Seton Hall at one point was 5-6 in the Big East and 13-7 overall.  But then they went on a 5-game winning streak (three against Big East teams) and were now tied for 4th place in the conference.

The Pirates only had one player remaining from their 1989 team that was seconds away from winning a national championship.  It happened to be their star in 1991.  Senior big man Anthony Avent averaged over 18 points per game and 10 rebounds in Big East competition.  Their leading scorer was sophomore guard Terry Dehere, who averaged over 20 points in Big East competition.  Avent and Dehere, along with coach P.J. Carlesimo, would be the only ones from Seton Hall who eventually saw an NBA game.

Senior point guard Oliver Taylor was the third and last Pirate who averaged in double figures.  The rest of the lineup included junior forward Gordon Winchester, sophomore forward Jerry Walker and freshmen Bryan Caver and Lithuanian Arturas Karnishovas.

As typical for a Big East game in this era, there wasn’t much scoring.  For UConn, Scott Burrell got an early steal and slam.  He then found Toraino Walker with a long pass for a slam and a quick 4-0 UConn lead.  But then the Huskies went scoreless for the next 9 minutes and 50 seconds.

Seton Hall responded as Avent put back a miss and then got a three-point play on an up-and-under move in the post.  But then Seton Hall scored 1 point over the next 8 minutes.

Senior John Gwynn (who, along with Lyman DePriest and Murray Williams, were celebrating senior night) hit a jumper from the elbow to break UConn’s drought.  Bryan Caver then hit a runner to break Seton Hall’s drought.  Chris Smith connected on a three (his first field goal in 9 attempts) to tie the game at 9 at the 7:54 mark.

But the scoring, kind of, opened up from there.  A slam from Burrell and a pull-up jumper from Gwynn put UConn up 15-11.  But Terry Dehere answered with a three and Avent hit a banker from the post to give Seton Hall the lead.

Avent and Dehere took care of the Pirate scoring for the rest of the half while Rod Sellers got going for UConn with 5 points.  Seton Hall led 27-24 at the break.

Sellers kept his momentum going with 9 points early in the 2nd half as UConn took the lead.  They stretched it to 41-34 when Burrell hit a running banker in the lane.  Then Smith, UConn’s leading scorer, connected on only his second field goal on a baseline jumper to stretch the lead to nine.

But the Huskies then went into another drought thanks to Seton Hall’s defense, which had been their biggest key in their 5-game winning streak.  Caver drove down the lane for a layup and then Dehere and Taylor connected on threes to cut the lead to 43-42 with 6:19 remaining.

UConn was able to keep the lead, despite missing several free throws, thanks to Sellers.  Rod had been out-played badly by Avent in the first matchup between these two teams (a 76-62 Seton Hall victory in January), but he out-scored Avent and nearly matched him on the boards as both players got double-doubles.

The Huskies took a 51-48 lead with a minute and a half to go and seemed poised to increase it when Smith got a steal and had Burrell on a breakaway.  But Dehere and Karnishovas got back.  Dehere cut off Burrell’s angle and Karnishovas flew in for the blocked shot that saved Seton Hall in regulation.

Dehere then tied it with a step-back three from the top at the 1:13 mark.  UConn called a timeout and ran down the clock.  Smith penetrated and found Sellers, who was fouled by Avent with 28.3 seconds remaining.  Sellers, a 56% foul shooter, managed to split a pair.

Seton Hall called a timeout but couldn’t find an open man.  So finally, Taylor drove against Gwynn and drew a foul from DePriest on a reach-in with 1.4 seconds left.  Taylor was an 86% foul shooter in Big East competition, but his first free throw went in-and-out, much to the delight of the UConn crowd at Gampel Pavilion.

Taylor made the second free throw to tie the game at 52.  DePriest airballed a prayer from half-court and the game was headed into overtime.

UConn struck first from the field as Burrell found DePriest inside.  Lyman laid a quick pass to Sellers for a layup and a foul.  The three-point play gave Sellers 21 points and gave UConn a 55-53 lead.  But Dehere answered with a three and Caver hit two free throws.  Seton Hall led 58-55 with over 3 minutes remaining.

Gwynn hit a jumper from the top.  Avent rebounded a miss and hit a hook shot for only his 6th point of the 2nd half.  Then Gwynn backed into the lane and hit a reverse flip shot while drawing a foul.  The three-point play tied the game at 60 with 2:27 to go.

The teams then went back to their scoreless ways.  Gwynn got a steal but Smith missed a breakaway layup.  Seton Hall missed a jumper but got the ball back after UConn deflected it out of bounds.  But then Burrell stole an entry pass to the post and UConn would hold for the last shot.  They called a timeout with 13.2 seconds remaining.

Despite the Huskies star, Chris Smith, going 3-for-17 from the field so far, Jim Calhoun went to him.  Smith penetrated into the lane but was short on a pull-up jumper.  Two Seton Hall players went after the rebound, and it looked like Avent had it.  But they lost the ball and Smith got it back.

Smith then put up a fall-away jumper from the wing in the last second and made it as the buzzer sounded.  UConn had a big win that had sealed an NCAA tournament bid, according to the “experts” at ESPN.

It did end up pushing UConn past Seton Hall in the standings as both teams finished at 9-7 in the Big East, tied for 3rd place with Pitt.  But UConn got the #3 seed in the tournament while Seton Hall was 4th.  The Huskies were drilled by Georgetown 68-49 in the quarterfinals and settled for a #11 seed in the Midwest Regional.

The Huskies beat Shaquille O’Neal and LSU 79-62 in the 1st round and then beat Xavier 66-50 in the 2nd round.  But they ran into a familiar opponent in the Sweet 16.

Despite the loss, Seton Hall kept their late-season momentum going as this would be their only defeat from February 5 until March 23.  The Pirates beat Pitt and Villanova in close games in the Big East tournament before downing Georgetown 74-62 in the championship.

They were then named a #3 seed in the West Regional.  The Pirates beat back Pepperdine and Creighton in the first two rounds before upsetting 2nd seeded Arizona 81-77 in the Sweet 16.  Their run ended in the Regional Finals when they lost to UNLV 77-65.

Seton Hall starters (points scored)

Gordon Winchester (0) – Small Forward

Arturas Karnishovas (3) – Power Forward

Anthony Avent (16) – Center

Oliver Taylor (15) – Point Guard

Terry Dehere (18) – Shooting Guard

Seton Hall bench (points scored)

Bryan Caver (8)

Jerry Walker (0)

Assaf Barnea (0)

Seton Hall Coach: P.J. Carlesimo

Connecticut starters (points scored)

Scott Burrell (13) – Small Forward

Toraino Walker (2) – Power Forward

Rod Sellers (21) – Center

Steve Pikiell (0) – Point Guard

Chris Smith (11) – Shooting Guard

Connecticut bench (points scored)

John Gwynn (11)

Lyman DePriest (4)

Dan Cyrulik (0)

Gilad Katz (0)

Connecticut Coach: Jim Calhoun

March 3, 1991 – (#8)Duke Blue Devils 83 @(#4)North Carolina Tarheels 77

Both rivals were 10-3 in the ACC, tied for the top going into the final game.  The last time this had happened was 1978, when Phil Ford led North Carolina to a close victory.

But for now, it was the senior day for Rick Fox, Pete Chilcutt, and King Rice.  North Carolina had won 7 in a row since their loss at N.C. State.  Duke had won 9 of 11 games since their loss at N.C. State in January.

The charged atmosphere at the Dean Dome saw King Rice get the first basket of the game with a spin and a banker in the lane.  It would be North Carolina’s last lead.

Grant Hill found Bobby Hurley for a baseline jumper and then Hill drove baseline for a slam.  A Hill feed to Brian Davis for a dunk and a foul put Duke up 8-2 early on and put 3 fouls on George Lynch.

Grant Hill got off to the quickest start for Duke with 7 points in the first 10 minutes to keep the Blue Devils ahead.  Hubert Davis came off the UNC bench and kept the Tarheels in the game during that stretch with 6 points.

But once Christian Laettner got involved, Duke ran up its lead.  Laettner scored his first basket on a baseline drive to put Duke up 23-16.  He later got two layups off feeds from Hurley and Hill.  Duke now led 29-18 with 7:45 remaining.

Rick Fox would get his first field goal to stem the tide and Chilcutt followed with his 4th point.  But this run would be thwarted by a Bobby Hurley cross-court alley-oop (from about 30 feet away) to Grant Hill.

Threes by Hurley and Greg Koubek made it a 39-26 Duke advantage with under 4 minutes to go.  Carolina was able to cut it to 46-36 at the half.

The lead was down to six early in the 2nd half but then Laettner penetrated and found Grant Hill for a slam.  Hurley then found Hill and Laettner for layups and the lead was back to 12.

Duke would steadily increase it as they beat Carolina’s trap for several three-point shots.  Hurley and Koubek each hit one.  Billy McCaffrey nailed a baseline jumper when a ball that was knocked away went right to him.  Hurley then nailed another three to put Duke up 67-48.

Hubert Davis would respond with North Carolina’s first three-pointer of the game.  Rice then got a three-point play on a runner off the glass.  Lynch then put back a miss after Carolina recovered several loose balls on that possession.  The lead was now down to 67-56 with 9:37 remaining.

A layup by Lynch after Davis saved a ball from going out of bounds cut the lead to 67-60 and the crowd was alive.  But Hurley silenced them with a pull-up from the elbow for his 18th point.  But he and Laettner committed their 4th fouls with under 7 minutes remaining.

But Duke slowed the tempo and Carolina could not make a run for a few minutes.  Finally, Davis got a three-point play after a steal and then Brian Reese got a steal and slam.  This cut the lead to 73-68.

Now back in the game, Laettner hit two free throws after being fouled in the back court.  Chilcutt answered with a three and the lead was down to 75-71 with 2:45 left.

Duke managed to hit 3-of-4 free throws over the next 25 seconds but Fox nailed a three and it was 78-74 with 2 minutes to go.  Duke ran down the shot clock and the ball ended up in the hands of Thomas Hill, who had been the clutch man for Duke so far this season.  Hill hit a pull-up from the baseline with 1:17 to go to put the Devils up six.

But then Hurley fouled Chilcutt on a three-point attempt with 1:08 remaining and Hurley fouled out.  Chilcutt made all three free throws.  It was a one possession game.  Carolina got a stop and had a chance to tie it with a three.

Chilcutt first bricked a trey from the top.  The Tarheels rebounded and had another chance.  But the open man ended up being freshman Derrick Phelps, who would never really become a strong shooter in his next three seasons at UNC.  Phelps airballed a three from the corner and Chilcutt fouled Koubek with 17 seconds left.  North Carolina ended up finishing 3-for-17 on three-pointers.

Koubek split his free throws but made it a two-possession game.  Thomas Hill then rebounded a missed three from Fox and hit his two free throws to seal the issue.

Duke would now be the #1 seed in the ACC tournament, which brought on unique circumstances in 1991 because Maryland was ineligible due to probation.  With still only 8 teams in the ACC (Florida State joined next season) and Maryland out, Duke got a 1st round bye while Carolina had to play Clemson.

The Tarheels got by the Tigers by only 8 points while Duke killed N.C. State in the Semifinals 93-72 to reach the championship game.  North Carolina would have to survive a tough semifinal to get its rematch with Duke.

Duke starters (points scored)

Brian Davis (5) – Small Forward

Grant Hill (16) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (18) – Center

Bobby Hurley (18) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (10) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Greg Koubek (10)

Billy McCaffrey (4)

Clay Buckley (2)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Rick Fox (14) – Small Forward

George Lynch (8) – Power Forward

Pete Chilcutt (18) – Center

King Rice (7) – Point Guard

Henrik Rodl (2) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Hubert Davis (16)

Clifford Rozier (2)

Eric Montross (6)

Derrick Phelps (0)

Brian Reese (4)

Pat Sullivan (0)

Matt Wenstrom (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

March 8, 1991 – ACC Quarterfinals: Virginia Cavaliers 70, Wake Forest Demon Deacons 66

On February 2, Virginia defeated Wake Forest at home 83-80.  At the time, Virginia was 5-2 in the ACC, a half a game behind Duke.  Wake Forest meanwhile was 3-4 and in 6th place.

But then things turned around for both teams.  In a stretch of 4 days, Virginia lost at Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest.  That started a 3-6 skid to finish the season in 6th place in the ACC.

Wake Forest meanwhile steadily climbed the standings and had some big wins.  They beat Duke at home 86-77 as former Georgetown Hoya Anthony Tucker had a career-high 31 points.  Then in the final game of the season, with 3rd place on the line, Wake gave N.C. State their first home loss of the season 89-84.

Along with Tucker, 2nd year head coach Dave Odom had started to recruit some talent to Winston-Salem.  There was juniors Chris King and Derrick McQueen and senior guard Robert Siler, who was coming back from two reconstructive knee surgeries (on the same knee).

But the big recruit was a freshman and a 1990 McDonald’s All-American from Duke’s own backyard in Durham, 6’7″ 235 lb Rodney Rogers.  Rogers ended up being the ACC freshman of the year as he led Wake Forest at 16 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game.

Wake Forest also had another freshman who would make a future impact in guard Randolph Childress.  Childress came off the bench to average 14.1 points per game (3rd on the team) and got most of point guard Derrick McQueen’s playing time in this game.  There was also big man Trelonnie Owens in the freshman class of Odom.

All had a big impact as Wake finished the ACC season at 8-6 and 18-9 overall.  But they didn’t seem to being that much buzz to Charlotte for the ACC tournament.

With this game being the last of the day (last of 3 games with Duke getting the bye), the crowd that was left was very subdued, even with the Demon Deacons being a school within the state.

This may have helped contribute to the game getting off to a slow start, but the game must continue.  Bryant Stith hit two field goals to give Virginia an 8-4 lead with over 6 minutes gone by.  But Wake came back with a 7-0 run started from a three-point play by Rogers.

This would be essentially how the game went as neither team could get too far away.  A three-point play by John Crotty capped a Virginia 5-0 run to put them up 22-17 and Rogers picked up his 2nd foul with 7:45 left in the 1st half.

But Rodney stayed in and scored 5 of Wake’s 7 points on their 7-0 run.  He later tip-slammed a miss by Siler with just his left hand.  But Virginia was able to grab a 33-30 lead when Crotty nailed a three for his 11th point.  The Cavaliers held on to a 33-32 lead at the break.

Virginia held the lead through the first 6 minutes of the 2nd half and then Rogers picked up his 4th foul and sat for 6 minutes.  It seemed like it would be an advantage to the Cavaliers but Childress hit a three to put Wake up 39-38.

Then Tucker and King made field goals and before you knew it, Wake Forest was up 46-42.  But then Bryant Stith showed up again with 5 straight points and then an assist to Crotty on a pull-up jumper to force a Wake Forest timeout.

Virginia kept its run going as Kenny Turner and Crotty made threes to increase the lead to seven.  The biggest was at 62-54 with under 4 minutes to go.  But then Rogers, who had been back in the game for several minutes, re-emerged as a scorer with a three and then a driving layup to cut the lead to 62-59.

But then with 2:43 left, Stith drove, scored and was fouled.  The three-point play made it 65-59.  But Childress nailed a three from the wing to cut it back to three with 2:29 to go.

Wake Forest would cut it to 65-64 a minute later when Tucker put back a missed turnaround jumper by Rogers.  But Virginia would get two chances after Turner offensive rebounded a quick miss by Crotty.  Crotty would then drive baseline for a layup after Virginia used the shot clock.

Wake Forest’s only attempt to tie it would be unsuccessful when Rogers missed a trey from the top.  Virginia would then salt the game away from the line and had its best win since defeating Wake Forest on February 2.

They would now take on North Carolina in the semifinals.  Wake Forest, meanwhile, would earn a #5 seed in the Southeast Regional.  They beat Louisiana Tech 71-65 before losing to 4th seeded Alabama 96-88 in the 2nd round.

But this would begin a string of 7 consecutive tournament appearances for Wake Forest, as well as lots of success in the ACC and lots of incoming talent.

Virginia starters (points scored)

Bryant Stith (14) – Small Forward

Kenny Turner (15) – Power Forward

Ted Jeffries (4) – Center

John Crotty (23) – Point Guard

Anthony Oliver (12) – Shooting Guard

Virginia bench (points scored)

Matt Blundin (2)

Cornel Parker (0)

Dirk Katstra (0)

Virginia Coach: Jeff Jones

Wake Forest starters (points scored)

Anthony Tucker (10) – Small Forward

Chris King (13) – Power Forward

Rodney Rogers (23) – Center

Derrick McQueen (4) – Point Guard

Robert Siler (0) – Shooting Guard

Wake Forest bench (points scored)

Randolph Childress (12)

Trelonnie Owens (4)

Wake Forest Coach: Dave Odom

March 9, 1991 – ACC Semifinals: Virginia Cavaliers 71, (#7)North Carolina Tarheels 76

North Carolina, after losing out on the ACC regular season title and a first round bye on the final day of the season, struggled and looked lethargic in their first round matchup against Clemson.

They won 67-59 but were hardly impressive and heard about it from coach Dean Smith.  In the first half of their semifinal game against Virginia, they looked like a top team in the nation.

Virginia had salvaged a 3-6 finish to the season by winning their quarterfinal game against Wake Forest, and perhaps locked up a tournament berth.  But they had made a run to the ACC finals in 1990 and were looking to repeat that in ’91.

They stayed with Carolina through the first 10 minutes as John Crotty scored 7 points and Bryant Stith had 6.  It was tied at 19 before North Carolina ripped off an 18-4 spurt.

The big advantages for the Tarheels were their bench (who led the spurt) and their rebound advantage (30-11 in the 1st half).  Ten of the 11 Tarheels who played, scored and all of that balance was on display during this run.  The Tarheels also held Virginia to 35% shooting in the 1st half.  Kenny Turner, the Cavaliers 3rd leading scorer, was 1-for-9.

The Tarheels took their biggest lead at 43-27 when George Lynch hit a pull-up from the baseline in transition with under a minute and a half to go in the 1st half.  A Bryant Stith field goal cut the lead to 43-29 at the half, but it ended up starting a Virginia run.

Both teams came out in the 2nd half looking different.  North Carolina looked lethargic again and Virginia got going with field goals from Stith, Anthony Oliver and Ted Jeffries.  Turner later put back a missed free throw from Crotty to cut the lead to 43-38 with over 5 minutes gone by.

The Tarheels finally got on the board after the first media timeout but then Turner did it again.  He followed up a missed free throw from Crotty to cut the lead to 45-41.  Lynch and Eric Montross each picked up their 4th fouls for the Tarheels.

North Carolina was able to keep their lead until the next media timeout but it looked to be in jeopardy after two bad calls went against them.  Before the media timeout, a foul was called on Clifford Rozier against Virginia backup Matt Blundin when they were battling on the boards.

Blundin shot 59% from the line during ACC competition.  But after coming back from the timeout, it was Stith (an 80% foul shooter) who stepped to the line.  The officials let it go despite vociferous protests from the Carolina bench (who had been called for a technical a few minutes before).  Stith made both free throws to cut the Carolina lead to 51-50.

Then a minute later, freshman Brian Reese hit a pull-up jumper in the lane and drew a foul.  But the refs called no basket as the foul was called before the shot (this was in the days before continuation in college basketball) and the Tarheels got the ball out of bounds.  However, looking at the replay, the foul definitely occurred when Reese was going up for the shot.  So it wasn’t even the bad continuation that we see today, it was a definite foul while the shooter was shooting.

Either way, Virginia missed on its one chance to grab the lead during that stretch and Carolina regained a 5-point lead when Pete Chilcutt found Eric Montross for a layup.  Virginia came back and tied the game at 61 when Stith put back a miss by Turner and drew a foul.

Stith had a chance to give Virginia the lead with a free throw but missed it.  Chilcutt then kicked out to Rick Fox for a three from the top and a 64-61 Tarheel lead.  Fox then found Lynch with a bullet feed for a layup.

UNC kept that lead and seemed to put the dagger into Virginia with under a minute to go when King Rice made a pull-up three from the top at the end of the shot clock.  This put the Heels up 72-63.  Crotty drove right back for a layup and Virginia called their last timeout with 36 seconds to go.

Lynch then turned the ball over when his inbounds bounce pass hit the out of bounds line.  Crotty then nailed a step-back three after Virginia rebounded a missed three from Stith.  Crotty fouled Rice with 18 seconds to go.

Rice made both ends of the 1-and-1 to put North Carolina up 74-68.  But then Crotty found Stith for a three to cut the lead in half.  Stith fouled Rice again with 9.1 seconds to go.  This time Rice missed the front end of the 1-and-1 and Virginia rebounded and had a chance to tie, but with no timeouts.

Crotty dribbled up the sideline into a Carolina trap and had the ball stolen from him by Rice.  Rice then found Fox for a breakaway layup at the buzzer to seal Carolina’s victory.  North Carolina would now get a rematch with Duke a week after the Blue Devils took the regular season title from UNC in Chapel Hill.

Revenge was sweet for the Tarheels.  After looking terrible against Clemson, UNC played perhaps their best game of the season against Duke and won 96-74.  The game was never close and lobsided victory helped North Carolina clinch a #1 seed in the East Regional while Duke was named a #2 seed in the Midwest.

Virginia was a #7 seed in the West Regional and lost in the 1st round to Shawn Bradley and BYU 61-48.  They would remain a relevant team over the next few seasons but couldn’t make a run in the ACC or NCAA until ’94 and ’95.

Virginia starters (points scored)

Bryant Stith (21) – Small Forward

Kenny Turner (14) – Power Forward

Ted Jeffries (4) – Center

John Crotty (23) – Point Guard

Anthony Oliver (6) – Shooting Guard

Virginia bench (points scored)

Matt Blundin (1)

Cornel Parker (2)

Doug Smith (0)

Virginia Coach: Jeff Jones

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Rick Fox (13) – Small Forward

George Lynch (10) – Power Forward

Pete Chilcutt (13) – Center

King Rice (7) – Point Guard

Hubert Davis (9) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Eric Montross (7)

Clifford Rozier (8)

Brian Reese (2)

Derrick Phelps (5)

Henrik Rodl (2)

Pat Sullivan (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

acc championship

Seniors King Rice and Pete Chilcutt hoist the ACC Championship trophy after UNC defeated Duke 96-74 in the ACC Final *photo courtesy of Pinterest

March 14, 1991 – East Regional 1st round: (#15)Richmond Spiders 73, (#2)Syracuse Orangemen 69

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and #15 or #16 seed had never won a 1st round game.  But with Princeton almost beating Georgetown in 1989 and getting a lot of attention, one probably knew it would happen sooner or later (but you never want to be that one guy in your bracket pool that tries to predict it).

According to this 30 for 30 short, that Princeton/Georgetown game was the catalyst for CBS getting the rights to all of the NCAA tournament games.  In previous years, ESPN broadcast the 1st round games and then CBS picked up the 2nd round games on the weekend.  For 1991, that was no longer the case.

Richmond had pulled off tournament upsets before.  As a #12 seed in 1984, they defeated Charles Barkley and Auburn 72-71 in the 1st round.  As a #13 seed in 1988, they defeated defending champion Indiana 72-69 in the 1st round and Georgia Tech 59-55 in the 2nd round.

But this may have been a bit too daunting for head coach Dick Tarrant and the Spiders.  As a #14 seed in 1990, they were demolished by Duke 81-46 in the 1st round.  They still had some seniors from their 1988 team in Ken Atkinson and Scott Stapleton.

But for 1991, they were gone and nobody was left from that 1988 team.  Their only double figure scorers were junior guard Curtis Blair at 16.3 points per game and sophomore big man Kenny Wood at 14.6.

The only senior was transfer Terry Connolly, a center who had started most of the year but gave way to sophomore Tim Weathers when Tarrant needed more quickness in the starting lineup.  The two point guards were freshmen in Gerald Jarmon and Eugene Burroughs.

The 5th starter was usually Jim Springer, but after winning the MVP of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, Jim Shields earned a start against Syracuse.

The Spiders had gotten off to an unimpressive 6-7 start, including losing their first 3 CAA games.  But one of those wins was against Georgia Tech, easily their 2nd most impressive win of the season.  Richmond finished out the regular season at 12-2 and then won the CAA tournament over George Mason 81-78 with Shields leading the way with 26 points.

Syracuse perhaps had a chance to be the #1 seed in the East Regional.  But with a loss to Villanova in the Big East quarterfinals and then North Carolina dominating Duke for the ACC Championship, Syracuse had to settle for a #2 seed in North Carolina’s region.

In the pregame, Syracuse seemed perhaps a bit cocky (but how do you, as a #1 or #2 seed, guard against looking past your first opponent, who won’t look impressive on paper?).

But Richmond pulled off the first formula of an upset, they got off to a good start.  The Spiders hit 7 of their first 9 shots from the field (including 3-for-3 from Blair) and led 15-11 seven minutes into the game.

Richmond’s hot shooting would continue and they would keep the lead as a result.  Blair and Wood were leading the way as usual for Richmond, but reserves Connolly and Springer were also big factors inside.  Meanwhile, Syracuse’s lack of shooting was coming out to haunt them.

Jim Boeheim’s Orangemen did cut the lead to 31-29 when Michael Edwards hit two three-pointers.  But then Chris Fleming, Richmond’s three-point “specialist,” hit a three and, later, Connolly found Springer with a behind-the-back pass for a layup that got the crowd going.

The crowd was already in Richmond’s corner (the fact that the game was in College Park, Maryland, not too terribly far from Richmond, certainly helped too) but their play in the 1st half made it more so.  Connolly’s three-point play made it 41-32 Spiders and got the crowd going even more.

Fleming would hit his second three-pointer to make it 44-34 late in the half.  But Connolly committed his 3rd foul and Dave Johnson hit two free throws for Syracuse to cut their halftime deficit to 44-36.

Billy Owens had led the way with 9 points but the Orangemen couldn’t counter 62% 1st half shooting from Richmond.  But Syracuse picked it up to start the 2nd half as if they realized that they were in a ball game.

Adrian Autry fed LeRon Ellis for a layup that resulted in a three-point play.  Autry and Owens hit field goals to cut the lead to three.  But Richmond held them off for a few minutes and then went on another run.

Back-to-back field goals by Shields and Connolly made it 54-48 and then Dave Johnson committed his 4th foul with 11:49 left and Fleming hit two free throws.  Blair would follow with a three to make the score 59-50.

Connolly later nailed a three to put Richmond up 62-52 with under 9 minutes to go.  Richmond would then fall into a drought but Syracuse couldn’t take much of an advantage.

They only cut the lead to 64-59 when Edwards made a three with under 4 1/2 to go.  Blair then found Wood for a breakaway slam on the press break.  Owens would come back with a three but then Johnson fouled out on a reach-in with 3:51 left.

Connolly made two free throws to put the Spiders up 68-62.  At this point of the game, Syracuse almost panicked and launched terrible three-point attempts.  But Richmond couldn’t break away as Wood missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

Edwards nailed his 4th three and Owens drove for a lefty layup to cut it to 68-67 with 2:00 left.  Jarmon then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Syracuse had a chance for their first lead of the ballgame.

But after a timeout, Edwards missed a three and Connolly rebounded.  Eugene Burroughs, who had just come in for fellow freshman Gerald Jarmon, then found Shields for a breakaway layup with 1:09 to go.

Wood then rebounded a missed panicked three from Autry.  But Connolly made a mistake and shot a tough runner in transition instead of pulling the ball out.  Owens took advantage with a double-pump baseline jumper (a forced shot that went in) to cut the lead to 70-69.

But Syracuse had to foul as the game clock was now less than the shot clock.  They finally fouled Burroughs with 21 seconds left and the freshman made both free throws.

Owens then missed a forced three-point attempt.  Billy rebounded and Syracuse called a timeout with 8.9 seconds left.  With a chance for Boeheim to finally set a play, the Orangemen actually got a good shot.

But Edwards missed a tying three from the corner and Syracuse knocked it out of bounds as the crowd erupted.  Autry committed Syracuse’s final foul with 0.7 seconds left and Blair put the finishing touch on the first 15-seed to win an NCAA tournament game.

Syracuse would go on probation in 1992 and miss the 1993 NCAA tournament.  But within a few years, Boeheim had Syracuse’s program back on the map.

As for Richmond, they lost their 2nd round game to 10th seeded Temple 77-64.  Temple would go on to lose to top seeded North Carolina in the Regional Final as Dean Smith reached his first Final Four since 1982.

The Spiders had a better team coming back in 1992 as Connolly was the only senior in 1991.  They were 22-6 before being upset in the CAA semifinals by Old Dominion 62-58.  The Monarchs then upset James Madison in the Finals to get the CAA’s NCAA tournament bid.  As a #15 seed, they lost to Kentucky in the 1st round but would have their upset in 1995.  James Madison had to wait until 2006 but then they made their mark.

Tarrant retired following the 1993 season but Richmond would make the occasional appearance in the national spotlight.  This included an upset of Kansas in Lawrence in 2004, two weeks in the top-25 polls in 2010, and a Sweet 16 appearance in 2011.

Richmond starters (points scored)

Tim Weathers (0) – Small Forward

Kenny Wood (12) – Power Forward

Jim Shields (6) – Center

Gerald Jarmon (5) – Point Guard

Curtis Blair (18) – Shooting Guard

Richmond bench (points scored)

Terry Connolly (14)

Jim Springer (8)

Eugene Burroughs (2)

Chris Fleming (8)

Richmond Coach: Dick Tarrant

Syracuse starters (points scored)

Dave Johnson (13) – Small Forward

Billy Owens (22) – Power Forward

LeRon Ellis (12) – Center

Michael Edwards (12) – Point Guard

Adrian Autry (7) – Shooting Guard

Syracuse bench (points scored)

Conrad McRae (3)

Mike Hopkins (0)

Scott McCorkle (0)

Syracuse Coach: Jim Boeheim

keeny wood

Kenny Wood battles LeRon Ellis inside during 15 seeded Richmond’s big upset of 2 seeded Syracuse *photo courtesy of Syracuse blog

March 14, 1991 – Midwest Regional 1st round: (#14)Xavier Musketeers 89, (#3)Nebraska Cornhuskers 84

The Nebraska Cornhuskers have never been known as a basketball school.  Usually in March, spring football (or sometimes baseball) generates more interest.

But in 1991, under 5th year coach Danny Nee and a group of seniors, they rose to the occasion with a 14-game winning streak and a 3rd place finish in the Big Eight.  They also made the Final of the Big Eight Tournament and had a final ranking of 11th in the polls.

This was to be their 2nd NCAA tournament appearance and first as a higher seed.  But trouble had loomed for a #3 seed in previous NCAA tournaments.  Indiana and Notre Dame in 1986, Illinois in 1987, Stanford in 1989, and Missouri in 1990 had all lost 1st round games as 3 seeds.  It was commonplace if you were picking 1st round upsets in your bracket based on recent history that a 3 seed would lose, so why not pick the team with the least amount of NCAA experience (the other #3 seeds were Seton Hall, Kansas, and Oklahoma State – another team with no tournament experience except for their coach Eddie Sutton).

Nebraska was led in scoring by their 7’2″ 260 lb senior center Rich King.  King averaged 15.1 points per game.  He was joined up front by fellow senior Beau Reid, and juniors Tony Farmer and Carl Hayes (who was Nebraska’s leading scorer for awhile but was benched late in the year for lack of effort).

The back court had seniors Keith Moody and Clifford Scales (who looked creepily similar to Michael Jordan in everything except skin tone – similar down to the wrist band on the left elbow and calf band on the left leg).  There was also the Cornhuskers best NBA prospect in freshman Eric Piatkowski.

Xavier also had a few future NBA grinders in big men Brian Grant and Aaron Williams.  Grant was a freshman in 1991 and Williams a sophomore, so they weren’t quite on the top of Xavier’s scoring lists.

Pete Gillen and the Musketeers were led, in essence, by their three guards who started along with Grant and Williams.  Point guard Jamal Walker was the leader and gave off to shooters Jamie Gladden and Michael Davenport.  Walker and Davenport were seniors and Gladden was a sophomore.  There were also some young pieces coming off the bench in Dwayne Wilson, Maurice Brantley, and Erik Edwards.

Xavier had gone 21-9 during the season and won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (which became the Horizon League in 2001) title.  Xavier had also pulled some recent upsets.  In 1987, as a 13-seed, they defeated Missouri in the 1st round.  Then in 1990, as a 6-seed, they defeated 3rd seeded Georgetown in the 2nd round.

After Nebraska got the first basket, Xavier ran off the next 8 points.  This culminated in a steal and three-point play by Walker.  Walker was the key factor early on as he scored 6 points and assisted on several more baskets by penetrating and kicking out to Gladden and Davenport.

His kickout to Gladden for three put the Musketeers up 17-8.  Nebraska scored the next 7 points as King had gotten free inside and scored a few buckets.  But another three from Gladden and then two field goals by Brantley off the bench put Xavier back up 25-17.

Xavier would take as much as a 12-point lead but King kept the Cornhuskers in the game and then Danny Nee switched to a zone that threw off the Musketeers offense.  Nebraska got back into it as King scored 14 1st half points.  Two free throws by Scales with 5.2 seconds left cut the Xavier halftime lead to 45-42.

While Nebraska stayed with Xavier and eventually tied it at 54 with just over 15 minutes left, they could never grab the lead for a long stretch.  Gladden and Wilson would hit big field goals to stem the tide despite Aaron Williams, Maurice Brantley, and Brian Grant picking up their 4th fouls.

But eventually, a tip-in by Hayes gave the Cornhuskers a 67-66 lead with 9:21 left.  But Walker would drive right back for a layup after a timeout, and later he found Davenport for a three to give Xavier a 74-72 lead.

They kept that lead despite Williams fouling out.  Another three by Davenport gave Xavier an 84-79 advantage with 1:54 left.  But it wasn’t quite the nail in the coffin.  Tony Farmer came back with a hook shot in the lane.

Then Davenport missed a tough driving shot against two people instead of pulling the ball back out.  With the chance to tie it on a three, Scales turned the ball over on an attempted lob.  Wilson split a pair of free throws with 47.9 seconds left.

Scales then committed another turnover and Xavier would finish the game at the free throw line.  The Musketeers moved on the play Connecticut, who had upset LSU in the 1st round.  But Xavier would fall to the Huskies 66-50.

Xavier would be a force over the next few seasons but couldn’t advance beyond the 2nd round.  Pete Gillen left for Providence after Grant’s senior season in 1994.  Xavier would then prove to be a stepping stone for their next few coaches as Skip Prosser, Thad Matta, and Sean Miller coached there before going off to big time programs.  But the Musketeers have made consistent NCAA tournament appearances over the last 30 years.

The same cannot be said for Nebraska.  The Cornhuskers still have yet to win an NCAA tournament game and their #3 seed in the 1991 tournament may have been the best accomplishment in the history of their basketball program.  But hey, they still have football… sometimes.

Xavier starters (points scored)

Jamie Gladden (20) – Small Forward

Brian Grant (15) – Power Forward

Aaron Williams (4) – Center

Jamal Walker (18) – Point Guard

Michael Davenport (17) – Shooting Guard

Xavier bench (points scored)

Dwayne Wilson (5)

Maurice Brantley (6)

Erik Edwards (2)

Colin Parker (2)

Xavier Coach: Pete Gillen

Nebraska starters (points scored)

Tony Farmer (15) – Small Forward

Beau Reid (6) – Power Forward

Rich King (25) – Center

Keith Moody (2) – Point Guard

Clifford Scales (12) – Shooting Guard

Nebraska bench (points scored)

Carl Hayes (15)

Eric Piatkowski (9)

Dapreis Owens (0)

Nebraska Coach: Danny Nee

March 16, 1991 – Midwest Regional 2nd round: (#7)Iowa Hawkeyes 70, (#2)Duke Blue Devils 85

In 1990, the Iowa Hawkeyes went 12-16 and Dr. Tom Davis was under the gun as one wondered whether or not he could recruit and develop his own players (as opposed to winning with George Raveling’s recruits his first 3 seasons).

He gave an answer in 1991 as the Hawkeyes got off to an 11-1 start.  But there wasn’t much competition and once the Big Ten season started, Iowa was up-and-down.  But they got some big wins late in the year to help their NCAA tournament case.  They beat Indiana 80-79 in Bloomington as junior guard James Moses tipped in a miss at the buzzer.  Then they finished out the season by beating a suddenly struggling Ohio State team 80-69.

Then in the 1st round of the NCAA tournament, the Hawkeyes beat a good East Tennessee State team that was coming at 28-4 but hadn’t played much competition.  Iowa had to come back against the Buccaneers and win 76-73 as Moses, Acie Earl and Troy Skinner led the way.

Moses and Skinner were the pair of back court juniors that led Davis’ offense.  Moses was the scorer, Skinner the point man.  Iowa’s only future NBA player was center Acie Earl.  Earl had been starting most of the season, but pled guilty to simple misdemeanor assault charges in February.  He was not suspended by Iowa, but he was “disciplined within the team framework” and lost his starting job.

Taking Earl’s spots in the starting lineup were a pair of freshmen in James Winters and Chris Street.  Alongside them in the front court was junior Rodell Davis, who had been playing well and was a big key in their win against East Tennessee State as well.

Another pair of freshmen in Val Barnes and Kevin Smith came off the bench in the back court.  Iowa had no seniors and were looking forward to a big 1992 season.  With that being said, it was possible that the Hawkeyes were content with getting to the 2nd round to play against Duke with a young team after their 1990 season.

The Blue Devils were trying to recover from a 96-74 shellacking at the hands of North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game.  The loss took Duke out of the East Regional for the first time since 1987 and took them out of a #1 seed.  They played sluggishly in the 1st half of their 1st round game against 15th seeded Louisiana-Monroe before turning it on in the 2nd half and making the game a rout.

They continued their strong play in the first 5 minutes against Iowa.  Thomas Hill got a steal and a breakaway three-point play to put Duke up 8-2.  Grant Hill followed with a pull-up jumper in the lane.

Later, after buckets by Christian Laettner and Billy McCaffrey to put Duke up 15-5, Davis called a timeout with 14:33 left.  The timeout seemed to help as Iowa got back into the game.

Rodell Davis had 9 points early on and Earl hit a hook shot in the lane to cut the lead to three.  The closest Iowa got was 22-20 after Kevin Smith got a steal and James Moses hit a pull-up jumper in transition.

But Iowa could never curtail Duke with their full-court trapping pressure defense.  The Blue Devils threw over the top of it and got fast break buckets.  On the other hand, Duke’s pressure forced 16 first half turnovers from the Hawkeyes.

Iowa closed to within 31-28 with just over 4 minutes left in the 1st half.  But then Duke broke the press and Grant Hill got a slam.  Brian Davis followed with a pull-up jumper on the baseline to force Dr. Tom Davis to use a timeout.

It didn’t help this time.  Duke broke the press again and Davis got a slam.  Grant Hill later got a layup on a 3-on-2 break.  Then to add the final icing on the cake for the 1st half, Duke’s only senior who got playing time, Greg Koubek, followed up his own miss at the buzzer to give the Blue Devils a 44-29 halftime advantage.

The 13-1 run to finish the half pretty much finished off Iowa.  Duke came out strong in the 2nd half and built their lead to as much as 20.  The closest the Hawkeyes could get was 12 after Laettner picked up his 4th foul with 8:17 left and Duke went to a really small lineup.

But Bobby Hurley scored his first two points of the game on a pull-up from the top to give Duke a 73-59 lead and they would coast for the rest of the way.  Although Hurley had struggled in shooting the ball, he handed out 8 assists.  Most of which came after breaking Iowa’s pressure defense and finding people for layups.

Duke had 4 people in double figures and Koubek and Davis had 9 and 8, respectively, to balance the Duke scoring.  They were playing well again after their loss to North Carolina.

They would now play UConn in the Sweet 16.  It was a rematch of their epic 1990 Regional Final clash, and emotions were certainly high at some points of this game.

Iowa starters (points scored)

Rodell Davis (11) – Small Forward

Chris Street (5) – Power Forward

James Winters (2) – Center

Troy Skinner (7) – Point Guard

James Moses (23) – Shooting Guard

Iowa bench (points scored)

Acie Earl (15)

Val Barnes (4)

Kevin Smith (1)

Jay Webb (2)

Iowa Coach: Dr. Tom Davis

Duke starters (points scored)

Greg Koubek (9) – Small Forward

Grant Hill (14) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (19) – Center

Bobby Hurley (4) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (17) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Billy McCaffrey (10)

Brian Davis (8)

Antonio Lang (1)

Crawford Palmer (2)

Marty Clark (1)

Christian Ast (0)

Clay Buckley (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

March 17, 1991 – Midwest Regional 2nd round: (#8)Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 61, (#1)Ohio State Buckeyes 65

Georgia Tech had concluded an up-and-down ACC season with three straight losses, including a defeat to N.C. State in the 1st round of the ACC tournament.  It was almost certain that Kenny Anderson would go to the NBA, and the pressure of carrying the Yellow Jackets (as well as having to dodge NBA questions throughout the season) was getting to him.  He had a bald spot in the back of his head.

But Anderson put it together with 31 points in an 87-70 win against DePaul in the 1st round of the Midwest Regional.  Jon Barry contributed with 22 points and the other three starters (Bryan Hill, Malcolm Mackey, and Matt Geiger) had also played well.

Ohio State had managed to hold on to the Big Ten title and a #1 seed despite losing their last two games of the regular season at Purdue and Iowa.  And with being the #1 seed, they got sent to nearby Dayton, where they defeated Towson 97-86 in the 1st round.

Mark Baker had continued to play through an ankle that he sprained against Indiana and was starting to come back to form.  But his big test would be against Kenny Anderson.

Georgia Tech started off quickly as Barry got a short runner after the opening tip was controlled by Tech.  Barry then found Anderson on a 3-on-2 break for a layup.  But Georgia Tech could not extend its lead despite the Buckeyes going scoreless for the first 3 minutes.  Finally, Treg Lee found Jim Jackson on a cut for a layup and Ohio State was on the board.

Georgia Tech led through the first 8 minutes but their biggest lead would be 13-7 after Mackey hit a turnaround jumper.  Jim Jackson’s tip-in on Ohio State’s 4th attempt of the possession gave the Buckeyes a 17-16 lead with over 11 minutes left.  Bryan Hill drove right back and was called for an offensive foul.

This was followed by a technical from Bobby Cremins and a Georgia Tech scoreless drought that didn’t end for 4 minutes.  Anderson was leading the way in the drought as he started 1-for-8 from the field.  But Ohio State could only grab a 24-16 advantage.

Anderson finally led Tech back by hitting three of his next four field goals to cut Ohio State’s lead to 27-26.  But then Chris Jent nailed a three and Jackson found Lee with a no-look pass for a slam.

The Buckeyes then picked up an extra two points at the end of the half when they got a stop with 5 seconds left and Jackson pushed the ball ahead to Baker for a breakaway layup at the buzzer.  This gave the Buckeyes a 36-28 halftime lead.

Ohio State’s main advantage had been inside, where Jackson, Lee and Perry Carter had been pounding away at the boards for a 11-2 offensive rebound advantage in the 1st half.  Their pressure defense had also forced the Georgia Tech drought and forced Anderson to hurry a lot of shots.

Anderson got a little help at the start of the 2nd half as Matt Geiger got two layups off feeds from Anderson and Barry.  Anderson then broke the press for a coast-to-coast three-point play to cut the lead to 38-35.  But then Geiger committed his 4th foul on an offensive foul and that help was gone.

Carter scored 6 straight Buckeye points, all off offensive rebounds.  Ohio State then took a 48-38 lead when freshman Jamie Skelton got a steal off the press and Jackson found Lee for a slam.

But the Buckeyes just couldn’t put Georgia Tech away.  They hung around until Anderson got hot again and scored 6 straight points.  Mackey then found Barry on a cut for a reverse layup to cut the lead to 57-55.  Baker hit a free throw to get the lead to three with just over 3 minutes left.

Nobody would score for the next 2 1/2 minutes as Anderson missed three straight jumpers and was now 8-for-27 from the field.  But Anderson got a 4th chance and was fouled on a forced shot with 32.4 seconds left.  But he split the free throws and the miss proved to be huge.

Anderson fouled Jamaal Brown, who hit two free throws to make the score 60-56.  Then after Barry drove down the lane for a layup and Tech used their last timeout, Jackson nailed two free throws.  Anderson then punctuated his afternoon with a final miss and Perry Carter, who was 1-for-6 on the line that day, hit two more free throws.

The final nail in the coffin came after Hill hit a three and Tech tried to call a timeout.  But they were out of them and Jackson hit a technical free throw with 0.8 seconds left to set the final margin.

Despite Ohio State’s win, one was a little worried with the manner in which they let Georgia Tech hang around (scoring only 10 points in a 12-minute stretch).

The little worry would rear its ugly head in the Regional Semifinals against St. John’s.  Although the Buckeyes never had any chance to put that game away as St. John’s led big throughout, the one thing Ohio State could count on was their defense and the Red Men tore it to shreds by shooting 63% from the field.

The biggest Ohio State culprit was St. John’s point guard Jason Buchanan, who had 14 points, 9 assists, 1 turnover, and 6 steals.  Ohio State would be back next year without Perry Carter and Treg Lee, but would get a better shot at the Final Four.

Kenny Anderson did end up going to the NBA but Georgia Tech would make an NCAA tournament run in 1992 (including a magic moment that is still replayed) and an ACC tournament run in 1993.

Georgia Tech starters (points scored)

Jon Barry (9) – Small Forward

Malcolm Mackey (10) – Power Forward

Matt Geiger (6) – Center

Kenny Anderson (25) – Point Guard

Bryan Hill (9) – Shooting Guard

Georgia Tech bench (points scored)

Ivano Newbill (2)

Brian Domalik (0)

Georgia Tech Coach: Bobby Cremins

Ohio State starters (points scored)

Jim Jackson (16) – Small Forward

Treg Lee (9) – Power Forward

Perry Carter (19) – Center

Mark Baker (6) – Point Guard

Jamaal Brown (4) – Shooting Guard

Ohio State bench (points scored)

Chris Jent (5)

Bill Robinson (4)

Jamie Skelton (2)

Tom Brandewie (0)

Ohio State Coach: Randy Ayers

March 17, 1991 – West Regional 2nd round: (#8)Georgetown Hoyas 54, (#1)UNLV Runnin’ Rebels 62

For UNLV, this was probably their biggest test of 1991 so far.  The 31-0 Rebels certainly would have been one of the top teams in the country anyway, but one did wonder if they’d still be undefeated had they consistently played conference opponents to the caliber of Georgetown.  On the other hand, they may be undefeated but wouldn’t be averaging a margin of victory around 30 points per game.

They continued to blow away the competition in the Big West and won their conference tournament.  They then defeated Montana 99-65 in the 1st round of the NCAA’s.  But center George Ackles sprained the top of his foot and was limited.  He would be limited against Georgetown as well but may have been limited healthy too.  UNLV had certainly not played the caliber of Georgetown’s twin towers in Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo in awhile.

It even took All-American Larry Johnson a few possessions to adjust as his first few shots were blocked.  Georgetown had rebounded from a near disastrous Big East season by making the finals of their conference tournament.  Georgetown led the country in field goal percentage defense but were not a good shooting team.  UNLV was in the top 5 in field goal percentage defense, and each team’s prowess at that end showed.

Georgetown actually got off to the better start, to the delight of many fans at McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona.  Freshman Charlie Harrison followed up a miss by fellow freshman Robert Churchwell.  Harrison then lobbed it to Mutombo for a slam in transition.

UNLV missed their first 4 shots before Greg Anthony connected on a corner jumper.  A slam by Mourning gave Georgetown their last lead at 8-6 before UNLV went on a 7-0 run and Mourning picked up 2 fouls.

Still, a reverse layup by Mutombo cut the lead to 13-11 before Larry Johnson got a three-point play on a third shot.  Then Greg Anthony took over on the court and in the trash-talking department.  Anthony hit a runner in transition and then drew a foul from Brian Kelly as Kelly was running up the floor.

Later, Anthony stole a pass and hit a finger roll to put the Rebels ahead 22-11.  Elmore Spencer, Ackles’ replacement, followed with one of his 6 blocked shots and Anderson Hunt finished on a breakaway.  Stacey Augmon then put back a Hunt miss to increase the UNLV lead to 26-11 with 6:23 left and make it look like every other UNLV game.

But then John Thompson switched to a zone on defense and slowed the game down considerably on offense.  Georgetown went on an 8-0 run over the next three minutes before Spencer hit a jumper from the foul line.  Then disaster struck for the Hoyas with 9 seconds left when Mourning picked up his 3rd foul on Augmon.  Stacey made a free throw to put UNLV ahead 29-19 at the half.

Georgetown came out quickly to start the 2nd half by scoring the first 6 points.  But Larry Johnson would twice answer Hoya buckets with fall-away jumpers in the lane.  Then Mourning committed his 4th foul on a charge and Johnson, his future teammate with the Charlotte Hornets, hit a corner three and then a finger roll.  UNLV was back up 38-27 with 15:41 left.

The Rebels would increase that lead to 44-29 when Anthony penetrated and found Johnson for a slam.  John Thompson had to use a timeout with 13:49 to go.  But Georgetown would make another run over the next 2 1/2 minutes.

Freshman Lamont Morgan hit a scoop shot in the lane.  Charlie Harrison followed with a three.  Mutombo followed up his own miss on the break and then Mourning hit a free throw.  It was back to 44-37 and Jerry Tarkanian had to use a timeout.

It didn’t help immediately as Mutombo hit a hook shot in the lane to cut the lead to 44-40.  The Hoyas had a chance to cut further into the lead but Churchwell, another Hoya freshman who would finish 1-for-10 from the field in this game, missed a layup.  Johnson then followed up a miss by Spencer to break the Rebels’ drought.

Hunt would later nail a three and then get a breakaway layup after a non-call of a foul after a UNLV defender jumped into Harrison as he pump faked.  Anthony would then find Augmon on a 3-on-2 break for a slam and UNLV led 53-42.

But Georgetown, again, would not go away as they cut it to 53-48 with 3:00 left on a banker by Morgan.  But then Mourning committed his 5th foul on a reach-in against Larry Johnson.  Johnson then taunted him and got called for a technical.

The score was 55-50 after Johnson made both ends of his 1-and-1 and then Harrison made both technical free throws.  Georgetown would then get the ball with under 2 minutes remaining.  But they turned it over as a pass went through Mutombo’s hands.

That would turn out to be the last chance for Georgetown as UNLV put it away from the line.  The Rebels had handled what was probably their biggest test so far.  They would go on to defeat Utah and Seton Hall by double digit margins in the Regional to go into their second straight Final Four undefeated at 34-0 against a familiar opponent.

Georgetown starters (points scored)

Robert Churchwell (2) – Small Forward

Alonzo Mourning (7) – Power Forward

Dikembe Mutombo (16) – Center

Joey Brown (7) – Point Guard

Charlie Harrison (9) – Shooting Guard

Georgetown bench (points scored)

Brian Kelly (1)

Ronnie Thompson (6)

Lamont Morgan (6)

Pascal Fleury (0)

Georgetown Coach: John Thompson

UNLV starters (points scored)

Stacey Augmon (9) – Small Forward

Larry Johnson (20) – Power Forward

George Ackles (2) – Center

Greg Anthony (15) – Point Guard

Anderson Hunt (14) – Shooting Guard

UNLV bench (points scored)

Elmore Spencer (2)

H Waldman (0)

Evric Gray (0)

UNLV Coach: Jerry Tarkanian

anderson hunt

Anderson Hunt and UNLV survived their biggest test so far against Georgetown and entered the Final Four at 34-0 *photo courtesy of Central Maine

March 22, 1991 – Midwest Regional Semifinals: (#11)Connecticut Huskies 67, (#2)Duke Blue Devils 81

These two teams faced off in a classic in the 1990 NCAA tournament.  There was perhaps still some bad blood at least from the UConn end from how that game ended.

Scott Burrell and Brian Davis almost got into a few scraps, and then Rod Sellers and Christian Laettner started to push each other and talk more and more.  Then this happened.

Sellers would not get a technical or personal foul for this play, but he would later receive a technical after committing his 5th foul and then trying to talk to Laettner while Christian turned away and didn’t respond.

This would end up being the highlight of their rematch in 1991 as the rest of the game was ultimately decided early.

UConn had upset LSU in the 1st round before beating back 14th seeded Xavier, both victories were blowouts.  UConn had effectively used their trapping defense in both wins, but backed off early on against Duke.  This didn’t turn out to be a wise strategy.

Thomas Hill hit two three-pointers and Greg Koubek hit another as Duke took an early 14-4 lead.  And although UConn went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead back to 16-15, you never really got the sense that the Huskies were as into the game as Duke was.

Koubek and Bobby Hurley hit threes, Hurley went coast-to-coast for a layup and, later, found Laettner on an inbounds pass for a layup and a foul.  The Huskies were ice cold in this stretch and scored 1 point in about 7 minutes of action.

Meanwhile, Hurley hit another three and then Koubek penetrated and kicked out to Thomas Hill for a wing jumper and a foul.  This put Duke ahead 38-20.

Hill and Koubek led the way for Duke with 11 points in the 1st half.  Koubek, in fact, had perhaps the best game in his Duke career as he scored 18 points, pulled down 5 rebounds and seemed to be everywhere defensively.

Duke led 44-27 at the half and would only be challenged slightly in the 2nd half.  John Gwynn scored 8 straight points to cut the Duke lead to 55-46.  But Koubek, who had hit a three-pointer to thwart off a UConn rally earlier in the 2nd half, drove the lane and hit a running banker while drawing a foul.

This put Duke up 60-47 and the margin stayed at about that point for the rest of the game as Sellers and Burrell fouled out for UConn.  Burrell’s undoing came after a steal and a breakaway that could have cut Duke’s lead to 10 with just over 4 minutes left.  But the officials called Burrell for a charge, much to the chagrin of Jim Calhoun and the UConn faithful.  That was the final straw.

The Huskies would look forward to 1992 with Chris Smith, Scott Burrell, Toraino Walker, and Rod Sellers coming back along with a recruiting class that included Donyell Marshall and Kevin Ollie.

Duke, meanwhile, would demolish St. John’s 78-61 in the Regional Final as Bobby Hurley, who had struggled shooting at the beginning of the tournament, led the way with 20 points.  It would be Lou Carnesecca’s last hurrah as he retired following the 1992 season.

Duke was in the Final Four for the 4th straight season and 5th time in 6 years.  They would get the rematch they had been waiting a year for, although nobody thought they could beat the undefeated UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.

Connecticut starters (points scored)

Scott Burrell (11) – Small Forward

Toraino Walker (5) – Power Forward

Rod Sellers (6) – Center

Steve Pikiell (3) – Point Guard

Chris Smith (16) – Shooting Guard

Connecticut bench (points scored)

John Gwynn (16)

Lyman DePriest (0)

Dan Cyrulik (7)

Marc Suhr (2)

Oliver Macklin (1)

Connecticut Coach: Jim Calhoun

Duke starters (points scored)

Greg Koubek (18) – Small Forward

Grant Hill (3) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (19) – Center

Bobby Hurley (12) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (13) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Billy McCaffrey (7)

Brian Davis (5)

Crawford Palmer (2)

Antonio Lang (0)

Marty Clark (2)

Clay Buckley (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

March 23, 1991 – Southeast Regional Finals: (#3)Kansas Jayhawks 93, (#1)Arkansas Razorbacks 81

Under third-year coach Roy Williams, the Kansas Jayhawks had come into the 1991 season unranked.  They had lost seniors Kevin Pritchard, Jeff Gueldner and Rick Calloway from their 1990 team and Pekka Markkanen decided to stay in Finland and not return for his senior season at KU.

This took out only 4 of the 5 starters for Williams.  Senior center Mark Randall was the only one returning.  Randall would be surrounded by a bunch of no-names, at least that’s how they were advertised pregame against Arkansas.

More specifically, it was a team of no stars but a bunch of good college players (no breakthrough NBA prospects).  Randall was flanked in the starting lineup by senior Mike Maddox (the only player remaining that played in their 1988 National Championship victory, Randall was red-shirted that year), junior Alonzo Jamison, and, in the backcourt, senior “Downtown” Terry Brown and sophomore Adonis Jordan.

Four of those guys, minus Maddox, all averaged in double figures with Brown leading the way at 16.4.  The bench consisted of a bunch of freshmen.  There was forwards Richard Scott and Patrick Richey, along with guard Steve Woodberry.  Junior center David Johanning backed up Randall and senior forward Kirk Wagner got some minutes inside as well.  Both were JC transfers.  The best guy off the bench, at least for the Regional, was troubled junior Sean Tunstall.

Tunstall had been academically ineligible for his first two seasons and then would be dismissed from the team before his senior season for violations of team and departmental policies.  He would plead guilty to one count of selling cocaine in 1993 and was shot and killed in a parking lot of a St. Louis Recreational Center in 1997.

But for a brief, shining moment (now it sounds like an old VH1 Behind the Music documentary) Tunstall had it all.  He was a big factor in Kansas’ Regional Semifinal upset of Indiana with 15 points off the bench.  He would contribute more against Arkansas.

Kansas started off 9-4 before going on a 10-game winning streak to get into the polls.  They would get as high as 8th before losing at Colorado.  The Jayhawks finished tied for 1st in the Big 8 and lost to Nebraska in the tournament semifinals.  But they got rewarded with a 3-seed in a tough Midwest Regional.  The top two seeds had been ranked in the top 10 all season and the top 5 for most of it in Arkansas and Indiana.

But after beating New Orleans and Pitt in the first two rounds, Kansas took care of Indiana in a big way, 83-65.  Terry Brown led the way with 23 points and 4 three-pointers, Tunstall was right behind him at 15 points and 2 threes.

Arkansas had only lost once since going down against UNLV in a #1 vs. #2 matchup.  That was on the final game of the regular season at Texas.  But they got their revenge in the SWC championship game with a 120-89 victory.  Arkansas had dominated the Southwest Conference and was getting ready to move to the SEC for next season.

The Razorbacks then polished off Georgia State, Arizona State and Alabama (the Arizona State was the only close-ish game).  They looked poised for their second straight Final Four and continued to look that way in the 1st half against KU.

Isaiah Morris, Arkansas’ 5th leading scorer in the starting lineup, hit the first 7 Razorback points before Todd Day nailed a three to give the Hogs a 10-2 lead.  Day would later hit another three but Kansas stayed in it thanks to the inside power of Alonzo Jamison.

This helped the Jayhawks come back and tie the game at 22 on a Maddox jumper with 8 minutes to go in the 1st half.  KU even took a 29-27 lead when Terry Brown nailed a three.  But Arkansas would use its “40 minutes of hell” pressure and strong offensive boardwork to take the advantage again.

Morris put back a miss and Day got a three-point play in transition after a steal.  This would kick off a 15-0 (and 18-2) Arkansas run, led by Day, who would finish the 1st half with 21 points.  The Razorbacks held a 47-35 halftime lead.

But pretty immediately in the 2nd half, Kansas looked like a different team.  Terry Brown scored on a backdoor cut and then a breakaway layup.  Jamison would hit a three to cut it to 47-43 and force Nolan Richardson to use a timeout with 17:47 left.

Kansas would keep its momentum going and eventually tie the game at 51 on two free throws from Tunstall.  Ernie Murry, a senior who started out as a walk-on for Arkansas, nailed a three but Mark Randall came back with a three-point play on a putback.

Arkansas still showed off its inside power to a point as Oliver Miller got two layups off lob passes.  Day then put back a miss to put Arkansas ahead 62-57 at the 11:51 mark.

But then Kansas went on an 8-0 run despite Brown and Randall picking up their 4th fouls and having to sit down.  Jamison led the way during that stretch as he scored 9 of KU’s next 13 points.  Miller kept Arkansas alive before he re-aggravated a previous groin injury going after a rebound and had to sit for a few minutes.

Kansas ended up getting the rebound where Miller was hurt and Jordan pushed it up and found Tunstall for a corner three that put the Jayhawks up 75-68 with 4:13 to go.

Miller would come back in and stem the tide for a minute with a layup but Kansas, who wasn’t a good foul-shooting team, kept being sent to the line and kept making their free throws.

This kept Arkansas from getting any closer, plus the Razorbacks had gone cold from the outside for a while and Miller couldn’t keep them in the game for the final few minutes.

The final straw would come when an intentional foul was called on Murry with 1:10 left.  Tunstall made those two free throws and Kansas would take as much as a 16-point lead in the final minute.  That meant the game had a 30-point turnaround.

Kansas would be the cinderella of the Final Four and Roy Williams would get a chance to take on his mentor in the first Semifinal Game as Kansas took on Dean Smith and North Carolina.

Kansas starters (points scored)

Alonzo Jamison (26) – Small Forward

Mike Maddox (8) – Power Forward

Mark Randall (10) – Center

Adonis Jordan (14) – Point Guard

Terry Brown (11) – Shooting Guard

Kansas bench (points scored)

Sean Tunstall (11)

Steve Woodberry (6)

Richard Scott (3)

Kirk Wagner (4)

Patrick Richey (0)

David Johanning (0)

Kansas Coach: Roy Williams

Arkansas starters (points scored)

Todd Day (26) – Small Forward

Isaiah Morris (11) – Power Forward

Oliver Miller (16) – Center

Lee Mayberry (7) – Point Guard

Arlyn Bowers (3) – Shooting Guard

Arkansas bench (points scored)

Ernie Murry (14)

Ron Huery (2)

Roosevelt Wallace (2)

Clyde Fletcher (0)

Arkansas Coach: Nolan Richardson


Mark Randall scores over Oliver Miller as Kansas upset Arkansas to make it to the 1991 Final Four *photo courtesy of KU sports

March 30, 1991 – National Semifinal: (#3)Kansas Jayhawks 79, (#1)North Carolina Tarheels 73

The Final Four was underway with a student vs. teacher matchup.  Kansas Coach Roy Williams had been Dean Smith’s assistant at North Carolina from 1978-1988 before he replaced Larry Brown at Kansas.

Williams had been on the staff the last time North Carolina reached a Final Four, when they won the National Championship in 1982.  Smith had been an player at Kansas when they won the 1952 National Championship, and was cheering for Kansas from the Air Force when these two teams played the greatest NCAA championship game in 1957, a 54-53 triple overtime UNC winner.

So each coach was coaching against their alma mater.  Williams got the Jayhawks off to a quicker start as Adonis Jordan hit a three and Alonzo Jamison, Mark Randall and Mike Maddox each got layups for a 9-4 Jayhawks lead.

But Hubert Davis ignited a Carolina run with a three-point play and then a breakaway slam to tie the game at 9.  The Tarheels then went to their big advantage in the inside game, freshman Eric Montross got two layups.  Fellow freshman Brian Reese then got a basket on a goaltending call on Jamison.

North Carolina was now on an 11-0 run but couldn’t increase it as each team went into a 2-minute drought.  Kansas then broke their 4 1/2 minute drought when Jordan found freshman Richard Scott for a layup.

Scott’s inside play kept Kansas in it for the next few minutes but then Rick Fox scored 7 straight points to put UNC up 24-15.  But Scottgot another layup and then two free throws to bring his total to 10 points.

Maddox’s banker from the post cut the Tarheels lead to 29-24.  Then Jamison got a layup after a baseline drop-step.  Maddox’s baseline jumper tied it at 29 and then Terry Brown’s three put the Jayhawks ahead for good.

Mark Randall then got going with two tip-ins and two free throws as Kansas took a 39-30 lead.  This run was helped by a technical called on Dean Smith after Pete Chilcutt picked up his 3rd foul.

Kansas would end up ahead 43-34 at halftime.

But North Carolina started out strong in the 2nd half as George Lynch scored 5 points and King Rice got a breakaway layup.  But Jamison and Randall kept Kansas ahead with their power game inside.  Scott then hit a banker to give Kansas a 53-43 lead.

But then Jamison picked up his 4th foul with about 15 minutes left and not only was Kansas without their strong man inside, but they were without their best defender who had held Rick Fox to 3 field goals so far.

Lynch and Davis led Carolina on a 10-2 run to cut the lead back to 55-53 with under 11 minutes left.  Carolina would, on three separate possessions, have a chance to tie it or take the lead.  But each time, jumpers from Fox would roll off the rim.  Even without Jamison guarding him, Rick Fox wouldn’t be able to buy a basket in the 2nd half.

Fox then committed his 4th foul with about 7 minutes left and Carolina still only trailing 58-57.  Jamison came back in.  Then Jordan rebounded his own missed three-pointer and kicked out to Sean Tunstall, a hero of the Regionals, for a big three from the top.  This trey killed any momentum Carolina had and the Jayhawks were off and running.

Randall found Scott for a layup and then Jordan got a layup after a steal from Jamison.  Smith had to use a timeout with about 5 1/2 minutes to go and Kansas now up 65-57.

It didn’t help as Jordan hit a double-pump runner in the lane to give Kansas their biggest lead at 10.  Carolina would try to make a run but missed several key free throws.  Freshmen Reese and Derrick Phelps missed three and King Rice split a pair.

Rice, Fox, and Chilcutt, North Carolina’s seniors, each had a bad day shooting from the field.  None worse than Rick Fox, who put up a 5-for-22 shooting afternoon and was 0-for-9 on threes.  Usually on stages where seniors come through, UNC’s did not.

The Tarheels were able to cut it back to 76-71 when Fox fouled out with 35 seconds to play.  The game’s end and, perhaps Kansas’ victory, would be marred by the following event.

Dean Smith walked Fox’s replacement, Kenny Harris, to the score’s table and accordingly asked referee Pete Pavia how much time he had to substitute the player.  Pavia hit Smith with a technical for leaving the coach’s box and Smith was ejected because this was his 2nd technical.

It was only the second time a coach had been thrown out of a Final Four game and the third time Smith had been ejected in his 30 years at UNC.  Although embarrassed, Smith shook hands with Williams and the entire Kansas bench before being escorted to the locker room.

It was a bitter end for North Carolina but for Kansas, the no-name Jayhawks, they were one game away from their 2nd unlikely National title in 4 years.

Kansas starters (points scored)

Alonzo Jamison (9) – Small Forward

Mike Maddox (10) – Power Forward

Mark Randall (16) – Center

Adonis Jordan (16) – Point Guard

Terry Brown (3) – Shooting Guard

Kansas bench (points scored)

Sean Tunstall (5)

Richard Scott (14)

Patrick Richey (4)

Steve Woodberry (2)

David Johanning (0)

Kirk Wagner (0)

Kansas Coach: Roy Williams

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Rick Fox (13) – Small Forward

George Lynch (13) – Power Forward

Pete Chilcutt (4) – Center

King Rice (5) – Point Guard

Hubert Davis (25) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Eric Montross (6)

Brian Reese (5)

Derrick Phelps (2)

Henrik Rodl (0)

Clifford Rozier (0)

Kenny Harris (0)

Pat Sullivan (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

30 MAR 1991: Kansas University guard Sean Tunstall (22) and North Carolina forward Rick Fox (44) and guard Hubert Davis (40) reach for the loose ball during the NCAA National Basketball Championship semifinal game at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, IN. Kansas defeated North Carolina 79-73. Rich Clarkson/NCAA Photos.

30 MAR 1991: Kansas University guard Sean Tunstall (22) and North Carolina forward Rick Fox (44) and guard Hubert Davis (40) reach for the loose ball during the NCAA National Basketball Championship semifinal game at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, IN. Kansas defeated North Carolina 79-73. Rich Clarkson/NCAA Photos.

March 30, 1991 – National Semifinal: (#2)Duke Blue Devils 79, (#1)UNLV Runnin’ Rebels 77

So what happens when the same two teams were involved in the biggest blowout in National Championship Game history the previous year, you get one of the best games in Final Four history.

This was after a week in which Duke was hearing all about how they had no chance and that UNLV was the best college team ever.  The Rebels had 2 of their 34 victories in single digits, but there was perhaps some vulnerability popping up in the tournament.

After a tough win against Georgetown in which the Rebels actually had to make some key free throws in the last minute, they had to go to the amoeba zone against Utah to finally blow open that game and then were challenged for a half by Seton Hall in the Regional Finals.

But still, a big run at the start of the 2nd half keyed a 77-65 victory against the Pirates.  But UNLV was actually seeing what it was like to go against quality opponents from quality conferences.

Coach K had assured everyone that Duke was a much tougher team than in 1990.  Duke had won some tough road games at Oklahoma, Georgia Tech and North Carolina.  They had also taken their lumps on the road against Virginia, N.C. State and Wake Forest.  The Devils also saw what could happen if they came out flat when they were blown out in the championship game of the 1991 ACC tournament.

All of this builds character.  Duke had not been seriously challenged in the NCAA tournament so far.

But the big factor for the Blue Devils early on was the intimidation factor that UNLV had set on so many opponents.  Duke needed to get off to a good start and they did.

Grant Hill got a hustle layup off the opening tip.  Christian Laettner nailed a three after Anderson Hunt nailed a high-arcing trey.  Hill got another layup in transition when Bobby Hurley found him with a bounce pass through traffic.

Laettner then hit two free throws, got a layup off a feed from Grant Hill and then hit another banker inside.  Duke had made their first 5 shots and when Grant Hill hit a pull-up jumper in the lane after going 1-on-1 against Larry Johnson, the Blue Devils led 15-6.

Duke had to sacrifice a bit defensively as Greg Koubek went man-to-man against Larry Johnson down low, but Christian Laettner helped off of George Ackles and Koubek effectively bodied Johnson to the point that he couldn’t get the ball much and when he did, he was quickly doubled.

On offense, Duke had Grant Hill and Laettner at the 4 and 5 positions.  They effectively brought Johnson and Ackles out of the paint which led to more penetration and also highlighted the fact that Johnson and Ackles weren’t used to playing outside.  Hill and Laettner took advantage early on.

But then Jerry Tarkanian switched his defense to the amoeba.  It proved to be effective as Duke couldn’t get any good shots.  On offense, Greg Anthony started to penetrate and got some shots.  When he, or someone else, missed, the Rebels dominated the offensive boards.

Johnson, Ackles, Anthony, and Stacey Augmon each got putbacks as UNLV tied the game at 18.  At one point, the Runnin’ Rebels had an 11-0 offensive rebound advantage.

But Duke stayed with them and took advantage of a big fast break opportunity when Hurley found Grant Hill with an over-the-shoulder pass for a dunk.  Hurley also nailed a three to put Duke up 27-25 but Anderson Hunt got two layups to give the Rebels the lead again.

A three-point play on a reverse layup from Laettner put Duke ahead 30-29 with 6:36 left in the half.  Duke would later go up 37-31 when Hurley nailed another three.  Back to back threes from Hunt and Anthony tied the game and then Anthony got a steal and a 360 reverse to give UNLV a 39-37 advantage.

The 1st half would basically be a duel between Christian Laettner and Greg Anthony.  Laettner had 20 points while Anthony contributed 16, including a driving banker to give the Rebels a 43-41 halftime lead.

Duke had managed to stay in the game in the 1st half and had answered all of UNLV’s challenges.  But the biggest may have been the pending 2nd half barrage that had put Arkansas, Utah and Seton Hall away (among others).

But the Devils answered that too as Hurley and Laettner ran a give-and-go that led to a layup by Christian to tie the game at 43.  Thomas Hill then hit a turnaround banker from the post.  But Hunt answered with a three and then a breakaway slam off a steal.

Grant Hill answered with a three-point play that drew George Ackles’ 4th foul.  Hurley followed with a breakaway three-point play after Koubek stripped Johnson inside.  Hunt answered again with a three as Anderson scored UNLV’s first 11 points of the 2nd half.

But Duke maintained its lead at 57-54 before Anthony got a three-point play on a double-pump runner in the lane against Hurley.  The Devils responded again as Billy McCaffrey nailed a baseline jumper and then Hurley found Laettner for a reverse.

While UNLV’s back court was dominating, Stacey Augmon and Larry Johnson could not get involved.  The ball never seemed to go to them and they, especially Augmon, could not get out on the break for easy baskets to get themselves going.  Duke had done a marvelous job of taking care of the ball and now the Rebels were starting to realize that they were in a ball game late in the 2nd half for the first time all year.

Frustration started to show too as Johnson picked up a technical after UNLV felt that a foul on Bobby Hurley should have been called an intentional foul.  Johnson had also asked out for a few minutes in the 2nd half because of fatigue.

Duke maintained a 65-61 lead halfway through the 2nd half.  But then UNLV made a move as Augmon got a layup off a feed from Anthony.  Hunt then drove for a three-point play to give the Rebels a 66-65 lead.

But Anthony picked up his 4th foul and Duke continued to stay in it as the teams traded leads for the next several minutes.  UNLV finally grabbed a 74-71 lead when Anthony got a steal and Hunt followed up his breakaway miss.

UNLV would get the ball back and Anthony decided to penetrate.  He charged into McCaffrey and was called for his 5th foul with 3:51 left.  The other bad news for UNLV from the ball was that Anthony had made the finger roll.  Had it been called a blocking foul, UNLV would have a chance to go up 77-71 with Anthony still in the game.

Without Anthony, Hunt had to move to the point.  This wasn’t as effective because Hunt had been the main scorer along with Anthony and now had to run the club and take on the pressure defense of Duke.  Perhaps because of this, UNLV ran down the shot clock the next time they got the ball.

It worked as Ackles tipped in his own miss to give the Rebels a 76-71 lead.  But then Hurley came back with the biggest shot of his career and showed that he had learned a lot after looking like prey in the previous year against UNLV.  Hurley nailed a big three from the top with 2:14 remaining to end Duke’s drought and cut the lead to 76-74.

UNLV ran down the shot clock and had to inbounds the ball with 5 seconds remaining on the clock after Duke deflected a ball out of bounds.  Although Duke deflected the inbounds pass, UNLV lost their composure and Augmon didn’t even get a shot off.

Grant Hill then took advantage of his matchup with Johnson and went 1-on-1.  He penetrated and found Brian Davis on the baseline.  Davis drove, hit a banker and drew a foul.  The three-point play gave Duke a 77-76 lead with 1:02 left.

Augmon drove and threw up an airball on a wild shot.  Johnson rebounded and was fouled by Grant Hill with 49.9 seconds left.  Johnson looked like he hadn’t shot a pressure free throw in at least a year as he missed the first free throw.

At the time, Johnson had a hesitation on his free throw attempt.  As he brought the ball up to shoot, he held it in that motion for an extra second before he shot it.  Opponents were called for a lot of lane violations because of that.

This came up again as Johnson missed the second free throw as well but Duke was called for stepping into the lane too soon.  Johnson nailed his third attempt to tie the game at 77.

With 49.9 seconds left, there was only a 4 second differential between the shot clock and the game clock (the shot clock was 45 seconds at the time).  This meant Duke went for as close to the last shot as they could get.

With under 20 seconds to go, Thomas Hill finally drove and barely missed a pull-up jumper.  After the rebound was tapped once, Laettner grabbed it and was fouled by Evric Gray (who had come in for Anthony) before he could throw in a banker.

With 12.7 seconds left, Christian Laettner stood at the foul line with a chance to put Duke up by two.  He swished both free throws.  UNLV called a timeout.

The Rebels then pushed the ball up the full length of the court and Johnson seemed to have a chance for a pull-up three against Laettner (Tarkanian said after the game that he wished Johnson had taken that shot) but LJ hesitated.  He then looked to get the ball back out to Hunt who was double teamed.

Hunt did get the ball and threw up a wild three-point shot that bricked badly off the rim and backboard.  Duke grabbed the rebound as time expired and the upset was complete.

Duke celebrated and then ran off the court almost as if they won a national championship.  They quickly realized there was one more game but for now, they had sleighed the giant.

UNLV’s sanctions would be enforced for the next season and Tarkanian left after the 1992 season.  The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels have not been the same since.  It would be another 24 years before an undefeated team entered the Final Four.  That team was also being compared to UNLV.

Duke starters (points scored)

Greg Koubek (2) – Small Forward

Grant Hill (11) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (28) – Center

Bobby Hurley (12) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (6) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Brian Davis (15)

Billy McCaffrey (5)

Antonio Lang (0)

Crawford Palmer (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

UNLV starters (points scored)

Stacey Augmon (6) – Small Forward

Larry Johnson (13) – Power Forward

George Ackles (7) – Center

Greg Anthony (19) – Point Guard

Anderson Hunt (29) – Shooting Guard

UNLV bench (points scored)

Evric Gray (2)

Elmore Spencer (1)

UNLV Coach: Jerry Tarkanian

91 duke unlv 3 NCAA Final Four Duke UNLV 1991 no-2-duke-79-no-1-unlv-77 4 91 duke unlv 5 duke_unlv_1991 1

Pictures of Duke vs. UNLV from 1991.  1st picture: Grant Hill took advantage of his 1-on-1 matchup against Larry Johnson several times.  2nd picture: Larry Johnson scores against Christian Laettner.  3rd picture: Bobby Hurley hustles after a loose ball against Stacey Augmon.  4th picture: although this isn’t the critical free throws (Greg Anthony, shown in picture, had fouled out), Laettner did make the biggest free throws of his life with 12.7 seconds left.  5th picture: Anderson Hunt is consoled after the final buzzer goes off and Duke pulls the upset.  Photos courtesy of SI vault on Twitter, NBC Sports, New York Daily News, Fanbase, and The Starting Five

April 1, 1991 – National Championship Game: (#3)Kansas Jayhawks 65, (#2)Duke Blue Devils 72

Now that Duke had beaten UNLV, they had a very realistic chance at a national championship (nobody else had a chance until UNLV lost, according to the “experts”).  With that being said, now the point was being mentioned that they had been to 7 previous Final Fours (and 3 championship games) but had never come away with the big prize.  They were the forever bridesmaids.

Its hard to imagine Duke as bridesmaids and underdogs, but at one point in time they were.  You have to win your first sometime.

But it wouldn’t come easy.  Christian Laettner had played 40 minutes against UNLV and then had to go through drug testing afterwards (a: I’m sure it was random and b: what if it had come up positive?).  With that being said, Laettner was a tired individual for the National Championship Game, but not at the free throw line.

It helped when his teammates got off to a good start.  Greg Koubek nailed a three and then followed up a Laettner miss.  Then on a transition break, Bobby Hurley threw a high lob to Grant Hill.  Hill’s right arm was out-stretched and it seemed to be behind his head at one point, but he caught the ball with his right hand and dunked it while falling away from the basket.

This highlight play gave Duke a 7-1 lead.  But Laettner’s fatigue allowed his counterpart, Mark Randall, to get going.  Randall hit a running hook and then got a layup off a high-low feed from Mike Maddox.  Terry Brown then hit a three to cut it to 11-10.

Laettner got a Duke 7-1 run started by getting the bounce on a pull-up from the foul line.  It would be his only field goal of the 1st half.  Brian Davis slashed it for a scoop and then Hurley nailed a three after penetration from Thomas Hill.

Kansas answered and eventually cut it to 26-25 with about 7 minutes left in the half when Brown hit his second three-pointer.  Hurley then answered with a three.  The only other points from Duke during an 8-minute stretch of the 1st half were free throws from Laettner, who was 12-for-12 from the line for the game, and three jumpers from Billy McCaffrey, including a three.  This gave Duke as much as a 36-27 lead.

For McCaffrey, this turned out to be his final game at Duke as he transferred to Vanderbilt for the following season.  His brother, Ed, would go on to win two Superbowls with the Denver Broncos in the late ’90’s.

Kansas cut back into it and had a chance to slice Duke’s lead to three in the final seconds of the half.  But Richard Scott stepped on the baseline after running into a Duke player (no call on either team) with 10 seconds left.

Hurley then took it down court and into the lane.  He kicked out to Thomas Hill behind him for a three from the top (although it looked like his foot was on the line) at the buzzer.  This would give Duke a 42-34 halftime lead.

But Mark Randall got going against a tired Laettner again and Kansas cut the lead to four.  But McCaffrey scored 5 more points to keep Duke ahead.  Billy would be the difference maker, something Kansas usually got from someone off their bench but not on this night, as he made up for Thomas Hill’s lack of production.

A Hurley alley-oop to Davis put Duke ahead 53-43.  They would then hold Kansas to one field goal over the next 7 minutes and pull ahead 61-47.  Everyone on the Jayhawks minus Randall had pretty much been shut down and the “no-names” were called that for a reason, there was no superstar to get the big basket.

The Jayhawks finally put two buckets together to cut the lead to 65-56 with 5:16 left.  But then both teams would go into a drought and wouldn’t score for the next 2 1/2 minutes.  This was fine for Duke, who was running down the shot clock anyway, but disastrous for Kansas.

Roy Williams’ team finally got going when they went into scramble mode, down 70-59, with a minute left.  They were helped when Grant Hill missed two free throws.  They then forced a turnover and nearly another, which was saved by Thomas Hill calling a timeout when Duke had one second to get it across half-court.

During this stretch, the Jayhawks had cut it to 70-65 with 25.7 seconds left.  But the timeout call by Hill not only saved a turnover but preluded the clinching basket as Brian Davis took the inbounds pass and went coast-to-coast for a slam.

The celebration was on for Duke, who had exorcised big demons in the Final Four.  They won their first championship in their 8th Final Four appearance and they had avenged the worst loss in championship game history against UNLV.

What would be even better for Duke was that every major player, other than McCaffrey and Greg Koubek, returned for the 1992 season.  This would mean that the 1992 Blue Devils would become the 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.  The hunted who carried a #1 ranking throughout the season.

But for now, Coach K and Duke would have their first National Championship.  You have to get your first before you can get your fifth 24 years later.

Kansas starters (points scored)

Alonzo Jamison (2) – Small Forward

Mike Maddox (4) – Power Forward

Mark Randall (18) – Center

Adonis Jordan (11) – Point Guard

Terry Brown (16) – Shooting Guard

Kansas bench (points scored)

Patrick Richey (0)

Steve Woodberry (2)

Sean Tunstall (2)

Kirk Wagner (2)

Richard Scott (6)

David Johanning (2)

Kansas Coach: Roy Williams

Duke starters (points scored)

Greg Koubek (5) – Small Forward

Grant Hill (10) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (18) – Center

Bobby Hurley (12) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (3) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Billy McCaffrey (16)

Brian Davis (8)

Antonio Lang (0)

Crawford Palmer (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

1991 ncaa champions

With his first National Championship in hand, Coach K stands in the middle as his team hoists the trophy above him.  Faces shown from right to left: Grant Hill, Krzyzewski, Brian Davis, Thomas Hill, and Bobby Hurley *photo courtesy of USA Today

After winning to Wooden and Naismith award, UNLV’s Larry Johnson would be selected #1 overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1991 NBA draft.  Georgia Tech sophomore Kenny Anderson went #2 to the New Jersey Nets.  Syracuse junior Billy Owens was picked #3 by the Sacramento Kings.  He would be traded to Golden State for Mitch Richmond.  Georgetown’s Dikembe Mutombo went #4 to the Denver Nuggets.  Michigan State’s Steve Smith (last seen in 1990 College Basketball post) went #5 to the Miami Heat.

Missouri’s Doug Smith was the 6th pick by the Dallas Mavericks.  UNLV’s Stacey Augmon went 9th to the Atlanta Hawks.  Arizona junior Brian Williams went 10th to the Orlando Magic.  UNLV point man Greg Anthony went 12th to the New York Knicks.  Clemson’s Dale Davis (last seen in 1990 post) went to the Indiana Pacers at #13.  Nebraska’s Rich King went 14th to the Seattle Supersonics.  Seton Hall’s Anthony Avent went 15th to the Hawks.

Louisville’s LaBradford Smith (last seen in 1990 post) went 19th to the Washington Bullets.  Former Georgetown forward John Turner (last seen in 1989 College Basketball post) went 20th to the Houston Rockets.  From 21-24, Providence’s Eric Murdock (last seen in ’90) went to the Utah Jazz, Syracuse’s LeRon Ellis went to the Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando took former LSU big man Stanley Roberts, and the Boston Celtics took North Carolina’s Rick Fox.  To round out the 1st round, Kansas’ Mark Randall was drafted by the Chicago Bulls and North Carolina’s Pete Chilcutt was taken by Sacramento.

Notable 2nd round picks were Minnesota’s Kevin Lynch (last seen in ’90 post) by Charlotte, UNLV’s George Ackles by Miami (Ackles never played an NBA game), N.C. State’s Rodney Monroe by Atlanta and his teammate Chris Corchiani by Orlando.  Memphis State’s Elliot Perry (last seen in 1988 College Basketball post) was taken by the Clippers.  Purdue’s Jimmy Oliver and LaSalle’s Doug Overton (last seen in ’90 post) were selected back-to-back by Cleveland and Detroit.

Providence’s Marty Conlon (last seen in ’90), Virginia’s John Crotty and UCLA’s Keith Owens would find their way into the league despite being undrafted.

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