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1992 College Basketball Season – The Perfect Game

January 22, 2017

SI nov 25 1991

#1 Duke was the favorite to repeat in 1992 *photo courtesy of Getty Images

With the Duke Blue Devils having their main stars of Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, and company returning, they were #1 in the polls and odds on favorite to repeat as National Champions.

In the early season (before December 21, the date of our first games), Duke took on two ranked opponents.  First was #7 St. John’sat the Greensboro Coliseum.  With 15 minutes left in the game, a score that was not expected was being shown.

St. John’s would actually make the final score respectable at 91-81 but would get another chance at a top opponent when they took on Indiana two weeks later in our first game featured (on the date of December 21, which incidentally was the 100 year anniversary of basketball being invented.. so a pretty special date).

Meanwhile, Duke (in a game that’s turned pretty famous) would travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan and get their first look at the Fab Five.  After a 14-15 season in 1991, Steve Fisher and the Michigan Wolverines recruited 5 top notch high school players.  Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, and Jalen Rose started immediately.  Jimmy King and Ray Jackson did not.  But they still ram-rodded Detroit Mercy and Cleveland State in their first two games.

They got their first test and national exposure against Duke.  The Wolverines trailed by 17 but made a run in the 2nd half and had chances to win.  But Duke held on 88-85 in overtime and survived their first test in defending their national championship.  As it turned out, it would be one of their few tests until February 5.  Michigan, meanwhile, would be 8-1 entering the Big Ten season but 3-3 in the Big Ten when they traveled to East Lansing to play their in-state rival Michigan State.

Duke and St. John’s bracketed the pre-season top 10 (Duke was #1 and St. John’s #10), while Michigan started at #20 but were #25 when they played their first game.

Rounding out the top 10 was Indiana at #2, Arkansas at #3, Kentucky at #4, Arizona at #5, LSU at #6, Ohio State at #7, North Carolina at #8, and Seton Hall at #9.

UCLA was ranked #11 in the pre-season but springed to #4 after defeating #2 Indiana 87-72 in the Tip-Off Classic.  UCLA started the season at 14-0, including an 89-87 victory at Arizona, but their toughest opponent may have been their cross-town rivals.  Indiana would also get another shot at them eventually.

#4 Kentucky would be the favorite at the Pre-Season NIT.  But they never made it to New York as Pitt bounced them in Rupp Arena 85-67 in the 2nd round.  Oklahoma State, who started the season at #13 in the polls, won the Pre-Season NIT with victories over Pitt and Georgia Tech at Madison Square Garden.  Kentucky rebounded by defeating Indiana in Indianapolis, but lost to Georgia Tech 81-80 in Atlanta.  Still though, with probation off their backs, Kentucky would make noise again.

#3 Arkansas started off their first season in the SEC in Maui, where they climbed to #2 but lost in the finals of the Maui Invitational to unranked Michigan State.  The Spartans would climb into the rankings with their 86-71 victory and not leave after winning their first 10 games.  Arkansas lost again to Missouri but would eventually round into another stellar season in a different conference and some key pieces returning.

But Arkansas’ big early season win did come against #2 Arizona on this December 21st date.  It would be the Wildcats’ only loss in their first 11 games.  Arizona’s most impressive win in their early season came when they stomped LSU 87-67.  But it perhaps became less impressive with LSU’s shaky start.  The Tigers had to scramble to defeat Louisiana-Monroe in the last seconds and then were killed by probation-ridden UNLV and Arizona.  They would try to right themselves by hosting Louisville on this December 21st date.

Ohio State won their first 6 games while playing against cupcakes.  But they got their first test on this December 21st date.  North Carolina and Seton Hall played each other in the early season.  North Carolina won big in New Jersey, 83-54.  Despite the drubbing, the Pirates started the season at 6-1.  North Carolina would get a rude awakening from ACC newcomer Florida State.  The Seminoles beat the Tarheels 86-74 in Chapel Hill and made noise about the quietness of the Dean Dome.

All of the teams I’ve listed so far except Detroit-Mercy, Cleveland State, Pitt, Missouri, and Louisiana-Monroe (So the teams listed other than those 5 are Duke, St. John’s, Michigan, Indiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, Arizona, LSU, Ohio State, North Carolina, Seton Hall, UCLA, USC, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, and Florida State) will be highlighted in a game.  Seton Hall, Arizona, and Kentucky won’t be highlighted until the NCAA tournament.

And in case you were wondering about Detroit-Mercy, Cleveland State, Pitt, Missouri, and Louisiana-Monroe, only Missouri and Louisiana-Monroe made the NCAA tournament.  Monroe was a 15th seed in the Midwest after winning the Southland Conference but were killed by USC 84-54.  Missouri finished 3rd in the Big 8 and had senior Anthony Peeler on the All-America 2nd team.  They were the #5 seed in the East and lost in the 2nd round.  Pitt finished 7th in the Big East and lost in the 2nd round of the NIT.  Detroit-Mercy and Cleveland State did not recover from being Fab 5 fodder and finished at the bottom of their conferences.

Now we’ve hit that December 21st date.  #19 Arkansas beat #2 Arizona 65-59.  But in the three matchups featured, #14 Indiana took on #10 St. John’s, #25 Louisville traveled to unranked LSU, and #4 Ohio State went west to take on soon-to-be-ranked Southern California.

December 21, 1991 – (#14)Indiana Hoosiers 82 @(#10)St. John’s Red Men 77

Going into this matchup, both teams had not beaten a ranked opponent so far in the season.  St. John’s was 4-1 but had only played Duke in their matchups against the top 25.

The biggest thing with the Johnnies so far was that senior Malik Sealy was playing brilliantly but getting little help.  Fellow seniors Robert Werdann, Jason Buchanan, and Chucky Sproling were under-performing after having a breakthrough NCAA tournament in 1991.  St. John’s and coach Lou Carnesecca, who was in his last season coaching, was also not getting contributions from the forward slot opposite Sealy.  Billy Singleton had graduated and sophomore Shawnelle Scott, along with newcomers Lamont Middleton and Mitchell Foster, were failing to step up.

Indiana had been more disappointing however.  After finishing 1991 at 29-5, although coach Bob Knight thought that was deceiving because of a “down year” in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers were 5-2 with essentially the same team.

Junior Calbert Cheaney had rounded into a star.  Seniors Eric Anderson and Jamal Meeks were returning, along with juniors Greg Graham, Chris Reynolds, and Matt Nover and sophomore Damon Bailey.  Added to the group was prized freshman big man Alan Henderson.  Henderson was a McDonald’s All-American in 1991 and was already in Knight’s starting lineup at center.

Cheaney, however, had disappeared in Indiana’s two losses to UCLA and Kentucky.  In a big matchup against Sealy, who played the same position, it was time for Cheaney to step up.  In fact, it was time for both teams to step up.

Chucky Sproling seemed to be stepping up and going out of his shooting slump early on as he nailed two three-pointers to give St. John’s an early 8-4 lead.  But St. John’s returned to Sealy versus the other team and shot poorly, missing a lot of layups.

Meanwhile, Cheaney and Anderson did step up to put Indiana ahead.  A three from Bailey gave the Hoosiers a 20-12 lead at the 11:44 mark.  Then Cheaney nailed two triples to put Indiana ahead 26-12 and force Carnesecca to use a timeout with 10:18 left in the half.

Although the Red Men made a run, Indiana would take their biggest lead at 36-21 at the 3:47 mark after another three by Anderson and five points from usual non-scorer Matt Nover.  But the Hoosiers took their foot off the gas pedal.

Sealy hit a turnaround and Buchanan contributed his first two field goals of the game.  St. John’s cut it to 39-32 at the break but it could have been closer.  Just before the buzzer, Sealy got a steal in the back-court.  But instead of trying to get a shot off before the buzzer, Sealy went coast-to-coast for a slam, which happened long after time ran out.

However, the Johnnies did come out strong to start the 2nd half.  Werdann got his first field goal and then had a tipped pass to Sproling for a breakaway layup.  St. John’s cut it to 41-39 before Cheaney quelled the run with a turnaround jumper from the post.

Cheaney and Sealy had each led their team with 10 1st half points.  Cheaney held off the Red Men with Indiana’s first 11 points of the 2nd half.  But the absent Werdann and Buchanan kept it close.  Werdann had 7 points early in the 2nd half while Buchanan nailed two threes.

Indiana’s lead was down to 55-53 when Cheaney picked up his 4th foul.  St. John’s had made their run in the 1st half when Knight decided to rest Cheaney.

St. John’s tied it at 59 when Middleton hit a turnaround jumper from the post.  They took the lead at 64-63 when Sealy hit a three from the top, but the Red Men did not hit another field goal over the next few minutes.

Meanwhile, Henderson hit four free throws and Meeks hit three to give Indiana a 72-66 lead with Cheaney still on the bench.  Henderson then got two layups off feeds from Reynolds and Meeks.

Although, St. John’s made a run and cut it to 78-75 with 30.5 seconds left, it was too little too late and Indiana had a big road win.

For the Hoosiers, this would be win #4 in what turned into a 13-game winning streak.  This streak included dominating victories over Cincinnati, Ohio State, and Michigan.  Ohio State and Michigan were ranked and Cincinnati would become a Final Four team in 1992.

St. John’s went downhill after the loss and they sat at 10-7 before a 7-game winning streak saved their season.  They would finish the regular season at 19-10 and finish 3rd in the Big East.  St. John’s was a #7 seed in the Southeast Regional but lost in the 1st round to Tulane 61-57.

Carnesecca then retired after 24 seasons as coach and St. John’s would, for the most part, not be the same as a basketball program to this day.

Indiana starters (points scored)

Calbert Cheaney (25) – Small Forward

Eric Anderson (18) – Power Forward

Alan Henderson (10) – Center

Chris Reynolds (2) – Point Guard

Greg Graham (4) – Shooting Guard

Indiana bench (points scored)

Jamal Meeks (9)

Matt Nover (7)

Damon Bailey (7)

Indiana Coach: Bob Knight

St. John’s starters (points scored)

Malik Sealy (25) – Small Forward

Shawnelle Scott (2) – Power Forward

Robert Werdann (15) – Center

Jason Buchanan (17) – Point Guard

Chucky Sproling (8) – Shooting Guard

St. John’s bench (points scored)

Lamont Middleton (10)

Mitchell Foster (0)

David Cain (0)

Terrence Mullin (0)

St. John’s Coach: Lou Carnesecca

December 21, 1991 – (#4)Ohio State Buckeyes 77 @USC Trojans 79 (OT)

When George Raveling moved from Iowa to USC as coach in 1986, he didn’t inherit much.  In his first 4 seasons, USC won 38 total games.  But Raveling was starting to get some talent.

For his 4th season, guard Robert Pack came from Community College in Tyler, Texas.  He also got local product Harold Miner, who was being called “Baby Jordan” by the time he was a junior.  Raveling had Ronnie Coleman, who was USC’s all-time leading scorer until Miner passed him.  For the 1991 season, Duane Cooper came back after a red-shirt season but struggled in his return from a broken foot.  Big men Yamen Sanders and Mark Boyd came aboard, as well as guards Phil Glenn and Rodney Chatman.

With this roster, USC made their first NCAA tournament since 1985.  It was clearly a new experience as Miner threw up a dud 7-for-27 performance in a close loss to Florida State in the 1st round.

Coleman and Pack graduated but freshman big man Lorenzo Orr and JC transfer Dwayne Hackett came aboard.  But the worry without Coleman and Pack was that Miner would become a one-man team.  But still, USC had its best team in years and the Los Angeles Sports Arena was starting to become a home-court advantage.  USC had won 7 in a row at home and 15 of their last 17.  The Trojans were 6-1 with their only loss being in the opening game at Nebraska.

Ohio State would be the Trojans’ first test since that Nebraska loss.  The Buckeyes played their first 5 games at home against less-than-stellar competition and killed them.  But then they traveled out west to UC-Santa Barbara and won a close game in a tough environment.  But USC would be Ohio State’s toughest test so far.

The Buckeyes had lost Perry Carter and Treg Lee to graduation.  Both were big, strong interior players.  But Ohio State did have an All-American coming back in Jim Jackson.  Jackson, like Miner, was a junior and would become a 1st-team All-American in 1992.  Coach Randy Ayers also had senior guards Mark Baker and Jamaal Brown returning to the starting lineup.  Seniors Chris Jent and Bill Robinson moved into the lineup.

Ayers also had a coup coming.  Transfer Lawrence Funderburke was on his way from Indiana but he was ineligible for the first semester.  Funderburke was part of Indiana’s big recruiting year that included Calbert Cheaney.  But Lawrence was gone after one season because he couldn’t get along with Bob Knight, not the first or last time that happened.  Although he hadn’t exactly proven himself on the college level, Funderburke had a lot of potential.

For this game, USC got off to the hot start it needed.  Duane Cooper nailed a three off the opening tip and then Miner nailed a turnaround jumper from the foul line.  Yamen Sanders got a few hoops and then found Mark Boyd for a breakaway slam.  USC was 5-for-5 from the field and led 13-7 at the 15:59 mark.

But then USC went into a drought and Jamaal Brown nailed two threes and Chris Jent hit another.  The Buckeyes now led 17-15 at the 11:22 mark.  But USC countered with their own three-point marksmanship after a timeout.  Cooper hit one and Rodney Chatman two more.  USC re-took a 26-18 lead.

Although Ohio State cut the lead to 36-34 at the half, Jim Jackson struggled through a 1-for-8 start.  Brown led the Buckeyes with 11 points while Miner and Sanders each had 11 for USC.

The Buckeyes tied it early in the 2nd half before Miner hit back-to-back field goals.  But then, with 16:04 left, Miner picked up his 3rd foul.  He stayed in the game but Ohio State went on a 9-1 run to take a 47-45 lead.  Bill Robinson was a big factor early on with 6 points but he fouled out with 12:51 remaining.

Jim Jackson got going and the Buckeyes took their biggest lead at 56-52 when Brown tipped in a miss.  Miner then got aggressive again and nailed a three-pointer, although it looked like his foot was on the line.

Miner’s output would be matched by Jackson.  Jackson made a living by going 1-on-1 at the top of the key and nailing pull-up jumpers from the foul line area.  Both Miner and Jackson also got to the foul line late in the game.  All in all, it led to a 66-all tie with 1:20 left.

The Buckeyes would then take a big advantage with under a minute to go when Jackson found Brown for a corner three.  Raveling used a timeout with 43.1 seconds left.

They tried to free Miner off of many screens.  But Harold couldn’t break free from Jackson.  So Duane Cooper pulled up off a screen from Mark Boyd and nailed a three to tie the game with 20 seconds left.  Ohio State didn’t use a timeout and Jackson went 1-on-1 again.  But this time, Miner knocked the ball away and forced a held ball with 3.8 seconds left.  The arrow was pointing towards USC.

The Trojans actually got a good shot off their inbounds play from three-quarter court.  Miner broke free and had a pull-up jumper from the right wing that looked to be dead on.  But it came up short and the game was headed into overtime.

Miner and Jackson continued their duel in the extra session but USC took a lead when Cooper nailed a three and kept it despite Miner going out of the game for a minute after picking up his 4th foul.

But Jackson hit back-to-back field goals after going 1-on-1 at the top to give Ohio State a 77-75 lead with 1:53 to go.  Jackson had made his last 7 field goals after his 1-for-8 start.

But Miner got to the line again after Brown was called for his 5th foul (a weak call) with 1:10 left.  Miner hit two free throws to tie the game and finished 14-for-17 from the line.

USC then surprised Ohio State with the press and Cooper got a steal with under a minute to go.  The Trojans ran down the shot clock but had a long, forced shot blocked out of bounds with 1 second on the shot clock and 10.1 seconds left.

From under Ohio State’s basket, Cooper threw a lob pass to a cutting Miner at the rim.  Miner rose above good defense from Ohio State backup big man Tom Brandewie and laid it in at the shot clock buzzer to give the Trojans the lead.

Ohio State, again, decided not to use a timeout.  Jackson took it the length of the court but was long on his pull-up jumper at the buzzer, a shot that he had nailed the entire 2nd half.

USC had not beaten a top 4 ranked team since upsetting eventual champion UCLA in 1970.  The Trojans most successful season since the 1970’s would continue with a victory over 2nd rated UCLA at the end of January.  Ohio State also continued their successful season but would have trouble with a Big Ten foe.

Ohio State starters (points scored)

Jim Jackson (28) – Small Forward

Chris Jent (10) – Power Forward

Bill Robinson (7) – Center

Mark Baker (5) – Point Guard

Jamaal Brown (23) – Shooting Guard

Ohio State bench (points scored)

Steve Hall (0)

Tom Brandewie (3)

Rickey Dudley (1)

Alex Davis (0)

Ohio State Coach: Randy Ayers

USC starters (points scored)

Harold Miner (31) – Small Forward

Mark Boyd (5) – Power Forward

Yamen Sanders (13) – Center

Duane Cooper (18) – Point Guard

Phil Glenn (0) – Shooting Guard

USC bench (points scored)

Lorenzo Orr (2)

Rodney Chatman (10)

Dwayne Hackett (0)

Tremaine Anchrum (0)

Tim Vanitvelt (0)

USC Coach: George Raveling

December 21, 1991 – (#25)Louisville Cardinals 93 @LSU Tigers 92

After accumulating an outstanding record in his first 19 seasons at Louisville, Denny Crum suffered his first losing season in 1991.  The Cardinals went 14-16 and finished 8th in the Metro Conference after dominating it for years.

Now Crum was without LaBradford Smith, who was a senior in 1991 at guard.  But Crum did have some talent returning.  There were seniors Everick Sullivan and Cornelius Holden at forward as well as juniors James Brewer and Troy Smith.  Crum was also getting some Prop 48 players who probably would have helped in 1991.  They were guards Greg Minor and Dwayne Morton and center Brian Hopgood.  The point guard was a freshman in Keith LeGree.

With this talent and a home-heavy schedule (the only road game so far was at Notre Dame), Louisville was off to a 5-0 start in 1992 and moved up to #25 in the polls.

The same could not be said of LSU at the start of the season.  Junior superstar Shaquille O’Neal was further learning that he could not carry a team on his own and that the college game was not going to get any less physical.  Shaq’s team started out #6 in the polls but were out by the time they took on Louisville.

Dale Brown’s 3-2 LSU team featured forwards Vernel Singleton and Clarence Ceasar, guards Justin Anderson, T.J. Pugh, Mike Hansen, Maurice Williamson and Jamie Brandon.  Williamson and Brandon were returning after being academically ineligible for the 1991 season (Brandon was another Prop 48 casualty).  Shaq’s backup was 7-foot Dutchman Geert Hammink, who would also be Shaq’s backup for a few cups of coffee in Orlando.  Hammink would be the only of Shaq’s current teammates who would play an NBA game.

Both teams wanted to push the ball and create a fast tempo, but LSU had been run out of the gym in their first two losses as Brown tried to put together a back-court combination that would work.  On this day, the starting combination was Brandon and Anderson with Brandon at the controls.

LSU did not solve any chemistry woes early on as they committed 3 turnovers in the first few minutes.  Meanwhile, Sullivan got a steal and pull-up banker while guards LeGree and Minor hit shots over Shaq.  O’Neal did get two blocks and LSU’s 8-0 run gave them a 10-7 lead.

But Sullivan had the answer with 9 early points to keep Louisville within a 21-all tie.  Then the Cardinals bench gave them the lead as Brewer nailed a three and Smith hit a jumper from the top.  But then Shaq threw down his 2nd alley-oop to kick off an 11-0 Tigers run that gave them a 32-26 lead despite 9 turnovers.

But Sullivan answered again as he scored 7 points late in the half to bring his total to 16.  Lousiville took a 37-36 lead before Ceasar nailed a three and Shaq rebound-slammed a miss to bring his total to 10 points.  LSU led 41-37 at the break.

The Tigers continued their run with a 6-0 start to the 2nd half to take a 10-point lead.  Louisville crept back to within 51-47 before Shaq drew his 3rd foul.  Brewer then made a subsequent free throw and then nailed a three to tie the game.

Despite the foul trouble, O’Neal had gotten going in the 2nd half and kept LSU ahead with 10 points.  But with about 13 minutes left, Morton scored on a layup and drew Shaq’s 4th foul.  Morton’s three-point play tied the game at 59 and O’Neal went to the bench.

LSU took a lead as they tried to prove they weren’t a one man team.  But a 7-0 Louisville run, led by their big man Troy Smith, gave the Cardinals a 70-66 lead.  Shaq had to come back in after a three-point play by Smith on an offensive rebound.  O’Neal immediately scored with 3 guys on him, and then he blocked a shot that led to a breakaway layup by Williamson to tie the game at 70.

With under 8 minutes to go, Sullivan went on a personal 7-0 run to give Louisville a 79-72 advantage.  Louisville had been pushing the tempo with a small lineup all day.  For Sullivan, these were his only 7 points of the 2nd half.  Two three-pointers from the freshman Ceasar cut the lead to 80-78 before disaster struck.

With 4:42 left, Holden pump faked Shaq and drew his 5th foul.  O’Neal left the game with 22 points, 15 rebounds, and 6 blocks.  Although Shaq was gone, LSU continued to try to defy the one-man team talk (either that or Louisville relaxed).  Jamie Brandon got two steals that led to layups and then he banked one in to put the Tigers up 86-81 with under 2 minutes left.

Louisville looked about done when Maurice Williamson put back his own missed free throw to give LSU an 88-82 lead with under a minute and a half to go.

But LeGree fed Morton for a layup and then Louisville sent LSU to the line.  Ceasar split a pair of free throws.  LeGree went coast-to-coast for a pull-up jumper and then Brandon split a pair of free throws.  LSU now led 90-86 with 36 seconds left.  Holden put back a miss by LeGree and drew a foul at the 24-second mark.  Holden’s three-point play cut the lead to 90-89.

Brandon nailed both free throws this time but Louisville could still tie it with a three.  They got two chances on the next possession but LeGree and Sullivan missed their attempts.  But after the Sullivan miss, Williamson pushed off on Holden and was called for a foul with 8 seconds left.  Holden missed the first free throw but made the second.

Morton then fouled Williamson with 7 seconds left.  Maurice had missed two free throws earlier and bricked two more, giving Louisville a chance to tie with a two-pointer and win with a three.

Morton grabbed Williamson’s second miss and did not call a timeout.  Instead, he gave it ahead to Holden.  Cornelius pushed it up the floor but was kind of hesitating on what to do.  He eventually gave it back to the freshman Keith LeGree.  LeGree pulled up for a long three-pointer and nailed it at the buzzer to give the Cardinals the win.

LeGree’s three gave Louisville a 6-0 record on the season.  They would come back down to earth with a loss at Kentucky and then an 0-2 start in the Metro Conference.  But they would get another road test at Kansas.

This loss may have shook LSU up a bit as they won their next two games by scores of 159-86 and 123-61.  They won 4 in a row before suffering another home loss, this time to Arkansas in their conference home opener.  LSU then had to travel to Alabama for their version of a road test.

Louisville starters (points scored)

Greg Minor (2) – Small Forward

Everick Sullivan (23) – Power Forward

Cornelius Holden (11) – Center

Keith LeGree (10) – Point Guard

Dwayne Morton (16) – Shooting Guard

Louisville bench (points scored)

James Brewer (16)

Troy Smith (13)

Tremaine Wingfield (0)

Kip Stone (0)

Derwin Webb (2)

Louisville Coach: Denny Crum

LSU starters (points scored)

Clarence Ceasar (15) – Small Forward

Vernel Singleton (11) – Power Forward

Shaquille O’Neal (22) – Center

Jamie Brandon (16) – Point Guard

Justin Anderson (5) – Shooting Guard

LSU bench (points scored)

Maurice Williamson (15)

Harold Boudreaux (2)

T.J. Pugh (4)

Mike Hansen (0)

Geert Hammink (2)

LSU Coach: Dale Brown

January 4, 1992 – (#5)Connecticut Huskies 70 @Illinois Fighting Illini 66

The Connecticut Huskies had been a cinderella story and had come oh-so-close to the Final Four in 1990 and 1991.  But now, they were vying for serious legitimacy.  They had experience coming back in seniors Chris Smith, Rod Sellers, and Dan Cyrulik and juniors Scott Burrell and Toraino Walker.

They had also recruited some prized freshmen.  The biggest prize was 6’9″ McDonald’s All-American Donyell Marshall from Reading, Pennsylvania.  Jim Calhoun also got Donny Marshall (not related to Donyell) from Washington D.C., Kevin Ollie from Los Angeles, and Brian Fair from Phoenix.

With this lineup, the Huskies were off to a 9-0 start, although all but one game was played at home.

Illinois was now on the downturn after being put on probation in 1990.  Lou Henson’s only legitimate star was sophomore center Deon Thomas.  Andy Kaufmann, who averaged 21.3 points per game in 1991, was supposed to join Thomas as the star, but Kaufmann would be red-shirted for the 1992 season due to academic problems.

Without Kaufmann or the ability to fully recruit potential stars, Henson and Thomas did not have much of a supporting cast.  Rennie Clemons played the point and had shooters T.J. Wheeler, Brooks Taylor, Tom Michael, and Scott Pierce flanking him on the outside.  The best freshman that Henson could get with the probationary restraints was Robert Bennett from Julian High School in Chicago.  Bennett would not blow anybody away with his numbers over the next 4 years.

Illinois was off to a 6-3 start but had gotten waxed by the only good teams they played, Temple and Missouri.

On paper, this looked like a mis-match.  But Connecticut had only played one game away from Gampel Pavilion and Illinois would play a bit out of their minds.

The tone was set by Thomas as he rejected two UConn shots early on.  He then led the Illini to an early lead with 9 points.  But the biggest key was how the Illinois guards handled the vaunted UConn press.

Clemons and Wheeler were able to break it and find Thomas for layups and fouls on UConn.  Sellers and Burrell each got into early foul trouble.

A 6-0 Illini run (Burrell committed his 3rd foul during this spurt, taking UConn’s 2nd leading scorer out of the lineup with no points) put the home team ahead 22-15.

They continued to grow the lead by breaking UConn’s press for easy baskets and getting on the offensive boards.  With 15 minutes gone by in the 1st half, Bennett found Tom Michael for a layup to put the Illini up 34-22.

For UConn, Burrell was scoreless and the prized freshmen were playing like inexperienced freshmen.  But the Huskies would show off their big star power as Chris Smith took over through the rest of the 1st half.

First, Smith hit a long jumper and then a reverse scoop shot.  Then Smith got a steal off the press and scored on a layup.  Illinois went scoreless during this stretch and Smith continued to attack as he pushed the ball to Sellers for a layup.  Chris capped his personal, unanswered run with a pull-up three from the top.  This cut Illinois’ lead to 34-33.

Tom Michael stemmed the tide with a three but Smith came right back with another to bring his 1st half point total to 17, 12 in the last 5 minutes.  UConn, however, was not able to grab the lead at halftime as the Illini held a 37-36 advantage.

Illinois got back going early in the 2nd half as Thomas got a three-point play and Michael hit his 3rd three-pointer.  But Burrell finally got involved as he found Donyell Marshall with a touch-pass for a slam and then hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 43.

The game went back-and-forth for the next several minutes.  Illinois continued to get on the boards, they would out-rebound Connecticut 52-33 in this game.

But Smith would continue to attack.  His 27th point came on a breakaway layup to put UConn up 55-52 with 8 minutes left.

Connecticut would hold the lead for the next 4 minutes despite not scoring a field goal, but their advantage was a tenuous 58-56 after a layup by Thomas.

But Sellers penetrated and kicked out to Burrell for a big three-pointer from the wing.  Thomas responded with a turnaround jumper but Illinois would not score again until there was less than a minute remaining.

Meanwhile UConn, although they didn’t quite look smooth, put the game away for the most part.  Sellers put back a miss by Marshall and then Smith hit a turnaround in the lane to reach a career-high in points.  Smith’s two free throws then put UConn up 67-58 with 52.6 seconds left.

Illinois would make a bit of a push after Pierce and Michael hit three-pointers to cut the lead to 68-64 with 28 seconds left.  Clemons then got a steal in the back court but Pierce and walk-on freshman Will Tuttle missed their jumpers and Connecticut was finally able to put the game away.

The Huskies had survived their first road test and seemed to be on smooth sailing through the first part of their Big East schedule.  UConn sat at 16-1 through the end of January but then the tough part of their schedule came.

Illinois’ momentum from their effort against UConn would not continue as they got off to an inauspicious 2-7 start in the Big Ten.  But they would have a chance to get their only road win in their Big Ten season in mid-February against a team missing their best player.

Connecticut starters (points scored)

Donyell Marshall (8) – Small Forward

Toraino Walker (8) – Power Forward

Rod Sellers (11) – Center

Chris Smith (33) – Point Guard

Scott Burrell (7) – Shooting Guard

Connecticut bench (points scored)

Dan Cyrulik (2)

Brian Fair (1)

Kevin Ollie (0)

Donny Marshall (0)

Connecticut Coach: Jim Calhoun

Illinois starters (points scored)

Tom Michael (19) – Small Forward

Scott Pierce (9) – Power Forward

Deon Thomas (26) – Center

Rennie Clemons (4) – Point Guard

T.J. Wheeler (0) – Shooting Guard

Illinois bench (points scored)

Brooks Taylor (2)

Robert Bennett (6)

Will Tuttle (0)

Mike Duis (0)

Marc Davidson (0)

Illinois Coach: Lou Henson

chris-smith

Senior Chris Smith almost single-handedly led UConn to a victory at Illinois with a career-high 33 points *photo courtesy of Sportz Edge

January 11, 1992 – Louisville Cardinals 85 @(#4)Kansas Jayhawks 78

Ever since upsetting Shaq and LSU (it looks more like an upset in hindsight than it probably actually was), the Louisville Cardinals had lost 3 out of 4 games.  One loss came at Kentucky and the others were the opening two games of the Metro Conference season, including a home loss to Tulane.

Kansas had started the season 11-0 but their schedule wasn’t exactly the strongest.  So Roy Williams, in his more-or-less typical manner, figured that his team could have a tough time with Louisville, even though they were at Allen Fieldhouse, if they weren’t ready to play.

The Jayhawks had a 24-game winning streak going at Allen Fieldhouse and had won 30 straight non-conference games at home.

Kansas had lost Mark Randall, Mike Maddox and Terry Brown from the starting lineup of a team that went to the 1991 National Championship Game.  They had also lost 6th man Sean Tunstall.

But junior point guard Adonis Jordan and powerful 6’6″ senior forward Alonzo Jamison were back.  Sophomore forward Richard Scott joined them in the starting lineup after having a strong NCAA tournament as a freshman.

Williams’ other starters were incoming transfers.  Shooting guard Rex Walters came from Northwestern and shooting big man Eric Pauley from Cypress College.  Both were juniors but Pauley wouldn’t start consistently until later in the year.

For now, the starting center was freshman Ben Davis from Oak Hill Academy.  He came in along with 7’2″ Greg Ostertag from Duncanville, Texas.  Other reserves included sophomore guards Steve Woodberry and Patrick Richey, who were big contributors in 1991 as well.

But Kansas started off how Williams feared.  They played raggedly and fell behind 6-0 and then 10-2.  Dwayne Morton started off with 6 of those 10 points for Louisville, but then he picked up his 2nd foul and sat for the rest of the half.

Louisville still went on top 13-4 when Greg Minor made a jumper from the deep wing.  But then Kansas’ bench came in to spark them.  Richey nailed a three at the end of the shot clock and then Ostertag put back a miss while he drew a foul.  Those two baskets got the Rock Chalk, Jayhawk crowd into the game for the first time.

But then both teams followed with a 5-minute stretch in which only one basket was scored, by Louisville’s Derwin Webb.  The Cardinals held the lead throughout the first half as Kansas’ only spark was coming from two three-pointers by Richey and 7 points from Ostertag.

Meanwhile, Louisville’s bench of Webb and Kip Stone provided a spark while Cornelius Holden led the way with 8 points.  But Holden picked up his 3rd foul with 6.9 seconds left in the half and Louisville only held a 36-32 lead at the break.

Holden’s replacement at center, Troy Smith, would pick up his 3rd foul early in the 2nd half.  Kansas would then get going as Walters and Jamison hit field goals and Jordan hit two free throws to give the Jayhawks their first lead of the game.

The Jayhawks would stretch their lead to as much as five a few times as Walters and Jamison put the points on the board.  But Louisville stayed in it as Minor got two putbacks and Morton scored 7 points to cut the lead to 52-51.

Then Everick Sullivan, Louisville’s leading scorer who had struggled so far in this game, nailed a three to give the Cardinals the lead again.  Holden hit two free throws before Morton picked up his 4th foul and Kansas tied it at 56 after Walters hit two free throws and Jamison drove down the lane for a reverse layup.

For this game, Denny Crum’s unsung hero would be Kip Stone, who came in for Morton.  Stone scored the next 7 points of the game to put Louisville up 63-56.  It would take awhile, and most of Kansas’ energy, to make up that deficit.

Louisville kept fending off the Jayhawks with big buckets.  Kansas cut the lead to 2 points on four separate occasions but would not get a chance to tie it until Holden split a pair of free throws to put Louisville up 76-73.

With 2:45 to go, Woodberry found Walters at the wing.  Rex launched and connected on the game-tying three-pointer as the crowd sensed the comeback kill.

But Morton, who had helped fend off Kansas’ earlier runs with a baseline turnaround and then two free throws, nailed the biggest and perhaps toughest shot in the game.  Morton pump faked Jamison, who didn’t go for it, in the corner and dribbled to the elbow area.  Morton launched over Jamison and nailed the jumper.

Kansas could not answer.  First, they had a turnover and then Pauley missed a tip-in after Walters couldn’t connect on a driving shot.  Morton was fouled on the drive but split his free throws to keep it a one-possession game at 79-76.  Jordan couldn’t connect on a tying three-point attempt.

Although Louisville missed some free throws late, they were still able to put the game away as Kansas’ only field goal after Walters’ tying three-pointer came with 0.6 seconds left.

This big win by Louisville kicked off a 4-game winning streak.  But that would be their longest winning streak for the rest of the season.  Louisville finished 4th in the Metro Conference and lost to VCU in the 1st round of their conference tournament.  With an 18-10 record, Louisville was named a #8 seed in the West Regional.  They killed Wake Forest before being killed by top-seeded UCLA in the 2nd round.

Kansas would also become a top-seed after finishing the regular season at 26-4 and winning the Big 12 regular season and tournament championship.  This would actually be Kansas’ only home loss of the season.  But they ran into some trouble in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament.

Louisville starters (points scored)

Greg Minor (12) – Small Forward

Everick Sullivan (15) – Power Forward

Cornelius Holden (12) – Center

Keith LeGree (3) – Point Guard

Dwayne Morton (20) – Shooting Guard

Louisville bench (points scored)

Kip Stone (12)

Derwin Webb (7)

Troy Smith (0)

Tremaine Wingfield (4)

Brian Hopgood (0)

Louisville Coach: Denny Crum

Kansas starters (points scored)

Alonzo Jamison (14) – Small Forward

Richard Scott (4) – Power Forward

Ben Davis (3) – Center

Adonis Jordan (13) – Point Guard

Rex Walters (16) – Shooting Guard

Kansas bench (points scored)

Steve Woodberry (6)

Eric Pauley (3)

Patrick Richey (6)

Greg Ostertag (12)

Malcolm Nash (1)

Kansas Coach: Roy Williams

January 14, 1992 – LSU Tigers 89 @(#9)Alabama Crimson Tide 81

The LSU Tigers had rebounded from a 3-3 start to win 4 games in a row.  But they could not welcome Arkansas to the SEC with a loss.  The Razorbacks’ press defense (commonly known as 40 minutes of hell) took LSU out of their game in Baton Rouge and the Tigers took the loss 101-90.

LSU was now traveling to Tuscaloosa to take on 9th ranked Alabama without guard Jamie Brandon, who was sitting out with an ankle injury.

While football is, and always will be, king in Tuscaloosa, Wimp Sanderson had brought basketball to a prominent place.  Sanderson had won 5 SEC tournament championships (and one regular season title) including 4 of the last 5 seasons.  Sanderson had also brought in talent that starred in the NBA; like Ennis Whatley, Buck Johnson, Derrick McKey, Jim Farmer, Keith Askins, and David Benoit.

Now Sanderson’s talent included senior forward/center Robert Horry (who would have to guard future Los Angeles Lakers’ teammate Shaquille O’Neal in this contest) and senior JC transfer forward Latrell Sprewell.  There were also junior guard James Robinson, who had some decent years in the NBA, and junior forward Andre Perry.  Freshman forward Jason Caffey would also have some decent NBA years, and be on the right team at the right time for a bit.

But Sanderson’s biggest hurdle was the Sweet 16.  Wimp was 0-6 in the Regional Semifinal and Alabama had never advanced past that round in their basketball history.

The Tide was 14-1 to start the 1992 season with Robinson, Sprewell and Horry averaging in double figures.

But, for this contest, they ran into a re-focused LSU team that took the early lead at 16-7 with Clarence Ceasar scoring 8 points, including two three-pointers.

A third LSU three-pointer, this one from Justin Anderson, gave the Tigers a 21-11 lead.  It would eventually grow to 37-24 with about 6 minutes left in the 1st half.  Shaq was dominating but getting help from the guard combination of Anderson and Mike Hansen, who were reigning three-pointers.

Meanwhile, Robinson and Horry combined for 2 points in the 1st half.  But Alabama got a big lift from Perry, who scored 17 1st half points and drew 3 fouls on Shaq.  Sprewell would also contribute as Alabama cut LSU’s lead to 42-35 at halftime.

The momentum continued at the start of the 2nd half for Alabama as Robinson got going with 6 points to help the Tide tie the game at 46 and force Dale Brown to use a timeout at the 17:24 mark.

A steal and breakaway slam by Sprewell gave the Tide the lead, but Sanderson picked up a technical after he thought Shaq should have been called for his 4th foul when he blocked a shot.

LSU would then re-open the flood gates with the game tied at 52.  Anderson, Hansen, and Ceasar hit consecutive three-pointers to put the Tigers up by 9 and quiet the crowd.

Alabama cut into the lead but could not get back even.  The closest the Tide got was 75-73 before Shaq drew Horry’s 5th foul.

O’Neal dominated with 29 points while Horry only scored 4 points.  Shaq even hit two free throws to give his team the 4-point lead.  Anderson would then throw the big dagger with 2:55 to go.  He hit a three from the corner to put LSU up 80-73.

Alabama would not be helped by the free throw line as Robinson and Sprewell each missed the front end of 1-and-1’s.  Reserve Cedric Moore missed two more after drawing Shaq’s 4th foul.  These misses hindered any chance Alabama had of coming back in the last 3 minutes.

For the Tide, this loss kicked off a 3-game losing streak.  They still finished 10-6 in the SEC (which was 3rd in the West behind Arkansas and LSU) and 4th overall.  Alabama made one final run to the SEC tournament championship game, but were walloped by Kentucky 80-54.

Sanderson’s team would not make the Sweet 16 this season.  As a #5 seed in the Southeast Regional, they lost to 4th seeded North Carolina 64-55 as they shot 29% from the field in what turned out to be Wimp Sanderson’s last season of coaching in Tuscaloosa (he would spend 5 seasons at Arkansas-Little Rock from 1994-1999).

For LSU, this win kicked off a 7-game winning streak that took them right to their home matchup against Duke.  LSU would be battling Arkansas for the SEC West regular season title right down to the final week.

LSU starters (points scored)

Clarence Ceasar (16) – Small Forward

Vernel Singleton (7) – Power Forward

Shaquille O’Neal (29) – Center

T.J. Pugh (0) – Point Guard

Justin Anderson (19) – Shooting Guard

LSU bench (points scored)

Mike Hansen (11)

Maurice Williamson (5)

Harold Boudreaux (2)

Geert Hammink (0)

LSU Coach: Dale Brown

Alabama starters (points scored)

Latrell Sprewell (22) – Small Forward

Andre Perry (25) – Power Forward

Robert Horry (4) – Center

Elliot Washington (3) – Point Guard

James Robinson (17) – Shooting Guard

Alabama bench (points scored)

Dennis Miller (3)

Jason Caffey (0)

Cedric Moore (4)

Kenny Rice (3)

Alabama Coach: Wimp Sanderson

January 29, 1992 – (#15)Michigan Wolverines 89 @(#13)Michigan State Spartans 79 (OT)

So far, the Fab Five’s best win of the season was probably at Iowa.  They were 0-2 against ranked teams having lost to Duke and at Indiana.

With that being said, the Fab Five was probably what you’d expect from a previous freshman class.  Michigan was a better team and had a better record than they did in 1991, but it probably looked at that point like they were at least a year away.

Steve Fisher was still only starting 3 of the Fab Five; Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, and Jalen Rose.  Jimmy King and Ray Jackson were key contributors off the bench.  But the Fab Five would start to turn some heads in East Lansing, Michigan against their rival.

Jud Heathcote and the Michigan State Spartans had recovered from Steve Smith leaving to go 13-2 so far in 1992.  The Spartans had a red-shirt freshman in Smith’s spot in Shawn Respert.  Respert was a strong shooter and was determined to prove that Michigan didn’t have the best freshmen in the state.

Respert, in fact, led the Spartans in scoring in 1992 with a 15.8 per game average.

He joined the lineup with seniors Mark Montgomery and Matt Steigenga, juniors Dwayne Stephens and Mike Peplowski, sophomore Kris Wechinsky, and fellow freshman Anthony Miller (who would later acquire the, perhaps, affectionate nickname of “Pig”).  Fellow starters Steigenga, Stephens, and Peplowski all averaged double figures.

The Spartans had just lost on the road at Minnesota but had beaten Purdue in West Lafayette without Steigenga, who was out with a sprained ankle.  Steigenga would be back for this game but not quite himself.

The Wolverines got off to a 9-3 lead before Stephens nailed a three and Miller hit a turnaround from the post.  The run continued after the first media timeout.  Stephens hit another three and Peplowski hit two shots from inside.  Weshinsky followed with a pull-up from the foul line and Montgomery went coast-to-coast for a layup.

Michigan State was now on a 16-0 run and led 19-9.  For the rest of the half, the Spartans would be carried by Respert, who had 10 points in the final 11 minutes.  But they would also be carried by 63% shooting from the field.

Michigan stayed within striking range because of junior reserve Eric Riley.  The 7’0″ Riley put back two misses in the final two minutes and hit a turnaround jumper from inside.  Riley led the Wolverines with 8 points but Michigan State led 42-30 at the half.

More of the same would continue in the 2nd half despite some Fab Five members showing up.  Webber got loose inside for three baskets and Rose hit a big three when Michigan State was threatening to run away with it.

But Michigan State’s balanced attack continued to rule the day.  Peplowski grabbed up several Michigan misses and had double figure rebounds not too far into the 2nd half.  He also forced Webber to pick up his 3rd foul.

Michigan started to make some noise again halfway through the 2nd half.  Jackson hit a key jumper to cut the lead to 11.  Webber found Rose with a behind-the-back pass for a three-point play on the break.  Howard then hit a turnaround from inside.

The Michigan problem though was that they could not stop the Spartans.  Each Michigan basket was countered by a Michigan State basket and the lead stayed at 62-50 with 7:46 to go.

But then the Wolverines got a break.  Respert, who already had 17 points, came off a screen and hit another jumper.  But the official deemed the screen by Dwayne Stephens illegal.

Rose came right back with a baseline jumper and then King hit a banker in transition.  The lead was now under double figures for the first time in awhile.

Fisher brought in junior Rob Pelinka to go with the freshman lineup of Webber, Howard, Rose, and King.  Pelinka nailed a huge three and Webber slammed back a miss.

Later, Webber nailed a three and then Pelinka found King for a breakaway layup.  The lead was now down to 68-64 with 4:35 left and Michigan State had gone cold.

Webber hit another three and Rose put back his own miss against three guys to cut the lead to 70-69.  Then with 1:46 left, Webber found Howard in the lane for a hook shot to give Michigan their first lead since 9-8.

The freshmen had come back but now needed to finish it (like they hadn’t against Duke).  Webber picked up his 4th foul and Peplowski tied the game at 71 with a free throw.  Webber was then sent to the line after Peplowski picked up his 4th foul.

C-Webb bricked them both but got his own rebound with 45 seconds left.  But Michigan turned it over at the 35.6 second mark.

After a timeout, the Spartans looked for Respert (the only one who hadn’t seemed to cool off during the bad Spartan stretch).  Respert missed his first shot attempt but Stephens grabbed the rebound.

Now Respert went 1-on-1 against King with a clock running out.  He drove into the lane and tried a pull-up jumper but King blocked his shot.  Montgomery then missed a desperation heeve at the buzzer and the game was headed to overtime.

That was about all a tired Michigan State team could muster.  Pelinka nailed a three, Webber hit a hook shot from the post and Rose Hit two free throws.  Suddenly, it was 78-71 Michigan.

Only Respert hit any field goals for Michigan State until the final 20 seconds.  This did not allow the Spartans to get back into the game as Michigan finished it from the line and their fans became heard.

The final Wolverine punctuation was a breakaway slam by Rose after an overhead pass by King in the final seconds.

This was a big win for Michigan (and they celebrated like it) but the momentum would not continue as they lost a home game to 10th ranked Ohio State.

Finally, on February 9 against Notre Dame, Steve Fisher started all five freshmen.  They won at Notre Dame 74-65 and went 7-3 down the stretch with the Fab Five starting all but one of those final 10 games, which included a win versus Indiana.

Michigan State would get their revenge against Michigan in Ann Arbor, 70-59.  But the Spartans had a so-so finish to the Big Ten season and ended up tied with Michigan for 3rd at 11-7.

The Spartans would be a #5 seed in the Midwest Regional but lost in the 2nd round to Cincinnati 77-65.  That would be their highest tournament seeding until 1995, which was when Shawn Respert was a senior.  By the time he was into his NBA career, less people were comparing him to Steve Smith.

Michigan starters (points scored)

James Voskuil (2) – Small Forward

Chris Webber (21) – Power Forward

Juwan Howard (13) – Center

Jalen Rose (24) – Point Guard

Michael Talley (0) – Shooting Guard

Michigan bench (points scored)

Jimmy King (8)

Eric Riley (8)

Ray Jackson (4)

Rob Pelinka (9)

Michigan Coach: Steve Fisher

Michigan State starters (points scored)

Matt Steigenga (5) – Small Forward

Dwayne Stephens (8) – Power Forward

Mike Peplowski (18) – Center

Mark Montgomery (5) – Point Guard

Shawn Respert (26) – Shooting Guard

Michigan State bench (points scored)

Anthony Miller (8)

Kris Weshinsky (7)

Jon Zulauf (2)

Michigan State Coach: Jud Heathcote

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Michigan’s Fab Five.  Bottom Row (left to right): Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, Chris Webber.  Top Row (left to right): Juwan Howard, Steve Fisher, and Ray Jackson *photo courtesy of en.paperblog

January 30, 1992 – (#1)Duke Blue Devils 75 @(#23)Florida State Seminoles 62

So far in their 15-0 season, the Duke Blue Devils had really only been challenged twice.  They survived their first encounter with the Fab Five of Michigan in overtime and then held off Virginia on the road 68-62.

Although the first look of the final score of this game may not indicate it, this was another challenging game against a surprisingly talented opponent.

Florida State had been building in the first 5 years under Pat Kennedy in the Metro Conference.  They had made 3 NCAA tournament appearances, had been ranked as high as #7 in the nation in 1989, and had won the 1991 Metro Tournament.

But the Seminoles were not expected to challenge as the new team in the ACC.  Their first ACC game was at Chapel Hill, North Carolina against the Tarheels on December 15.  Florida State made some noise with a shocking 86-74 victory and then made noise about the lack of noise at the Dean Dome, something that would be disputed when North Carolina took on Duke a week after this game.

Florida State opened 5-2 in the ACC, good for 2nd place behind 7-0 Duke.  The Blue Devils had beaten Florida State 86-70 in their first encounter at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Seminoles had some new talent to go with veterans who were starting to figure it out.  Volatile guard Sam Cassell had come from San Jacinto Junior College and led Florida State in scoring at 18.6 points per game.  Cassell was the most volatile about North Carolina’s crowd, but the Tarheels would get their revenge in the ACC tournament and, in a most memorable way, next season.

Cassell was joined by junior Doug Edwards, who was regarded as the 2nd best high school player in the nation behind Kenny Anderson in 1989.  But Edwards had not lived up to the expectations despite only being held under double figures in one game so far this season.  Edwards and fellow junior Rodney Dobard manned the paint with sophomore Andre Reid coming off the bench.

Cassell was joined in the back court by talented freshman Bob Sura and soon-to-be-quarterback on the FSU football team Charlie Ward.  Ward, a sophomore, had been moved to the starting point guard spot after their first loss to Duke.  Since then, Florida State had won 6 games in a row.  Chuck Graham and his 40″ vertical leap came off the bench now that Ward was in the lineup.

Duke had only lost Greg Koubek and Billy McCaffrey from their 1991 National Championship team.  But Mike Krzyzewski still had a solid, for college basketball, 8-man rotation.  The newbies were sophomore Marty Clark getting actual non-garbage-time playing time and freshman big man Cherokee Parks.  The rest of the lineup was familiar by now as Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, and Brian Davis started up front with Bobby Hurley and Thomas Hill in the back court.  Sophomore Antonio Lang was coming off the bench for the moment but would be starting later in the year.

This lineup got off to a very slow start at Florida State as the Seminoles took it right to the #1 team.  Edwards looked like the 2nd best high schooler in the nation in the first 4 minutes as he dominated inside and got 7 quick points.

Florida State took the ball to the basket and found teammates, Edwards being the main beneficiary, for layups and dunks.  Through the first 4 minutes, the Seminoles had an 11-4 lead and made Duke’s defense look like their football team’s defense.

But then their defense looked like they were defending a National Championship and Florida State went into a complete drought in which they didn’t score for over 6 minutes.  It also didn’t help that Cassell and Dobard each picked up their 2nd fouls.

Meanwhile; Laettner, Hurley, and Grant Hill led the Dukies on a 14-0 run to take an 18-11 lead with under 10 minutes left.  Duke increased their advantage to 28-19 after Laettner nailed a three for his 13th point.  The Seminoles were also without Edwards, who picked up his 3rd foul with 8:42 remaining in the 1st half.

The Blue Devils had their biggest lead at 30-20 when Thomas Hill banked one in after a feed from Grant Hill.  But Florida State started to hustle their way back into the game and got a big contribution from Chuck Graham off the bench.

Graham nailed a big three on a cross-court pass by Cassell and, later, showed off his vertical by rebound-slamming in a miss by Dobard.  Dobard had 6 points in the Seminoles’ 13-4 run that cut the lead to 34-33.

In the last minute of the half, Hurley’s third three-pointer put Duke up by four.  But then Cassell went 1-on-1 against Davis and hit a pull-up from the foul line to cut the Blue Devil’s lead to 39-37 at the half.

Duke ran out to a 50-43 advantage in the first 5 minutes of the 2nd half despite Grant Hill picking up his 3rd foul.  Hill’s replacement, Antonio Lang, scored 5 points during that stretch.

But Florida State hung around as their passing continued to get them layups.  Dobard would still be the main beneficiary while Cassell created shots for himself and others.  The Seminoles cut the lead to 56-54 with around 10 minutes left before Dobard picked up his 4th foul.

But for the next 7 minutes, Duke would go into a major drought and miss 9 of their next 10 shots.  While Florida State wasn’t burning the nets either, they would finally take the lead at 60-59 when Ward found Edwards for a slam on the break.  For Edwards, this was his first two points since scoring 7 early when he looked dominant.

Edwards would pick up his 4th foul with 3:19 remaining and Laettner hit a free throw to tie the game at 62.

After a media timeout, Pat Kennedy decided to slow the ball a little but and take time off the clock.  Florida State missed a shot near the end of the shot clock and Grant Hill drove down the lane for a banker to put Duke up 64-62.

Florida State slowed it down on their next possession as well.  This time, Duke stole it and Cassell picked up his 4th foul on Laettner.  Although Christian split his free throws, Grant Hill got another steal on the next possession and took it down for a layup.  Duke now led 67-62.

The Seminoles next chance would be snuffed out when Thomas Hill blocked a putback attempt by Dobard.  Cassell then picked up his 5th foul on Grant Hill with 1:05 left.  Hill’s two free throws, along with Cassell fouling out, pretty much decided the outcome of the game.

But Duke wasn’t done putting icing on the cake, or salt in the wound from Florida State’s point of view.  In the final minute when all they needed to do was run out the clock, Hurley fed Thomas Hill for a slam and then Grant Hill for a reverse layup.

This put the final margin at 13 points and made the game look like another blowout.  They would not get their next chance at the Blue Devils until next season.

Florida State would end up finishing 2nd in the ACC at 11-5.  They destroyed North Carolina in their final game 110-94 and then would get two weeks off before the ACC tournament, something that might have hurt their chances of taking on Duke for a third time in 1992.

Duke would get its biggest challenge when they traveled to Chapel Hill a week after their encounter with Florida State.

Duke starters (points scored)

Brian Davis (7) – Small Forward

Grant Hill (20) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (20) – Center

Bobby Hurley (11) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (7) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Antonio Lang (8)

Cherokee Parks (2)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Florida State starters (points scored)

Bob Sura (6) – Small Forward

Doug Edwards (9) – Power Forward

Rodney Dobard (12) – Center

Charlie Ward (4) – Point Guard

Sam Cassell (15) – Shooting Guard

Florida State bench (points scored)

Chuck Graham (12)

Andre Reid (4)

Florida State Coach: Pat Kennedy

February 3, 1992 – (#10)Connecticut Huskies 83 @(#13)Syracuse Orangemen 84

The Connecticut Huskies suffered their first major setback in 1992 when St. John’s drubbed them 90-57 at Madison Square Garden.  Near the end of that game, talented freshman Donyell Marshall pulled up lame with a knee injury.  It was a re-injury from a problem Marshall had in high school, but he would not start against Syracuse and they didn’t think he could play at all.

But Connecticut was still sitting pretty at 16-2 and tops in the Big East at 7-2.  But a 1/2 game behind them at 7-3 was Syracuse.

The Orangemen were star-less for the first time in a decade.  Gone were the likes of Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman, and Billy Owens (who would have been a senior in 1992 but declared early for the NBA draft).

Leading the way for Jim Boeheim was senior forward Dave Johnson and freshman guard Lawrence Moten.  Moten, from New Hampshire, was not a McDonald’s All-American but he came into Syracuse making an impact at 18.4 points per game in Big East competition, less than a point per game behind Johnson.

Sophomore Adrian Autry also averaged double figures and led the team in assists from the point position.  The rest of the lineup were role players.  Juniors Conrad McRae and Dave Siock were the big men.  Junior Mike Hopkins contributed at forward.  Junior Michael Edwards came off the bench with Moten now in the lineup.  There was also freshman Glen Sekunda, who didn’t hesitate to shoot.

Syracuse started the season at 10-0 and were still 15-3 and had a 19-game home winning streak.  But all was not well.  The NCAA and Syracuse University itself were in the middle of an investigation that would lead to the NCAA putting Syracuse on probation in October, 1992.  As part of it, Conrad McRae was suspended 4 games by the NCAA for his dealings with a booster.  McRae later sued the NCAA for over $1 million for mental anguish from the suspension.  It was later ruled that McRae did not have the legal standing to press his claim.

UConn got off to a great start at the Carrier Dome due to a surprise starter.  With Marshall coming off the bench, freshman Brian Fair got a start at guard.  Fair wore #34 two years before Ray Allen came on campus.  Fair looked like Ray Allen in the 1st half.

Fair scored UConn’s first 7 points and had 13, including 3 three-pointers, before the half-way mark of the 1st half.  With that production leading the way, UConn grabbed the lead.

Although the game started with each team missing a basket on the fast break, this wasn’t like a typical Big East game from the past.  Both teams were able to score.

Connecticut averaged 79 points per game in 1992 and looked like it in the 1st half as they shot 63% from the field.  Fair led the way with 15 points but Rod Sellers, who would score his 1,000th career point on a hook shot in the lane, had 10 points while Scott Burrell and Chris Smith each contributed 8.

But with that, UConn seemed to be only holding a small halftime lead at 45-36.  Syracuse had shot 39% and Dave Johnson was the only Orangemen player in double figures at 12 points.

But like with their previous home game against Seton Hall (who would go on to tie for the Big East regular season championship), Syracuse had hung around and stole the ball game at the end, 70-67.

It looked more of the same in the 2nd half as Johnson sparked Syracuse with a rebound-slam and then a long pull-up three-pointer at the end of the shot clock.  A three-point play by McRae cut the lead to 52-51, the closest Syracuse had been since the start of the ball game.

From there, both teams did an un-Big East-like thing and traded baskets.  UConn kept the lead for the moment as Chris Smith hit on a double-pump banker and Burrell connected from downtown.

During a 9-4 run, Smith scored 6 of those points for UConn.  He then found Marshall on the break for a three-point play that gave UConn a 64-55 advantage.

But back came Syracuse as McRae and Johnson led the way.  McRae dominated the boards against a bigger UConn team and scored 5 points during a 11-1 Orangemen run that gave them the lead.  A reverse layup by Johnson off a feed from Autry gave Syracuse its advantage at 66-65 and gave Johnson 21 points.

A three from Moten put Syracuse up 69-66.  What followed was a back and forth duel that the likes of the Big East have probably never seen, yea I gotta keep saying it.. the Big East is known for their defensive struggles.

A three-point play on a running banker in the lane by Smith tied the game at 71.  Glen Sekunda, not afraid to shoot despite being a freshman, nailed a three from the top that even surprised Boeheim.

Sellers then rebounded a missed three by Fair and kicked out to Smith, who nailed a three from the top.  Syracuse swung the ball around and found Johnson for another trey at the wing.  Smith responded by just simply pulling up at the top and nailing a trifecta over Autry to tie the game again at 77 as the announcers and crowd were hyperventilating.

Uconn regained the lead as Sellers nailed two free throws with 3:59 left.  Sellers later found Fair on a cut for a layup to put the Huskies up 81-77.  With 2:37 to go, Sellers fouled McRae, who made two free throws.

After a turnover by each team, Fair made two more free throws to put UConn ahead 83-79 with 2:21 left.  All the Huskies now had to do to perhaps put the game away was grab a defensive rebound.  They did not as Syracuse got 4 shots before Johnson connected to cut the lead to 83-81.

Smith then tried to drive against Moten.  Johnson helped out and knocked the ball away.  Moten took it coast-to-coast for a slam to tie the game with just over a minute left.

After a timeout, UConn ran down most of the 45-second shot clock.  But they did not get a good shot (at least it wasn’t a good shot until Steph Curry started making them over 20 years later) as Smith forced up and missed a long three.  Sellers knocked the ball out of bounds and Syracuse got a timeout with 11.8 seconds left.

The Orangemen got the ball to the freshman Moten, who went 1-on-1 in the corner.  Moten missed a pull-up and as Johnson, McRae, and UConn’s Toraino Walker were going after a rebound, a foul was called.  It was whistled on Walker against evidently McRae with 3 seconds left, although it looked like it was against Johnson.

Either way, both McRae and Johnson came away from the scramble limping.  It was to be McRae, a 57% foul shooter, that would be sent to the line.  But in college basketball at the time there was a rule that if a player was “too injured” to shoot the free throw, the same team could pick someone that was sitting on their bench to come in and shoot the free throws.

To be clear, it couldn’t be one of the other four players in the game.  The player had to be on the bench at the time.  And this was opposed to the, still going, NBA rule where if a player was too injured, the other team got to choose the shooter off the bench and that “injured” player could not come back into the game.  Just imagine the Hack-a-Shaq strategy had the NBA had the college rule.

McRae went to the bench and Mike Hopkins, a 63% foul shooter but the best one Boeheim had on his bench, came in.  Hopkins nailed the first free throw to give Syracuse the lead and received a peck on the face from Lawrence Moten.  Perhaps nerved by that, Hopkins airballed the second free throw.

But Hopkins had given Syracuse the lead and, as it turned out, the win as UConn could not get a shot off in the final 3 seconds.  Smith’s pass through a triple-team was deflected (and, in case you were wondering, McRae was back in the game for that defensive sequence).

Despite the win for Syracuse, this would turn out to be a bad stretch for both teams. Connecticut would lose their next 2 games to bring their losing streak to 4.  The last of these losses came at home to Georgetown.  The Huskies got a week off before traveling to Georgetown to take on the Hoyas.

The Orangemen would go on a 4-game losing streak and would have a 2-6 finish to the regular season.  This included Notre Dame breaking Syracuse’s home winning streak and close losses at St. John’s, at home to Georgetown, and at UConn.  But the final blow looked like a death notice.  On the final day of the season, Syracuse was drubbed at home by Villanova 76-56.  The Wildcats passed Syracuse in the Big East standings as a result.  Villanova was 4th at 11-7 and Syracuse was 5th at 10-8.

But then Boeheim’s star-less group rose up in the Big East tournament.  They beat Villanova in a rematch 55-52, defeated top-seeded Seton Hall 70-66 in the Semis, and then took out Georgetown 56-54 to win the Big East tournament.

With that, the Orangemen would be named a #6 seed in the East Regional.

Connecticut starters (points scored)

Scott Burrell (14) – Small Forward

Toraino Walker (3) – Power Forward

Rod Sellers (15) – Center

Chris Smith (25) – Point Guard

Brian Fair (19) – Shooting Guard

Connecticut bench (points scored)

Donyell Marshall (7)

Kevin Ollie (0)

Donny Marshall (0)

Dan Cyrulik (0)

Connecticut Coach: Jim Calhoun

Syracuse starters (points scored)

Mike Hopkins (5) – Small Forward

Dave Johnson (26) – Power Forward

Dave Siock (0) – Center

Adrian Autry (12) – Point Guard

Lawrence Moten (23) – Shooting Guard

Syracuse bench (points scored)

Conrad McRae (13)

Glen Sekunda (5)

Michael Edwards (0)

Syracuse Coach: Jim Boeheim

mike hopkins

Mike Hopkins (who would be named as Boeheim’s eventual successor in 2015) hit the key free throw to give Syracuse an 84-83 win over UConn *photo courtesy of Syracuse.com

February 5, 1992 – (#1)Duke Blue Devils 73 @(#9)North Carolina Tarheels 75

A memorable game between Duke and North Carolina that’s stood the test of time.  The world got to know the likes of Eric Montross, Kevin Salvadori, Brian Reese, and Derrick Phelps for, really, the first time.

Montross, Reese and Phelps were part of Carolina’s great class for 1990-91.  But each had been inconsistent and really hadn’t stepped up to this point.  North Carolina as a whole had been Jekyl and Hyde-y all season.

The Tarheels started out ranked #8 after losing Rick Fox, Pete Chilcutt, King Rice, and Clifford Rozier (who transferred to Louisville).  Dean Smith brought back senior guard and best all-around player Hubert Davis, physical junior George Lynch along with reserves Matt Wenstrom and Henrik Rodl, the group of sophomores that also included Pat Sullivan, and freshman guard Donald Williams.

In their 5th game of the season, North Carolina destroyed #6 Seton Hall 83-54.  Two weeks later, they lost their ACC home opener to Florida State.  The Seminoles, who were without Doug Edwards on that day, then proceeded to call the UNC crowd a “wine and cheese” crowd at the Dean Dome.

North Carolina followed that loss with 4 straight wins before losing wire-to-wire to Notre Dame.  After another three-game winning streak, UNC took a tumble at N.C. State.  The Tarheels had now won two straight to bring their record to 15-3.  But now was the test for the Tarheels and the so-called wine and cheese crowd.

Duke was coming in at 17-0 and had won 23 straight ball games.  But the last team to beat them was North Carolina in the 1991 ACC Championship Game.

Carolina hustled at the start, but it didn’t always bring positive results.  Brian Reese nailed a three to put the Tarheels up 5-2 but then committed his 3rd foul in the first 3 minutes and sat for the rest of the half.

Carolina grabbed leads of 9-4 and then 11-7 before going into a drought with 5 minutes gone by.  Just like when they fell behind early against Florida State, Duke made a major run to take the lead.

Christian Laettner hit a face-up jumper from the baseline and, later, kicked out to Thomas Hill for a three.  Grant Hill then hit a baseline pull-up before Bobby Hurley came up with a steal and found Thomas Hill on a 2-on-1 for a layup.  Duke was on a 9-0 run and was ahead 16-11.

But just before the second media timeout, Hurley drove down the lane.  He had the ball stripped and landed awkwardly.  After committing a foul at the other end, Hurley went out and had his foot looked at.  He returned and played the rest of the game but a stress fracture was later discovered that put Hurley out for 3 1/2 weeks and 5 games.

As Carolina went on a 9-3 run to get back into the game, a trend was starting to develop.  7-footers Eric Montross and Kevin Salvadori were starting to give UNC second chances and were finishing inside.  They were also gaining confidence on the offensive end against Laettner.

A three-point play by Donald Williams on a lefty under-handed reverse shot while avoiding the defense put the Tarheels ahead 25-24.  The game went back and forth for the rest of the half as Hurley led Duke with 11 and Hubert Davis had 10 for North Carolina.

The Blue Devils led 39-38 at the break but two big factors went against them.  Carolina had gotten to the free throw line for often and Laettner and Grant Hill were held to 4 points.

The Tarheels had stayed with the #1 team, who was figured not to lose unless someone played a perfect game against them.  Now Carolina would come out flying in the 2nd half and give Duke their largest deficit of the season.

Montross hit Phelps on a cut for a layup.  Reese hit a runner from the baseline after up-faking Grant Hill and then Reese came right back with a pull-up after George Lynch came up with a steal.  Mike Krzyzewski had to use a timeout with 17:41 left but the run continued.

Lynch put back a miss by Phelps and Davis hit two free throws after a steal.  UNC now led 48-39 but two factors led to Duke coming back.  First, Lynch picked up his 4th foul and went out of the game with 6 rebounds.

Then, on a rebound scramble, Montross was elbowed below the eye and came up bleeding.  The refs had to stop the game as Dean Smith was incensed a foul wasn’t called.  Montross went out of the game and to the locker room to get his cut stitched up.  Eric had been winning his matchup against Laettner and it didn’t look like Laettner liked that.  Christian is credited for elbowing Montross and giving him the cut.

Then after Grant Hill hit a pull-up to cut the lead to 50-43, Dean Smith got a technical for coming out of the coaching box.  Smith was arguing Laettner knocking the ball away after it came through the hoop and not getting called.

Although Hurley missed both technical free throws, he fed Brian Davis for a layup.  Then on the next possession, Hurley penetrated and kicked out to Grant Hill.  Hill subsequently penetrated and crossed the ball out to Thomas Hill for a three.  The Carolina lead was down to 50-48 but they immediately responded.

Instead of calling a timeout, Reese took the ball right back at the Blue Devils and hit a finger roll in the lane.  Reese later found Salvadori for a slam to give UNC a 56-50 lead and force Coach K to use another timeout with 11:57 left.

After the timeout, Montross was back in.  Phelps tried to throw a lob to Montross but the ball actually went in the basket and Phelps was credited with a three.  Salvadori hit a turnaround from the baseline and Montross stepped in for a hook shot in the lane against Laettner.

But Duke stayed within striking distance as Thomas Hill hit some big shots.  Laettner would hit a step-back three and Grant Hill a pull-up in the lane but Duke still trailed.

Montross hit two free throws with dried blood streamed down from his right eye (a famous picture from this game) and Salvadori also hit two free throws.  North Carolina led 67-61 with around 8 minutes left.

But the Tarheels would have to avoid or withstand the final Duke run that Florida State was not able to contend with.  UNC went cold and took some bad shots.

Two breakaway layups by Brian Davis, as well as some offensive boardwork pulled Duke to within 67-66.  But Davis missed a key shot when Duke had a chance to lead.

Carolina hit 6-of-8 free throws, which included when Laettner picked up his 4th foul, to lead 73-67 with 2:32 left.  However, Duke made a furious rally as they got on the offensive boards and took advantage of bad shots being taken by Carolina when they could have run more time off the clock.

A putback by Brian Davis cut the lead to four, but he missed a free throw after drawing a foul on the play.  Duke had another chance at a three-point play after Phelps turned the ball over.  Grant Hill drove for a finer roll, but he missed the subsequent free throw.

However, Laettner back-tapped the rebound to Thomas Hill and Duke had a chance to tie.  They did exactly that with 1:01 to go when Laettner rebounded a Thomas Hill airball and put it back in.

Carolina came right back down and Phelps went 1-on-1 against Hurley.  Phelps (and perhaps Hurley’s injury) had held Hurley scoreless in the 2nd half while forcing 6 turnovers.  This time, he got Bobby in the air on a pump fake and drew a foul with 44.5 seconds left.  Phelps made his mark by sinking two free throws.

Duke didn’t use a timeout and Thomas Hill found Laettner on a cut for a seemingly easy basket.  But Christian was short on his banker and Montross rebounded.  Duke scrambled defensively and almost gave up a breakaway to Carolina.  But Hurley got back to cut off Reese, who missed his layup attempt.  Montross missed the follow-up and then tipped it to the corner where Laettner chased it down with 13 seconds left.

Duke, again, didn’t use a timeout and Laettner got the ball up top.  He drove into the lane but his pull-up jumper hit the back of the rim and then the front of the rim before falling out.  Phelps rebounded with 3 seconds left and ran out the clock.  The victory set off a wild celebration at the Dean Dome that put to rest any wine and cheese claims.

North Carolina had literally survived the hard way.  They did not score a field goal for the last 9:52 of the game but stayed alive with boardwork and free throws.  The big catalysts were the big men.  Montross had 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks.  Salvadori had 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks.  They had each out-played Laettner.

Carolina got to follow up almost immediately with a home game against Wake Forest that they also had to grind through.

Duke would have to travel to LSU without Bobby Hurley.  But they showed why they were still the #1 team in the nation with a great effort by everyone on the team in a 77-67 victory at a hostile environment.

Duke starters (points scored)

Brian Davis (17) – Small Forward

Grant Hill (10) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (12) – Center

Bobby Hurley (11) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (16) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Marty Clark (0)

Cherokee Parks (4)

Antonio Lang (3)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Brian Reese (10) – Small Forward

George Lynch (5) – Power Forward

Eric Montross (12) – Center

Derrick Phelps (9) – Point Guard

Hubert Davis (16) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Kevin Salvadori (12)

Pat Sullivan (6)

Donald Williams (3)

Henrik Rodl (2)

Matt Wenstrom (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

montross

The famous picture of this 1992 game, Eric Montross shooting a free throw with blood (although dried at this point) coming down his face *photo courtesy of USA Today

February 8, 1992 – Wake Forest Demon Deacons 78 @(#9)North Carolina Tarheels 80

Three days after their big win over Duke, the North Carolina Tarheels may have still been feeling the effects.

First off, Eric Montross had not practiced the past few days.  After a cut under his eye, as well as another one on the side of his head, Montross received a tetanus shot and had a negative reaction to it.  Montross had the chills the previous day and UNC wasn’t sure if he was going to play.  Kevin Salvadori started in Montross’ place but Eric did play.

Wake Forest had surprised in 1991 by climbing to 3rd place in the conference.  Dave Odom’s Demon Deacons had 4 senior starters returning as well as budding superstar Rodney Rogers.  The seniors were swingmen Chris King and Anthony Tucker, point guard Derrick McQueen, and center Phil Medlin.  Sophomore big man Trelonnie Owens came off the bench, but he would not be joined by classmate Randolph Childress.  Childress tore his ACL over the summer but would return in a big way after being red-shirted in 1992.

The loss of Childress was a big factor as Wake Forest’s only true guard that got much time was McQueen.  Tucker played back there but did not have the quickness to compete with the league’s two-guards.

Without Childress, Wake Forest got off to a slow start in the ACC and were 0-4 so far against the top tier teams of Duke, Florida State, and North Carolina.  UNC had won the first matchup decisively 90-79 as George Lynch had a dominant 26-point performance.  At the time of their second matchup with UNC, Wake Forest was 12-6 overall but 4-5 in the ACC, good for 5th place.

But the Deacs did not play like it in the 1st half.  Rogers started off the game with a steal and coast-to-coast slam.  Brian Reese responded for North Carolina with a three but the Tarheels would be done scoring field goals until around the 10-minute mark.  UNC missed 11 of their first 12 shots from the field.

Meanwhile, the quartet of Rogers, King, McQueen, and especially Tucker got Wake Forest out to a huge lead.  Tucker hit for 10 points early on, while King had 6, McQueen 5 and Rogers 4.  All of this led to a 28-8 Wake Forest lead as their offense looked about as efficient as an offense could be and their defense was flying around and creating havoc.

Hubert Davis finally got Carolina’s 2nd field goal but back-to-back baskets by Owens gave the Deacons their biggest lead at 32-10.

North Carolina made their biggest run of the 1st half with a 9-point surge to cut the lead to 32-19.  But from there, Wake Forest had an answer to keep the lead in double figures.  Tucker led the way with 14 points while Trelonnie Owens contributed 9 off the bench.  The Demon Deacons shot 61% from the field in the half.

The closest UNC got was 11 points just before the half.  But a blocked shot from Rogers prevented the Tarheels from cutting it closer.  King got a breakaway after that block.  Two more free throws from Tucker with 3.6 seconds left in the half put Wake Forest up 48-33 at the break.

North Carolina came out strong in the 2nd half and looked to establish themselves defensively.  They cut the lead back to 11 over the first few minutes, but McQueen knocked down a three to halt the first run.  Two power moves by Rogers inside increased the lead and then a second three from McQueen put Wake Forest up 60-42 with 15:23 left.

Rogers hit two more free throws to increase the lead to 20.  But then Carolina switched to the zone on defense and Hubert Davis got going on offense.  Davis got open for a three-pointer and then penetrated for two pull-up jumpers, the second one was made over Rogers while Rodney fouled him.  The 8-0 run by Davis cut the lead to 62-50 and the crowd was alive.

But Tucker responded with two straight jumpers to put the lead back at 16.  Tucker would hit a third straight jumper to give Wake Forest a 68-54 lead with about 10 minutes left.

Davis got going again over the next two minutes.  He scored all 7 points on a 7-2 Carolina run that cut the lead under double figures for the first time since Wake Forest’s big run to start the game.  The score was 70-61 Wake Forest with 7:51 left.

The Deacons continued to respond though.  Owens tipped in a miss by Rogers.  McQueen followed a three-pointer by Lynch with a trey of his own.  But finally, the momentum turned against Wake Forest on a seemingly accidental play.

They tried to alley-oop the ball to Trelonnie Owens but the lob was deflected.  Owens still grabbed the rim on his way by and was called for a technical.  By the letter of the rule, the technical was deserved because you couldn’t grab the rim unless you were in danger while airborne.  But there were many times that the “violation” was let go and its not like Owens grabbed it to gain an advantage.

Either way, it was a big technical against Wake Forest and Davis’ two free throws were part of a string of 6 straight Carolina foul shots to cut the lead to 75-70.  Davis then connected on a pull-up jumper from the wing for his 30th point (23rd in the 2nd half) to cut the lead to 75-72 with 4:04 left and force a Wake Forest timeout.

Kevin Salvadori hit a turnaround from the post to cut the lead to one.  But a big three-point play by King put the Deacons up 78-74 with 3:07 to go.  There still looked to be plenty of time for North Carolina as Reese cut the lead back to two points with a slam.  But the Tarheels could not get that tying field goal and had to resort to fouling.

Lynch committed his 5th foul on Rogers but Rodney missed the front end of the 1-and-1 (Wake Forest was not in the double bonus so they got 1-and-1’s for non-shooting fouls committed by UNC).  On Wake’s next possession, King missed an ill-advised shot against a double-team with 1:11 left.

But King came back to block a jump shot attempt by freshman Donald Williams and Williams committed a foul against Tucker.  Tucker missed the front end of the 1-and-1 and McQueen committed his 5th foul against Carolina reserve Pat Sullivan with 38.6 seconds to go.

Sullivan hit two clutch free throws to finally tie the game for North Carolina.  Wake Forest ran the clock down and called a timeout with 21.3 seconds left, going for the last shot.  Tucker lobbed the ball to King in the post on the inbounds, but Reese knocked the ball away to Derrick Phelps and now Carolina had the chance for the last shot.  Dean Smith used a timeout with 10.9 seconds left.

After not going to Davis on the last few possessions, North Carolina didn’t go to Davis again.  But it worked out as Reese penetrated and missed a pull-up in the lane.  But the ball bounced off the front rim right back to Reese, who connected on a pull-up from the right of the lane with 3 seconds left.  The clock ran out from there and North Carolina had another improbable victory.

The Tarheels had a week off after this whirlwind of a week with their victories over Duke and Wake Forest.  They won at Clemson before taking it on the chin at Virginia.  But they returned home two weeks after this game with a chance to avenge an earlier loss to N.C. State.

Meanwhile, Wake Forest had 4 straight home games following this choke-job (to say the least).  They seemed to rebound with victories in the first 3 games against Clemson, Virginia, and Davidson.  But their big test would come a day after UNC hosted N.C. State when the Duke Blue Devils came to Winston-Salem.

Wake Forest starters (points scored)

Chris King (13) – Small Forward

Rodney Rogers (12) – Power Forward

Phil Medlin (0) – Center

Derrick McQueen (16) – Point Guard

Anthony Tucker (20) – Shooting Guard

Wake Forest bench (points scored)

Trelonnie Owens (11)

Derrick Hicks (4)

Robert Doggett (2)

Wake Forest Coach: Dave Odom

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Brian Reese (9) – Small Forward

George Lynch (12) – Power Forward

Kevin Salvadori (8) – Center

Derrick Phelps (2) – Point Guard

Hubert Davis (30) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Eric Montross (11)

Pat Sullivan (2)

Henrik Rodl (4)

Donald Williams (2)

Matt Wenstrom (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

February 9, 1992 – (#24)Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 67 @Maryland Terrapins 65

Despite losing Kenny Anderson the previous year, Bobby Cremins and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were back at it with some NBA talent.  All 5 starters averaged double figures and there was no talk of a one-man team like there was in 1991.

Seniors Matt Geiger and Jon Barry led the way, along with junior Malcolm Mackey.  Barry averaged 16.8 points per game while Mackey was at 16 even.  Geiger was off to a good start but was now in a funk after learning that his twin brother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease.  Geiger would start to play better in a few weeks after going home to visit his brother during a break in the schedule.

Cremins would also bring in some talented freshmen.  Point guard Travis Best came from Springfield, Massachusetts and took the position vacated by Kenny Anderson.  Tech also got a local McDonald’s All-American in James Forrest.  Forrest, Mackey, and Geiger were a powerful front line.

But, as usual, Tech didn’t have much depth.  Bryan Hill averaged 4.2 points per game off the bench to be Tech’s leading reserve scorer.  There was also sophomores Ivano Newbill and Fred Vinson.

Georgia Tech got off to a 12-2 start, including a win over Kentucky.  But then the ACC schedule got going and Tech lost 5 of their next 6 ACC games and were on a 4-game conference losing streak.  But Maryland seemed like a break in the schedule.

Gary Williams took over his alma mater in 1989 but the Terrapins would soon go on probation.  But an All-American stayed despite that, and now senior Walt Williams was basically a one-man team.  But the country was taking notice of The Wizard after Maryland was barred from any television game in 1991.  Williams averaged 26.4 points per game and had scored over 30 in 8 straight games.

The Terps had some good players around Williams but not much NBA level talent.  Junior Evers Burns was a powerful player who averaged 15.6 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game.  Junior point guard Kevin McLinton also averaged double figures and led the team in assists.  Senior and former walk-on Vince Broadnax and rail thin junior center Chris Kerwin rounded out the lineup.  Like Tech, Maryland had no bench.

Maryland came into this game at 9-10 and were 2-7 in the ACC.  This would turn out to be Williams’ only losing season at Maryland.

The Terps did get off to a good start in this one as they forced 4 early Georgia Tech turnovers.  The Wizard nailed a three and Burns put back a miss for a quick 5-2 lead.

The game would go back and forth for the first 12 minutes or so.  Williams hit three early field goals before going cold.  Geiger led the way for Tech with 8 points.

The teams battled to a 21-all tie at the third media timeout with 7:47 left.  But then Tech went on a quick roll as Best found Newbill for a layup.  Barry then hit a runner in the lane before finding Best for a wing jumper.  The 6-0 run carried the Yellow Jackets to a 34-28 halftime lead.

But with Williams only shooting 3-for-12 in the 1st half, the 6-point lead was probably too small for Tech.  Maryland got going with a 13-4 run to start the 2nd half, culminating with a steal and reverse jam from the Wizard.  Cremins had to use a timeout at the 14:54 mark with his team now down 41-38.

But Georgia Tech would stay with them as Forrest scored 7 points, mostly at the free throw line.  Forrest drew Williams’ 4th foul with the game tied at 47.  But Maryland would try to prove they weren’t a one-man team.

The other 4 starters each got field goals over the next 6 minutes as the Terps ran off to a 60-53 lead with about 6 minutes left.  But then they went cold over the following 3 minutes despite Williams re-entering the game.

Tech meanwhile went on a 10-1 run as Best nailed a three, Mackey hit a turnaround from the post, Barry connected from deep, and then Forrest got a steal and slam for his 20th point.  Tech now led 63-61 with 3:14 left.

Kerwin finally ended Maryland’s drought with a tip-in to tie the game.  Burns then came up with a steal and fed it to Williams on a 2-on-1 break.  But the Wizard tried too hard to live up to his nickname and threw an ill-advised behind-the-back pass then went out of bounds.

Best came back with a pull-up jumper from the elbow.  Williams then hit two free throws to tie the game again with 1:35 left.  Both teams would then run down the clock and trade misses before Tech had possession and a chance for the last shot.

After a timeout with 10.8 seconds left, they went to Forrest inside.  His shot was blocked by Williams and knocked out of bounds by Maryland with 0.2 seconds left.

It was a rule in the NBA that you could not catch and shoot with under 0.3 seconds left on the clock, but this fact hadn’t reached the NCAA yet.  Barry lobbed an inbounds pass to Forrest in the middle of the lane.  In one motion, Forrest caught the ball, shot it, and made it to send Georgia Tech off with a win.

Looking at replay, there seemed to be no way Forrest got the ball off in time.  But this was in the days before instant replay in basketball (and, as a result, the final 2 minutes of the game were infinitely shorter and nobody got a free time out), so the basket was good.

This would not turn out to be Forrest’s biggest shot of the season.  Tech would lose their next two games to Duke and Florida State, but they won 4 of their final 5 games of the regular season to climb to 4th place in the ACC standings.  They would lose to Duke in the ACC Semifinals and be named a #7 seed in the Southeast Regional.

Maryland continued to be tough and took Duke to the wire at Cameron Indoor Stadium, losing 91-89.  The Terps would turn out to be a tough challenge for North Carolina late in the season.  That matchup was close to being more heart-breaking for Williams and his team than this loss.

Georgia Tech starters (points scored)

James Forrest (22) – Small Forward

Malcolm Mackey (6) – Power Forward

Matt Geiger (13) – Center

Travis Best (11) – Point Guard

Jon Barry (13) – Shooting Guard

Georgia Tech bench (points scored)

Bryan Hill (0)

Ivano Newbill (2)

Georgia Tech Coach: Bobby Cremins

Maryland starters (points scored)

Vince Broadnax (9) – Small Forward

Evers Burns (13) – Power Forward

Chris Kerwin (10) – Center

Kevin McLinton (12) – Point Guard

Walt Williams (21) – Shooting Guard

Maryland bench (points scored)

John Walsh (0)

Matt Downing (0)

Kurtis Shultz (0)

Maryland Coach: Gary Williams

February 11, 1992 – Illinois Fighting Illini 76 @Purdue Boilermakers 71 (OT)

Illinois had really struggled since the Big Ten season started.  Their only two wins (in 9 games) were at home against Purdue in overtime and Wisconsin.  But, like their loss to UConn, they were in several games but lost some heartbreakers.

They lost by two at Michigan State, by one at Minnesota, by two versus Ohio State, and by three at Northwestern.  Illinois had won one road game all year and were 8-11.  Now was a chance for another.

Purdue was 12-9 and still had an outside chance of an NCAA tournament berth.  Like Illinois with Deon Thomas, Purdue was a one-man show.  Senior guard Woody Austin, who missed the second half of the 1991 season with academic difficulties, averaged 18.5 points per game.  Fellow senior big man Craig Riley came on to average 11.0, but they were the only two players in double figures.

The rest of the lineup included sophomores Ian Stanback and Travis Trice (who would transfer to Butler following the season) and freshman forward Matt Waddell.  Off the bench came freshmen Cuonzo Martin (the only future NBA player on the team for the season) and Brandon Brantley, sophomores Cornelius McNary and Linc Darner and junior (and future head coach) Matt Painter.

Purdue’s best player though was ineligible for the 1992 season because of Prop 48.  Glenn Robinson, from Gary, Indiana, would be a future Player of the Year at Purdue but Gene Keady was without him for now.

Despite that, the Boilermakers got off to a great start in this ballgame.  Their two inside people, Riley and Stanback, got their first 9 points from the paint.  Then Austin nailed a three to put Purdue up 12-3.

They would increase that lead to 23-10 at the 8:11 mark as Illinois hit 1 of their first 13 field goal attempts.  But then the Illini did a 180 and turned the game around.  They went inside to Deon Thomas (who scored, got to the line, and drew 3 fouls from Riley) and also got a big three from Tom Michael.

Purdue would go on a 7-minute field goal drought and a three-point play by Michael cut the lead to 28-26.  The Boilermakers still held a 32-28 halftime lead as Austin led the way with 9 and Riley had 8.  Thomas led Illinois with 9 and Michael had 8.

Purdue grew its lead back to 8 early in the 2nd half before Illinois point guard Rennie Clemons, who had struggled for the most part this season, got going with two buckets and a lead pass to T.J. Wheeler for a jumper.  Clemons would show aggressiveness in the 2nd half as he penetrated and either scored or found people for layups.

Thomas also continued to dominate inside as he drew the 4th fouls from Stanback and Riley.  But Purdue kept its lead and would increase it back to 54-46 with about 7 minutes left.

The Boilermakers would go into another field goal drought as Riley fouled out continuing to try and guard Thomas.  Deon’s three-point play cut the lead to 57-55.  Then with 2 minutes left, a turnaround banker by Thomas tied the game at 59.  Illinois then took a 61-59 lead when Wheeler lobbed to Thomas for a layup.

Purdue used a timeout with 41.8 seconds left as they were behind for the first time all game and their crowd was stunned.  Keady put the ball in Austin’s hands.  He missed a baseline jumper but chased down his miss at the foul line.  Austin then made the jumper from there to tie the game at 61.

Lou Henson used a timeout with 16.2 seconds left.  Illinois tried to get the ball inside to Thomas but couldn’t.  Clemons had to force a long shot at the buzzer and hit nothing but backboard.  This would be the 2nd game between these two teams on the season that went into overtime.

Stanback fouled out early in overtime after hitting a turnaround jumper from the post.  This would turn out to be Purdue’s only field goal until it was too little too late.  Clemons found Thomas for a layup to put Illinois up 64-63.  That would turn out to be Illinois’ only overtime field goal.

But they hit 12 of their final 14 free throws.  And even the two that were missed by walk-on freshman Will Tuttle were rebounded by T.J. Wheeler.  This happened in a crucial situation with Illinois only up three with 25.2 seconds left.  Austin had committed his 5th foul on Tuttle but Purdue would have had a chance to tie it had they rebounded.

Meanwhile, the Boilermakers missed some clutch free throws as freshman Matt Waddell missed two that would’ve given Purdue a 67-66 lead.  Clemons then hit two free throws and Illinois’ only time they were challenged from there on was when Wheeler had to rebound Tuttle’s second miss.  Wheeler then went 4-for-4 in the final seconds.

This loss all but assured Purdue would not be in the NCAA tournament.  But they did knock in-state rival Indiana off on the final day of the season and cost the Hoosiers a share of the Big Ten title.  Purdue lost in the 3rd game of the NIT to Florida.

And while Illinois would not lose at home for the rest of the season, this included a win over Michigan State, they could not win another road game and finished the season at 13-15.  It would be Lou Henson’s only losing season in his final 18 at Illinois.

Both teams would be back in the NCAA tournament next season and Purdue would soon return to the high rankings that they enjoyed in the late 80’s.

Illinois starters (points scored)

Tom Michael (13) – Small Forward

Robert Bennett (2) – Power Forward

Deon Thomas (32) – Center

Rennie Clemons (10) – Point Guard

T.J. Wheeler (13) – Shooting Guard

Illinois bench (points scored)

Scott Pierce (2)

Brooks Taylor (2)

Marc Davidson (2)

Will Tuttle (0)

Illinois Coach: Lou Henson

Purdue starters (points scored)

Matt Waddell (10) – Small Forward

Ian Stanback (11) – Power Forward

Craig Riley (11) – Center

Travis Trice (6) – Point Guard

Woody Austin (22) – Shooting Guard\

Purdue bench (points scored)

Cuonzo Martin (9)

Cornelius McNary (2)

Matt Painter (0)

Linc Darner (0)

Brandon Brantley (0)

Purdue Coach: Gene Keady

February 16, 1992 – (#1)Duke Blue Devils 71 @N.C. State Wolfpack 63

As they say, its not unreasonable when you’re the best of the best to get the best shot from every opponent.  Even struggling teams like North Carolina State on their home court, where Duke hadn’t won since 1986.

Les Robinson and the Wolfpack realized how tough life would be without the backcourt combination of Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe.  Tom Gugliotta returned and had a senior season in which he averaged 22.5 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game.  Gugliotta’s play rose his stock enough to have him be the #6 pick in the NBA draft.

But Gugliotta had little help.  Bryant Feggins tore his ACL in the pre-season and would be red-shirted.  That meant every starter except Gugliotta and junior center Kevin Thompson was new.  This included two freshmen.

But swingman Mark Davis and point guard Curtis Marshall were not quite the answer.  Neither was JC transfer Donnie Seale, the 5th starter.  The 6th man was sophomore shooter Migjen Bakalli.  Davis did average double figures, but he, Gugliotta and Thompson were the only ones.

N.C. State came into the game with a 9-14 record and had lost 8 in a row.  They had been off to a decent 9-6 start after they beat North Carolina at home.  But they hadn’t won since.

Duke was 2-0 without Bobby Hurley after beating LSU and Georgia Tech on the road.  Grant Hill had moved to the point guard and Duke had a freakishly athletic team with Grant and Thomas Hill, Brian Davis, and Antonio Lang in the starting lineup with Christian Laettner.  But the bench was even thinner and one figured they wouldn’t be able to win a National Championship without Hurley.

The Wolfpack played inspired early on.  Davis dove on the floor and then found Marshall for a breakaway.  Marshall drove for a layup at the end of the shot clock.  Davis put back a miss by Gugliotta.  Gugliotta nailed a three and then a free throw.  N.C. State led 10-5 six minutes into the game.

Duke’s pressure defense started to take effect when Thomas Hill got a steal.  Grant Hill then showed off his athleticism by jumping over Davis and slamming one down while drawing a foul.  Hill’s elbows were over the rim.

But N.C. State held a steady lead at 18-14 after Gugliotta nailed his second three-pointer.  But Gugliotta picked up his 2nd foul and Duke went on a 6-0 run keyed by their pressure.

Grant Hill got a breakaway after Brian Davis came up with a steal.  Then Thomas Hill got a steal and layup.  The Wolfpack stayed in the game but weren’t being helped when they missed several of their layup attempts.

Gugliotta then was called for an offensive foul for his 3rd.  A Laettner steal and Thomas Hill breakaway put Duke up 26-20.  But the Wolfpack hung tough without Gugliotta and cut it to 30-29 with around 2 minutes to go in the 1st half.

However, Laettner threw some daggers.  He hit a three and drew a foul, although he missed the free throw.  Then in the final seconds of the half, Grant Hill penetrated and kicked out to Laettner for another three from the top that put Duke up 36-31 at halftime.

N.C. State would stay within range for the first few minutes of the 2nd half despite a slam and a three-pointer from Thomas Hill.  But with Duke up 43-36 and 16:22 to go, Gugliotta picked up his 4th foul and had to sit.

The game was effectively over after that.  Laettner got a three-point play and Brian Davis got a breakaway after a steal by Lang.

Gugliotta would come back into the game and do his best to save the Wolfpack.  He hit two three-pointers to cut a 14-point lead to 53-44.  He was then fouled by Lang on a third three-point attempt.  But in a big spot, Gugliotta hit only 1 of the 3 free throws.

Duke would continue to get out on the break with Davis being the main beneficiary in the last 10 minutes with two slams.  Although Duke never gained more than a 14-point lead, the Wolfpack never got closer than the final margin.

But Duke would find life tougher without Hurley over the next few games.  They survived a scare from Maryland at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 91-89, and then traveled to Wake Forest for another tough game.

N.C. State would get 5 days off before traveling to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to take on the Tarheels and try to break their 9-game losing streak.

Duke starters (points scored)

Brian Davis (8) – Small Forward

Antonio Lang (6) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (16) – Center

Grant Hill (20) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (16) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Marty Clark (5)

Cherokee Parks (0)

Kenny Blakeney (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

N.C. State starters (points scored)

Mark Davis (10) – Small Forward

Tom Gugliotta (23) – Power Forward

Kevin Thompson (12) – Center

Curtis Marshall (6) – Point Guard

Donnie Seale (6) – Shooting Guard

N.C. State bench (points scored)

Migjen Bakalli (6)

Lakista McCuller (0)

Jamie Knox (0)

Marc Lewis (0)

N.C. State Coach: Les Robinson

February 19, 1992 – (#21)Connecticut Huskies 58 @(#25)Georgetown Hoyas 60

The difficult stretch continued for Connecticut as they lost two home games to Seton Hall and Georgetown.  But they had a week off to think about their 4-game losing streak before going at it against the Hoyas again.

For John Thompson and Georgetown, the star was senior center Alonzo Mourning.  Mourning benefited from the departure of Dikembe Mutombo by averaging 21.3 points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game, and 5.0 blocked shots per game.  Mourning was well on his way to being the #3 pick in the NBA draft.

But, as was the case for the twin towers the previous season, Mourning had little help.  The only other Hoya to get credit for averaging double figures was Charlie Harrison, who transferred to Wake Forest after 12 games for reasons that he wasn’t letting the public know about.  With Harrison gone, freshman Irvin Church stepped in to be the starter.

Church, along with sophomores Robert Churchwell and Joey Brown, averaged between 9.5 and 9.7 points per game.  Senior Brian Kelly was the 5th starter after freshman Don Reid started 10 games early on.  Reid would become a solid player at Georgetown and carved out an 8-year NBA career.

Along with Reid and Church, there were freshmen John Jacques, Kevin Millen, and Lonnie Harrell.  All played in this contest while veterans like Lamont Morgan, Pascal Fleury, and Ronnie Thompson (the coach’s son) didn’t.

The game described between Syracuse and Connecticut would not be the same that happened here.  The Big East that we know and love was back.

Connecticut slumped back into a zone to defend Mourning.  But Georgetown still gained an early lead thanks to offensive rebounds and the Church boys.

Robert Churchwell and Irvin Church had big games against UConn the previous week.  They kept it going early for the 15-6 Hoyas by scoring 9 of Georgetown’s first 12 points.  Meanwhile, Connecticut’s seniors, Chris Smith and Rod Sellers, were scoreless for the first 9 minutes.

Mourning broke free for a hook shot in the lane for his first field goal.  Then baskets by freshmen reserves Jacques and Millen put Georgetown up 18-11 before Sellers got his first basket on a hook shot in the lane.

Sellers later hit two free throws and then had a strong effort with three shots against Mourning before putting one down to cut Georgetown’s lead to 24-21.  Then a three-point play on a running banker by Smith gave him his first points and tied the game at 24 with 3:20 left.

Mourning and Jacques got baskets before Smith initiated a 6-0 run to give UConn the lead late in the half.  Smith hit two buckets and found Scott Burrell for a breakaway.  But a turnaround jumper in the lane by Churchwell with 9 seconds left tied the game at 30 for halftime.

Georgetown then came out flying in the 2nd half.  Church nailed a three, Mourning hit a hook from the baseline, then Alonzo blocked a shot which led to a 2-on-1 break in which Brown found Churchwell for a slam.  Jim Calhoun had to use a timeout with 2 minutes and 39 seconds gone by.

But the run continued.  Church nailed another three and Mourning found Kelly on a cut for a layup.  It was now 42-30 Georgetown and it took UConn 3 minutes and 48 seconds to put the ball in the hoop.

However, just when you thought John Thompson and Georgetown couldn’t be stopped, the Hoyas went for the next 11 minutes without a field goal.

It took all of that time for UConn to pull to a 48-all tie on two free throws by Donyell Marshall.  Church finally broke the ice with a baseline jumper.  Harrell then nailed a three for a 5-point Hoyas lead.

UConn followed with an 8-0 run as Smith and Marshall each scored 4 points.  Mourning hit two free throws with 2:46 left to cut the lead to 56-55.  Smith responded with a baseline jumper over Mourning.  But Irvin Church tied the game with his 4th three-pointer with under 2:00 left.

The teams traded misses before UConn got the ball for the last shot.  They ran the clock down to 13.8 seconds and called a timeout.

The Huskies had a chance to end their 4-game losing streak if they could put the ball in the hole.  What happened instead would be a cold, hard slap in the face.

UConn got the ball to Smith who was trapped in the back court.  He forwarded the ball to Burrell, who would also be trapped at the wing.  Burrell crossed the ball to freshman Brian Fair, who was open.  The pass went off Fair’s hands and face (I wasn’t referring to this as the cold slap in the face) and deflected right to Joey Brown.

Brown went coast-to-coast with only Smith to beat.  Brown got the ball past a reaching Smith and laid it in with his right hand from the left side of the basket at the buzzer.  The Capital Centre (which was criticized as not being a “college atmosphere”) went crazy and Connecticut’s losing streak reached 5 games.

They would not fully recover to save their season.  Although they defeated Providence to end their losing streak, UConn lost some more key Big East games and finished tied with Syracuse for 5th with a 10-8 conference record.  UConn was seeded 6th in the Big East tournament and lost to 3rd seeded St. John’s in overtime, 64-59, in the Quarterfinals.  The Huskies were then named a #9 seed in the Southeast Regional.  They drubbed Nebraska in the 1st round before being drubbed by top-seeded Ohio State 78-55 in the 2nd round.

Meanwhile, Georgetown would tie for the Big East regular season title at 12-4.  But they lost a key game to Seton Hall and were a #2 seed behind the Pirates as a result in the Big East Tournament.  No matter, the Hoyas beat Miami, Florida (in their first Big East season) and St. John’s to reach the title game, where they were upset by Syracuse.  Georgetown would be named a #6 seed in the West Regional.  They defeated South Florida before sending Alonzo Mourning out with a loss to 3rd seeded Florida State, 78-68, after leading 32-23 at halftime.

Georgetown would not fully be back until Allen Iverson showed up in 1994.

Connecticut starters (points scored)

Scott Burrell (9) – Small Forward

Donyell Marshall (15) – Power Forward

Rod Sellers (12) – Center

Chris Smith (15) – Point Guard

Brian Fair (3) – Shooting Guard

Connecticut bench (points scored)

Donny Marshall (2)

Gilad Katz (2)

Dan Cyrulik (0)

Connecticut Coach: Jim Calhoun

Georgetown starters (points scored)

Robert Churchwell (14) – Small Forward

Brian Kelly (2) – Power Forward

Alonzo Mourning (12) – Center

Joey Brown (5) – Point Guard

Irvin Church (16) – Shooting Guard

Georgetown bench (points scored)

Lonnie Harrell (3)

John Jacques (4)

Kevin Millen (2)

Don Reid (2)

Georgetown Coach: John Thompson

alonzo mourning

Alonzo Mourning hits his hook shot over Rod Sellers in a season that saw Mourning become an All-American but Georgetown failed to reach the Sweet 16 for the 3rd straight season *photo courtesy of Pinterest

February 22, 1992 – N.C. State Wolfpack 99 @(#4)North Carolina Tarheels 94

I’m sure Mark Davis and Kevin Thompson of North Carolina State have had better days in their life than February 22, 1992 (perhaps in their basketball life too, after high school), but this sure would be a memorable one for both.

With a 9-game losing streak for the Wolfpack, their in-state rival North Carolina had the distinct honor of being the last team to lose to N.C. State.

Tom Gugliotta scored 36 points, including 8 three-pointers, to lead the Wolfpack to a 99-88 win at home.  But now the rematch was in Chapel Hill against a Tarheel team trying to recover from an 86-73 loss at Virginia.

The Tarheels got off to a great start as they looked to have the advantage down low.  Eric Montross scored 6 points early on as he continued to play with the confidence he picked up during the Duke game.

Hubert Davis also helped with 6 more to give UNC a 19-12 lead.  Hubert then connected from three-point range to give UNC a 10-point lead.  The Tarheels would eventually increase it to 30-19 before Mark Davis started launching threes.

Davis hit three treys over the next few minutes but North Carolina held steady to a 42-32 lead with 4 minutes to go in a fast-paced 1st half that would normally favor the Tarheels.

But N.C. State was playing as if they had nothing to lose.  Curtis Marshall and Davis connected on threes for N.C. State.  Thompson hit two free throws and then Marshall connected on another three.  Within the span of a minute, N.C. State had taken a 43-42 lead.

The Wolfpack would hold a 47-46 lead at halftime as Davis and Thompson each had 12 and Gugliotta had 11.  Hubert Davis led UNC with 11 but Montross had been held to 2 points over the last 16 minutes of the half.

The fast pace continued as the teams battled to a 54-all tie over the first 3 minutes of the 2nd half.  UNC then went on its run as Derrick Phelps went coast-to-coast after a steal, George Lynch tipped in a miss by Hubert Davis, Davis hit two free throws, and Pat Sullivan nailed a three for a 63-54 Tarheels advantage.

Later, a four-point play by Hubert Davis put the Tarheels up 69-59.  But the Wolfpack stayed with them as Kevin Thompson, despite playing with 3 fouls, started to dominate down low.  Thompson scored 11 points over the next 6 minutes to lead the Wolfpack back to a 77-all tie.

But Thompson picked up his 4th foul with 7:13 to go and the Wolfpack down 79-77.  Les Robinson took Thompson out and went with a small lineup that had Gugliotta at center.  This created matchup problems for Dean Smith’s Tarheels and, especially, Eric Montross.  Montross was in the lane looking for a perimeter guy to guard as N.C. State swung the ball.

Marshall got open as Montross rushed out to him.  But the freshman nailed the three for an 80-79 Wolfpack lead.  Gugliotta followed with a three on the next possession and Smith had to use a timeout with 6:14 left.

North Carolina came back to tie it and Thompson came back in and scored after penetration by Donnie Seale.  Seale then drove baseline on the next possession and slammed one down over the 7-foot Kevin Salvadori while drawing a foul.  The three-point play put N.C. State up 88-84.

But Hubert Davis answered with a three and North Carolina still trailed by only one with around 2 minutes to go.  Davis connected on another three to put the Tarheels up 92-90 and give Hubert 30 points.

Mark Davis followed by missing a three.  But Seale got the offensive rebound and Davis got open again.  This time, Mark connected on his 7th three-pointer of the game to give N.C. State a 93-92 lead.

North Carolina had three shots on their next possession but couldn’t score.  Gugliotta finally pulled down a defensive rebound and was fouled by George Lynch with 1:09 to go.

Gugliotta made both free throws but Brian Reese hit a pull-up jumper in the lane to cut the lead back to 95-94.  Hubert Davis then drew an offensive foul call on Seale with 49.2 seconds left.

But Davis couldn’t connect on a jumper and Lynch knocked the ball out of bounds with 33.4 seconds left.  Phelps fouled Marshall 4 seconds later and Curtis made both free throws.

Lynch and Davis each missed a three-point attempt that could have tied the game.  Gugliotta rebounded Davis’ miss and was fouled by Lynch with 12.1 seconds left.  That foul was Lynch’s 5th.  He had contributed a double-double.

N.C. State finished it off from the foul line and had swept North Carolina in a season series for the first time since 1974, when they had a much much better team.  Davis, Thompson, and Gugliotta each had over 20 points as the Wolfpack handed the 4th ranked Tarheels their second straight loss.

The losing streak reached 3 for UNC after they were drubbed at Florida State 110-94.  Their next game was at Maryland, usually a good place to end a losing streak.

For N.C. State, this would probably be their best win for a few years.  They didn’t beat a ranked opponent again until 1994 and they didn’t beat an opponent in the top 10 until 1995, when they upset top ranked North Carolina again but this time at Reynolds Coliseum.

The Wolfpack finished 7th in the ACC in 1992 and avoided the new play-in game between the 8th and 9th seeds for the ACC tournament (added with the addition of Florida State).  But over the last 4 seasons under Les Robinson, N.C. State would participate in the play-in game each season.  As a result, the game became known in ACC country as the Les Robinson Invitational.

Robinson’s team didn’t win the play-in game until 1996 and in 1997, under new coach Herb Sendek, N.C. State won the play-in game and then made it all the way to the ACC Championship Game.

N.C. State starters (points scored)

Mark Davis (25) – Small Forward

Tom Gugliotta (24) – Power Forward

Kevin Thompson (29) – Center

Curtis Marshall (12) – Point Guard

Donnie Seale (7) – Shooting Guard

N.C. State bench (points scored)

Migjen Bakalli (0)

Lakista McCuller (2)

N.C. State Coach: Les Robinson

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Henrik Rodl (3) – Small Forward

George Lynch (13) – Power Forward

Eric Montross (15) – Center

Derrick Phelps (8) – Point Guard

Hubert Davis (30) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Brian Reese (12)

Kevin Salvadori (4)

Pat Sullivan (7)

Donald Williams (2)

Matt Wenstrom (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

tom gugliotta

Tom Gugliotta had an outstanding senior season in 1992 despite the struggles of his team *photo courtesy of Getty Images

February 23, 1992 – (#7)Indiana Hoosiers 86 @(#6)Ohio State Buckeyes 80

Ever since the last time we saw both of these teams (on that December 21, 1991 date), they’d pretty much been dominating the competition.

Indiana was 19-4 with a 10-2 Big Ten mark while Ohio State was 17-4 with a 9-2 Big Ten record.  Indiana had won the first matchup between these two teams in Bloomington 91-83 despite Jim Jackson’s career high of 31 points.

That and a close loss at Minnesota were the only squeakers Indiana would play in since the St. John’s game on that December 21, 1991 date.  The Buckeyes would have a few more with close home wins against Iowa and Minnesota and a two-point win at Illinois.  They also lost by four at Seton Hall and took it on the chin at Iowa in their previous game as Jackson struggled.

But the Buckeyes hadn’t lost at home since February 10, 1990 versus Michigan State, a streak of 30 consecutive home wins.

One of those wins came in double overtime against the Hoosiers the previous season.  That was a game that Indiana probably felt they should have won but Jim Jackson would not let the Buckeyes lose.  He would try for a similar finish in their 1992 matchup in Columbus.

The biggest difference with the Buckeyes was that former Hoosier Lawrence Funderburke was now eligible after not playing in a Division 1 game for over 2 years and was the starting center for Randy Ayers.  Funderburke came in the same class as Calbert Cheaney and the rest but left Indiana after 6 games.  He proved to be a big, athletic shot-blocking presence in this ball game as he finished with 7 blocks and a near triple-double.

Indiana got off to the good start though as Alan Henderson, who didn’t play in the first matchup (or in the previous year’s classic being that he was a freshman in 1992), scored 6 points to give the Hoosiers an 8-4 lead.  But then Jamaal Brown hit a running banker in the lane and two free throws to tie the game.  Mark Baker took over from there.

Baker went coast-to-coast for a layup after Funderburke got a blocked shot.  Then on the next transition break, Chris Jent found Baker with a behind-the-back pass for a layup.  Bob Knight had to use a timeout with 15:14 left.

But it didn’t help initially as Baker scored 12 points over the first 12 minutes to give Ohio State the lead.  Meanwhile, Indiana’s starting back court of Damon Bailey and Greg Graham were scoreless during that stretch.  Ohio State took a 28-20 lead with about 8 minutes left.

But Indiana got back into it as Graham scored 6 points to help out Henderson and Calbert Cheaney.  The Hoosiers cut the lead down to 36-32 with 2:50 left.  Cheaney then hit a jumper from the baseline and threw down an alley-oop off a feed from Chris Reynolds to tie the game.

Damon Bailey then connected on his first field goal when he hit a three to give the Hoosiers a 39-36 lead.  Baker hit a pull-up from the top in the last 10 seconds for his 14th point of the 1st half.  But Indiana got it to Bailey, who dribbled it to about 4 feet beyond the three-point line at the top before launching a prayer.

It banked in and Indiana had a bushel of momentum going into the 2nd half with a 42-38 lead.  Cheaney had 16 points for the Hoosiers while Henderson had 12.  Jackson’s struggles from the Iowa game continued as he managed only 6 points in the 1st half.

Bailey’s banker did prove to be a momentum surge as the Hoosiers scored the first 7 points of the 2nd half.  Henderson hit a turnaround jumper from the baseline, Cheaney hit a three from the corner, and Bailey hit a jumper from the elbow.

The game then went back and forth as Indiana couldn’t pull away but Ohio State couldn’t catch up over the next few minutes.  But finally the Buckeyes went to their best offense; Jim Jackson going 1-on-1 at the top of the key and getting into the lane.

Jackson scored 6 Buckeye points in a row to cut the lead to 62-60.  Then Funderburke found reserve junior Tom Brandewie for a short banker to tie the game with about 10 minutes left.

But, just like that, the momentum did another 180.  Cheaney hit a hook shot in the lane and then connected on a three.  Bailey hit a pull-up jumper at the end of the shot clock.  Cheaney hit another jumper at the wing.  Bailey found reserve Matt Nover for a turnaround jumper in the lane.  Henderson capped an 11-2 run with a steal and slam.  Indiana led 75-64 as Ohio State had gone away from getting Jackson at the top of the floor.

The Buckeyes could not catch up from there as Indiana hit enough big free throws to hold them off.  The Hoosiers had the big win at Ohio State to break the Buckeyes’ home winning streak.

They had a game and a half lead in the Big Ten with two victories over the Buckeyes.  It seemed they had a cinch Big Ten title, but they had some tough road games remaining.

Ohio State didn’t make it easy either as they raked through the rest of their Big Ten schedule and won 6 in a row to finish the season.

Indiana starters (points scored)

Calbert Cheaney (28) – Small Forward

Eric Anderson (4) – Power Forward

Alan Henderson (24) – Center

Damon Bailey (17) – Point Guard

Greg Graham (7) – Shooting Guard

Indiana bench (points scored)

Chris Reynolds (3)

Matt Nover (3)

Jamal Meeks (0)

Indiana Coach: Bob Knight

Ohio State starters (points scored)

Jim Jackson (24) – Small Forward

Chris Jent (14) – Power Forward

Lawrence Funderburke (8) – Center

Mark Baker (22) – Point Guard

Jamaal Brown (6) – Shooting Guard

Ohio State bench (points scored)

Tom Brandewie (4)

Jamie Skelton (2)

Ohio State Coach: Randy Ayers

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Despite Jim Jackson’s best efforts, the Hoosiers swept Ohio State in 1992.  From left to right is Calbert Cheaney (#40 in red), Jackson (scoring), Damon Bailey (#22), Alan Henderson (boxing out) and Lawrence Funderburke *photo courtesy of Getty Images

February 23, 1992 – (#1)Duke Blue Devils 68 @Wake Forest Demon Deacons 72

Part of Wake Forest’s resurgence into 3rd place in the ACC in 1991 was a home win over Duke.  And while they were off their 1991 pace, Wake Forest had won 3 games in a row, after blowing it at North Carolina, to get their ACC record back to 6-6.

But now they would get their biggest challenge.  Duke had not missed a beat without Bobby Hurley.  They were being cautious with Hurley and saying he probably wouldn’t return until the final 2 games of the regular season at the earliest.  After what would happen in the last 5 minutes of this game, it may not be surprising that Hurley was back for Duke’s next game.

The Blue Devils showed some chinks though as they survived a home game against Maryland, 91-89, when Antonio Lang put back a miss by Laettner and drew a foul.

But Duke stayed right with Wake Forest early on in this ballgame.  The Deacons did go on an 8-1 run to take a 16-11 lead but Duke got right back to tie it at 18.  Then Rodney Rogers, who had scored 6 points early on, picked up his 2nd foul and had to sit for a minute.

Thomas Hill hit a three and then a pull-up from baseline.  Grant Hill followed with a spin and a pull-up in the lane.  Duke led 25-20 and were shooting 11-for-15 from the field.  Wake Forest had connected on 10 of their first 14 field goals.

But then Anthony Tucker, who had a career-high 31 points in Wake’s win over Duke the previous season, got going.  He hit a pull-up in the lane and drew a foul on Thomas Hill.  Then after Rogers came back in and made a bucket, Tucker hit another pull-up and drew another foul, this one on Grant Hill.

Christian Laettner then picked up an “unsportsmanlike” technical foul.  Unsportsmanlike has to be acknowledged based on what would happen in the 2nd half.  But Tucker hit a free throw and then connected on another one-dribble pull-up jumper from the baseline.  Wake Forest now led 31-25 and Tucker had 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting.

But Wake Forest would follow with a 5 minute drought against Duke’s matchup zone defense.  While Duke didn’t burn the nets during that stretch, they did take a 35-31 lead when Grant Hill threw down an alley-oop pass from sophomore Marty Clark.  A tip-in by Trelonnie Owens just before the half broke Wake Forest’s dry spell and cut Duke’s lead to 35-33 at the break.

The Deacons tied the game at 39 through the first 2 minutes of the 2nd half before Duke went on another run.  Laettner connected on a corner three.  Thomas Hill hit a turnaround from the baseline.  Grant Hill tipped in his own miss and then found Brian Davis on the break for a three-point play.

After Laettner hit two more free throws, Duke led 51-45.  Thomas Hill connected on his 3rd three-pointer of the game to increase the lead to 9.

The Blue Devils would regain a nine-point lead when Thomas Hill blocked a shot that led to a break in which Grant Hill found Laettner for a slam.  Laettner appeared to be in an awkward position after slamming one down, so he hung on the rim.  But then he opened his mouth and stuck a leg in Rogers’ face.  For this, he was called for a technical.

This would be his 2nd technical of the game but he wasn’t ejected.  According to the announcers, only one of his technicals were “unsportsmanlike” so he could stay in the game as long as he didn’t pick up another technical, either unsportsmanlike or otherwise.

While this is very confusing for someone watching the game from a 21st century perspective.  This sentence from the Technical Foul Wikipedia page seems to explain it in terms of FIFA rules:

FIBA rules do not provide for ejection for any number of non-flagrant technicals (known as unsportsmanlike fouls under that body’s rules) against a player, except in 3×3, in which two unsportsmanlike fouls result in ejection.

With that being said, it didn’t seem like Wake Forest or their coach Dave Odom was too enraged about the fact that Laettner was still in the game.  So, perhaps better from a 1992 perspective, that rule seemed cut and dry.

Either way, Duke grew its lead to as much as 10 and Wake Forest could not get closer than 6 over the next few minutes.  When the game clock ticked under 7 minutes, Duke started to milk their possessions more.

It worked initially as Thomas Hill hit one baseline pull-up at the end of the shot clock.  Then on the next possession, Laettner found Hill for a baseline jumper and a foul.  This three-point play put Duke up 67-57 with around 5 minutes left.

But then Wake Forest started to gamble with not being in the foul penalty yet.  Over the next 2 minutes, Tucker hit a pull-up in the lane and Rogers kicked out to Derrick McQueen for a three.  The lead was down to 67-62 and Mike Krzyzewski had to use a timeout with 3:23 left.

Duke would continue to run down the shot clock but they weren’t being too aggressive.  Meanwhile, Wake Forest continued to gamble for steals and would continue to get them.

Owens knocked the ball away from Laettner and Tucker was fouled on a breakaway.  After Anthony hit two free throws, McQueen got a steal from Duke’s “point guard” Grant Hill.  McQueen then found Owens, who drew a foul on Hill and made the basket.  The three-point play tied the game at 67 with 2 minutes left and the crowd was alive.

Brian Davis drove and drew a foul on Chris King.  But Davis made 1 of 2 free throws.  Rogers then crossed the ball to Tucker, who connected on another baseline pull-up to give Wake Forest a 69-68 lead.

Grant Hill then drew a foul on Tucker with 1:08 left.  But Hill, who had greatly improved from the foul line as a sophomore, missed both free throws.  Wake Forest followed with a turnover but Duke could not grab the lead as Thomas Hill was called for traveling with 13.1 seconds left.

Davis fouled King with 11.8 to go.  King made the front end of the 1-and-1 but missed the second.  However, Wake Forest back-tapped and recovered the rebound and Thomas Hill had to foul Rogers with 5.2 seconds left.  But Rodney missed the front end of the 1-and-1, Grant Hill grabbed the rebound, and Duke used a timeout with 4.5 seconds left.

Then, in what became a prelude for a game later this season, Grant Hill threw a full-length inbounds pass to Christian Laettner.  Hill’s pass seemed to curve toward the left sideline.  Laettner caught it but his momentum took him briefly out of bounds before he could make his move.

After the turnover, Chris King put the game away with two free throws.

It was a shocking loss for Duke and it seemed like a consensus from the broadcasting team that Duke wouldn’t have lost that lead with Bobby Hurley in the lineup.  Hurley returned for their next game at Duke rebounded to beat Virginia at home.

But Hurley would be a bigger factor when Duke traveled to Westwood to take on 4th ranked UCLA.

After Wake Forest’s biggest win of the season, they seemed to treat it like they won the National Championship.  Wake lost at Georgia Tech and at N.C. State and dropped a home game to Maryland to finish out their ACC regular season at 7-9.

Wake then lost to North Carolina 80-65 in the ACC quarterfinals and, as a #9 seed in the West Regional, lost to 8th seeded Louisville in the 1st round 81-58.

Despite losing the likes of Anthony Tucker, Chris King, and Derrick McQueen, Wake would be back and stronger in 1993 with Rogers becoming an All-American and Randolph Childress returning in a big way.

Duke starters (points scored)

Brian Davis (12) – Small Forward

Antonio Lang (6) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (18) – Center

Grant Hill (12) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (20) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Cherokee Parks (0)

Kenny Blakeney (0)

Marty Clark (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Wake Forest starters (points scored)

Chris King (9) – Small Forward

Rodney Rogers (18) – Power Forward

Phil Medlin (2) – Center

Derrick McQueen (8) – Point Guard

Anthony Tucker (24) – Shooting Guard

Wake Forest bench (points scored)

Derrick Hicks (2)

Trelonnie Owens (7)

Robert Doggett (0)

David Rasmussen (2)

Wake Forest Coach: Dave Odom

February 27, 1992 – (#4)UCLA Bruins 79 @(#13)USC Trojans 83

While not much attention was being paid to them, the UCLA Bruins were rolling through the season as perhaps the second-best team.

UCLA had been ranked #2 in the polls for 8 weeks throughout the season and were 14-0 and 21-1 at one point.  That one loss came to their cross-town rivals, the USC Trojans, at Pauley Pavilion 86-82 on January 29.

The Bruins had beaten other ranked teams in Indiana, at Arizona, at Stanford, and at Louisville.  But they threw up a dud performance for perhaps the first time all year when they traveled to Notre Dame and lost 84-71.  UCLA just could not make a three-point shot.  But they would get another chance at USC in their next ballgame.

UCLA had strong senior leadership in big man Don MacLean and guards Gerald Madkins and Darrick Martin.  Coach Jim Harrick’s leading scorer was junior Tracy Murray at 21.6 points per game.  MacLean was right behind him at 21.0.  Murray and MacLean were the big men for UCLA but both preferred to play on the perimeter.

Sophomore guard Shon Tarver averaged 10.7 points per game to be the 3rd and final Bruin to average double figures.  Junior guard Mitchell Butler came on after getting a starting spot ahead of Martin.  Butler averaged 8.4 while Madkins, the defensive specialist, was at 7.5.

Despite his senior status, Martin would be relegated to the bench in 1992 after averaging over 11 points and over 6 assists in his previous two seasons.  The conclusion apparently came after UCLA was bounced in the 1st round in 1991 and Martin, as the point guard, had not given the ball to the scorers, Murray and MacLean, enough to have a chance to win that game.

Not only would Martin average 5.6 points and 3.9 assists, which still led the team, in 19.5 minutes per game, but a lot of his playing time was taken by freshman Tyus Edney.  Edney would become UCLA’s future star at point and would reward Harrick and UCLA in 1995.  But it wasn’t a good look in 1992 and lot of people weren’t fans of Harrick for reducing Martin’s playing time drastically.

UCLA’s other reserves included red-shirt freshman Ed O’Bannon.  O’Bannon was recovering from a torn ACL and meniscus and never really got going in 1992, averaging 3.3 points per game in 11.8 minutes in the 21 games he played.

Sophomore forward Rodney Zimmerman also contributed and was a starter for the early part of the season.

USC had gotten on the map with their win over Ohio State on that December 21, 1991 date.  Now, all of a sudden, they were winning close games and pulling victories out of a hat.  They had won at Arizona State, at Stanford, at Cal, and (most impressively) at UCLA.  They won a close home game against Washington and at Oregon.  Most of these games the Trojans were trailing late.

USC took it on the chin, 92-78, at Oregon State for their 4th loss of the year, but they rebounded to beat Cal and Stanford, another one-point decision, at home.  The Trojans were 18-4 and had cracked the rankings for the first time since 1978-79.  Now George Raveling, Harold Miner, and his crew got set to host UCLA in front of the largest crowd to see a USC basketball game at the Los Angeles Sports Arena; 15,517 fans.

UCLA took the early lead as Murray scored 12 points in the first 8 minutes.  But the trend that was starting to develop in USC’s favor was that they were getting multiple offensive rebounds and second shot opportunities.  Harold Miner got his first three baskets on putbacks.

The Bruins’ biggest lead was at 19-10 after Madkins nailed a three-pointer.  They were still up 28-20 when Miner nailed a three and then Madkins picked up his 2nd foul.

Without its best defender, UCLA started to give up penetration and were continuing to be beaten on the boards.  Miner hit a pull-up after a continuous between-the-legs crossover dribble to shake a defender.  This cut UCLA’s lead to 31-27 with 7:57 left in the 1st half.

Senior point guard Duane Cooper then pushed the tempo and got good shots for himself and others.  His coast-to-coast double-pump scoop gave USC their first lead at 35-34.

Miner then hit a fall-away from the baseline and followed with a steal on a lob pass.  Cooper then nailed a three and USC had a 40-34 lead with 3:29 left.

Reserve guards Rodney Chatman and Dwayne Hackett nailed three-pointers and Miner got a reverse slam after an offensive rebound.  This all happened during USC’s 28-13 run to finish the half.

The only thing that kept UCLA hanging around was the 19 1st half points from Tracy Murray.  Darrick Martin also nailed a long three from the left wing at the buzzer to cut the Trojans’ halftime advantage to 48-41.  USC had finished the half with 11 offensive rebounds and Miner finished with 15 points.

USC continued their momentum and ran off to a 59-45 lead with 15:08 left.  But then UCLA started to slow down the tempo just a little bit and got some baskets to fall.  MacLean made his first field goal in awhile to cut the lead to 61-51.  It was Don’s 4th field goal in 14 attempts so far.

Madkins nailed a three to reduce the advantage to 63-54.  He stayed in the game after picking up his 4th foul and would later nail another three to cut the lead to 66-61.

But during this good stretch for UCLA, Miner was continuing to rack up hoops for USC.  The highlight came after Madkins’ second three when “Baby Jordan” crossed over and then flew in the air for a vicious two-hand overhead slam.

Miner was so good that he even got away with not only hooking Gerald Madkins when he spun around him in the post, but the referees called a foul on Madkins; which fouled him out.

Miner hit the two free throws to bring his point total to 27.  Yamen Sanders followed with a steal and slam and, later, put back a miss by Miner.  USC would continue to hold the lead but couldn’t put the Bruins away.

After Cooper nailed a free throw with 2:01 left to put USC up 77-72, MacLean came right back down and nailed a three to cut the lead to two.

All UCLA needed was a stop and a rebound to have a chance to tie it.  They got the stop as Miner missed, but the defensive rebound had been eluding them for most of the night and it manifested when Mark Boyd tipped in Miner’s miss.

UCLA would get no closer.  Murray fouled out after he was stripped by Phil Glenn when attempting a shot.  He and MacLean had been the only Bruins to reach double figures and things wouldn’t get easier as Duke now came in to play the reeling Bruins.

USC won 3 of 4 games to finish the season, including a 1-point win against Arizona.  But the one loss would cost them a share of the Pac-10 title as they finished at 15-3, a game behind the Bruins.

But still, the Trojans would be named a #2 seed in the Midwest Regional.  But the team who had won several close games when they came from behind in the last few minutes would get to experience what it was like to be on the other side.

UCLA starters (points scored)

Mitchell Butler (2) – Small Forward

Tracy Murray (28) – Power Forward

Don MacLean (18) – Center

Gerald Madkins (9) – Point Guard

Shon Tarver (8) – Shooting Guard

UCLA bench (points scored)

Darrick Martin (8)

Ed O’Bannon (2)

Tyus Edney (4)

Rodney Zimmerman (0)

UCLA Coach: Jim Harrick

USC starters (points scored)

Harold Miner (29) – Small Forward

Yamen Sanders (11) – Power Forward

Mark Boyd (10) – Center

Duane Cooper (13) – Point Guard

Phil Glenn (5) – Shooting Guard

USC bench (points scored)

Rodney Chatman (12)

Lorenzo Orr (0)

Dwayne Hackett (3)

USC Coach: George Raveling

Image result for harold miner usc

Harold Miner and his fall-away jumper over Mitchell Butler would lead USC to their second sweep of UCLA in a season series in the last 50 years *photo courtesy of Inside Social

March 1, 1992 – (#10)North Carolina Tarheels 80 @Maryland Terrapins 82

The North Carolina Tarheels had lost 3 games in a row for only the 3rd time in the last 25 years.  They had not lost 4 in a row since 1965.

Although Maryland was in a down period, they were still very competitive.  They had beaten Florida State in Tallahassee and had taken Duke to the wire in Durham.  This was far-fetched from the team that had started the ACC season at 0-6, including a 20-point loss in Chapel Hill.

Gary Williams and his Terrapins got off to a quick start as their back-court got them going.  Kevin McLinton his a pull-up jumper from the foul line and then All-American Walt Williams connected on a three from the top.

Maryland hit 7 of their first 8 from the field as power man Evers Burns got going as well with 3 of the field goals.  The Terps took a 15-7 lead and kept going.

Williams hit his second field goal on a banker in the lane.  Reserve Matt Downing hit a three in transition.  McLinton then hit a pull-up from the baseline.  This 7-0 run gave the Terps a 25-10 advantage halfway through the 1st half.

North Carolina was unable to hit outside shots and, in most cases, unwilling to take the open shots as Maryland backed its zone to cut off the inside game.  The Tarheels were also not getting Hubert Davis the ball.

Davis finally got four straight points and was going for 6 on a wing jumper.  But athletic, former walk-on forward Vince Broadnax blocked Davis’ shot from behind.  Broadnax then flew over Davis for a big slam at the other end.  This kicked off a 6-0 Maryland run that gave them a 31-14 lead with 7:37 left in the 1st half.

Carolina eventually made its run of the 1st half as Davis and Brian Reese connected on threes.  A steal by George Lynch and a coast-to-coast runner cut the lead to 36-28 with 3:44 left.

But the Tarheels would not score another field goal for the rest of the half and went 1-for-4 from the foul line.  Dean Smith’s crew would also commit 13 turnovers in the 1st half.

Meanwhile, Maryland led by Williams, McLinton and Burns finished the half on a 15-1 run.  It was capped off when North Carolina’s Derrick Phelps took a shot too with 7 seconds left in the half.  Maryland pushed it and Downing found Burns for the half-capping layup.

Maryland led 51-29 at the break.  Burns led the way with 13 points while McLinton and Williams each had 12.

But as expected, North Carolina came out strong in the 2nd half.  Phelps found Lynch on a 3-on-2 break for a layup.  Then Phelps took it himself on a transition break.  Eric Montross hit a banker from the post and Phelps connected on a three.  Gary Williams had to use a timeout with 18:16 left as his team’s lead was cut to 52-38.

Carolina would steadily cut the lead from there but Walt Williams hit some big shots to stem the tide.  Williams had 8 points to keep Maryland ahead 65-54 before UNC went on a 7-0 run.  Davis scored his 7th point of the half (after only 7 in the 1st half) on a three-pointer and then Reese hit two free throws and a bucket.

But Williams hit his fourth big shot of the half as he connected on a tough fall-away three-pointer from the top.  Williams would later tip in a miss to further stem the tide but Carolina cut it to 70-66 with 7:44 left.

Williams’ tip-in was actually Maryland’s 4th rebound in the first 13 minutes of the half.  North Carolina had gotten 18 to that point in the 2nd half.  With that rebound advantage, it was fortunate for Gary Williams that Walt Williams was hot.

UNC cut it to 73-70 when Lynch tipped in a miss by Davis.  But Lynch missed a fast break layup that could have cut the lead to one.  It would not be North Carolina’s only missed opportunity.

They did cut it to one when Davis grabbed UNC’s 17th offensive rebound of the game and got the bounce on a baseline jumper.  But Burns hit a turnaround fall-away over Montross in the post and then got a layup on a 2-on-1 break to put Maryland back up 77-72.

Burns committed his 4th foul and Lynch hit two free throws with 1:32 left.  Maryland went into a slight delay before Williams penetrated and found Chris Kerwin for a slam.  But Davis came right back with a three to cut the lead to 79-77 with 43.3 seconds left.

North Carolina went into the trap off the timeout and forced a turnover with 33.6 seconds left as Williams over-threw a cross-court pass to McLinton.  Kevin caught it off-balanced and was forced to travel to re-gather his footing.

Dean Smith decided not to use his last timeout.  Phelps pushed it to Davis at the foul line.  Davis hung in the air and launched an awkward double-pump shot as he drew a foul.  The ball bounced around the rim and fell in with 18.5 seconds left to tie the game.  After Maryland took a timeout, Davis’ free throw gave UNC their first lead of the game.

For North Carolina, this would have been a more impressive comeback than their home rally against Wake Forest, according to Terry Holland, who was the analyst for both games.

North Carolina’s trap got Maryland scrambling again.  But Burns got open at the foul line and launched with 7 seconds left.  He missed and on the ensuing rebound scramble, the ball eventually found Walt Williams.  He rushed the first shot and missed but The Wizard tipped in that miss as time seemed to run out.

But North Carolina was able to get their last timeout called with 1.3 seconds left and the Maryland students had to clear the floor.

But the Tarheels would not get a final chance as Lynch over-threw the inbounds pass.  The Terps would add one more free throw as Phelps fouled Williams with 0.1 seconds left.

But Maryland had its biggest win and Walt Williams’ tip-in in the final seconds may have been the biggest basket of his career.  Williams would never get to make an NCAA tournament appearance as Maryland was on probation during his last two seasons, but his play would earn him a #7 pick in the NBA draft and would be credited for getting Gary Williams’ program re-started.

Although Maryland went 12-16 in 1993, they would receive a big prize from Norfolk, Virginia for the following season.  Joe Smith and a few talented sophomores would get the Terps to their first NCAA tournament since 1988.

North Carolina would break their losing streak in a 79-75 home win over Georgia Tech.  This turned out to be a big win as North Carolina finished one game ahead of the Yellow Jackets for 3rd place in the ACC standings.  But the Tarheels went into the ACC tournament having lost 5 of their final 6 games after Duke beat them in the rematch 89-77.

Dean Smith called it an impressive performance by Duke, he would get a more impressive performance a week later.  But first, North Carolina had to fend off a team they hadn’t beaten all season.

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Henrik Rodl (0) – Small Forward

George Lynch (10) – Power Forward

Eric Montross (17) – Center

Derrick Phelps (13) – Point Guard

Hubert Davis (24) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Brian Reese (12)

Kevin Salvadori (4)

Pat Sullivan (0)

Donald Williams (0)

Matt Wenstrom (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

Maryland starters (points scored)

Vince Broadnax (10) – Small Forward

Evers Burns (22) – Power Forward

Chris Kerwin (2) – Center

Kevin McLinton (12) – Point Guard

Walt Williams (28) – Shooting Guard

Maryland bench (points scored)

John Walsh (5)

Matt Downing (3)

Maryland Coach: Gary Williams

walt-williams

Walt Williams earned All-American honors in 1992 and is one of Maryland’s all-time greats *photo courtesy of WBAL

March 1, 1992 – (#1)Duke Blue Devils 75 @(#4)UCLA Bruins 65

Following the Wake Forest loss, Duke did get Bobby Hurley back for its win against Virginia.  But they lost Grant Hill to a sprained ankle in practice and Hill would miss 3 games, including this one.

But UCLA was reeling after two straight losses to Notre Dame and USC.  But those two were on the road and now the Bruins were back at Pauley Pavilion taking on a Duke team without a key player.

The 1st half was ugly to say the least.  Both teams had scoring droughts and Duke had 15 turnovers, which was their season average for an entire game.

Naturally though, there were some defensive highlights.  Thomas Hill got 4 blocked shots in the 1st half, two of them against Don MacLean (with one being on a breakaway).  Darrick Martin broke up a 4-on-1 Duke break by successfully taking a charge.

The biggest offensive highlight for UCLA came after Gerald Madkins came up with a steal.  Madkins successfully threw a behind-the-back pass to Tracy Murray for a slam on a 3-on-1 break.

Murray led the way for UCLA with 10 1st half points as UCLA held the lead for most of the half.  But with the Bruins up 29-21 and looking for the last shot of the 1st half, Ed O’Bannon took an ill-advised baseline jumper with 8 seconds left.

Christian Laettner rebounded, fed to Bobby Hurley, who quickly got the ball down to Brian Davis on a breakaway.  Davis converted with 3 seconds left and drew a foul.  The three-point play cut UCLA’s lead to 29-24 at the half and was a big momentum turning play.

Duke, amazingly, was trailing at the half for the first time all season.  Laettner had 9 points while Thomas Hill had 6.  But Hurley had only converted a free throw and looked rusty.

Duke, as a whole, looked bad.  Not only did they have 15 turnovers but they shot 7-for-21 from the field.  But UCLA’s shooting was even uglier.  The Bruins were 11-for-41 in the 1st half with no three-pointers.  UCLA had given up multiple second shots to USC, which turned out to be their undoing.  In this game, they had the lead pretty much only by getting more shot attempts.

Duke came out for the 2nd half and threw a 12-4 run at UCLA.  Laettner got 6 points during that stretch, including a putback of a missed free throw by Antonio Lang.

But back came UCLA led by Tyus Edney, who would soon get the starting job at the point.  Edney got a layup after MacLean crossed the ball to him.  Then O’Bannon found Murray on a cut for a slam.  Then Edney got a breakaway layup and drew a foul from Thomas Hill.

Edney fell hard on the floor and had to go out of the game for a bit with an injured tailbone.  Darrick Martin came into the game for him and completed the three-point play to cap a 7-0 Bruins run.  But Duke pulled back to a tie with Brian Davis leading the way.

MacLean would pick up his 4th foul with 13:05 to go and UCLA suddenly had a thin team without MacLean, Edney and Shon Tarver.  Tarver had sprained his ankle in the 1st half and looked to be out for the game.  He would return but his athleticism wouldn’t.

But the Bruins would grab a 54-50 lead with about 9 minutes left when Edney, who had just come back in, found Mitchell Butler for a wing jumper.  Then Madkins took it himself on a 2-on-1 break.

At this time, Bobby Hurley came to life and showed his importance.  Hurley drove down the lane for a lefty layup, nailed a three after Lang grabbed an offensive rebound, and then connected on another three to break a 56-all tie with 5 minutes left.

UCLA would come back to take a 61-59 lead with under 3 minutes to go.  Laettner tied it with two free throws and then Hurley found him on the wing for a big three.  Lang followed with a steal and breakaway which led to Jim Harrick using a timeout with 2:04 left and his team trailing 66-61.

MacLean came back with a banker but then Davis drove right by MacLean for a layup.  Duke would then finish it from the foul line as UCLA failed to connect on a three-pointer for the entire game.

UCLA had not put on a good show in back-to-back big games against good teams.  They rebounded with close wins at Washington State and Washington.  They then beat Arizona for the second time this season and, with a defeat of Arizona State at home, won the Pac-10 title by one game over USC with a 16-2 mark.

This earned them a #1 seed in the West Regional.  They didn’t have any problems in beating Robert Morris and Louisville in the 1st two rounds.  They showed some cracks in almost giving up a big lead to 12th seeded New Mexico State in the Sweet 16, but they survived 85-78.  However, their Final Four dreams ended in a resounding way to Indiana 106-79 in the Elite Eight, a score that kind of capped UCLA’s season.

The Bruins would lose MacLean, Murray, Martin and Madkins to the NBA, but they would have some young players step up in 1993 despite not having as good a season.  They almost made up for their disappointing 1992 finish by upsetting a powerhouse in the NCAA tournament.

Duke would survive an unexpected test at Clemson 98-97 in their next game.  Brian Davis took up the slack with Grant Hill still being out and scored 30 points.  Hill would return for their final regular season game against North Carolina.

Duke would not look back for their next 7 games, winning all but one by double digits and throwing two performances against North Carolina that even had Dean Smith gushing about how well they were playing.

It would almost all go for naught in a Regional Final classic that is still being talked about, and that we’ll get to later.

Duke starters (points scored)

Brian Davis (19) – Small Forward

Antonio Lang (5) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (29) – Center

Bobby Hurley (11) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (8) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Kenny Blakeney (3)

Cherokee Parks (0)

Marty Clark (0)

Erik Meek (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

UCLA starters (points scored)

Mitchell Butler (4) – Small Forward

Tracy Murray (22) – Power Forward

Don MacLean (20) – Center

Gerald Madkins (8) – Point Guard

Shon Tarver (1) – Shooting Guard

UCLA bench (points scored)

Tyus Edney (7)

Darrick Martin (3)

Ed O’Bannon (0)

Rodney Zimmerman (0)

UCLA Coach: Jim Harrick

March 3, 1992 – (#23)LSU Tigers 92 @(#7)Arkansas Razorbacks 106 (OT)

In the newly expanded SEC, there were now two divisions.  At the top of the eastern division was Kentucky at 11-3 and 22-5 overall.  At the top of the west was a battle.  LSU had won 4 games in a row and were 10-2 in their last 12 SEC games to get to 11-3.  Their 11-3 mark tied Arkansas, who had gotten senior Todd Day back for the start of the conference season.

Day had been suspended for the first two months of the season after two incidents.  One involved a woman who claimed to police Day and 3 teammates (Darrell Hawkins, Roosevelt Wallace and Elmer Martin) sexually assaulted her.  She never pressed charges but each player was suspended.  However, Day’s suspension would last longer when it was found out that he and other students had obtained answers to a biology exam during summer school.

Day returned in January but felt alienated off the court.  In Day’s 4th game back, Arkansas traveled to LSU to take on the Tigers.  At the time, the Razorbacks were coming off a loss at Alabama while LSU had won 4 in a row.  But Todd Day’s 43 points led Arkansas to a 101-90 victory and gave them the tiebreaking edge in the SEC West.

LSU had gotten 27 points and 16 rebounds from Shaquille O’Neal that day and had a good scoring day from a back court that would be inconsistent in 1992.  But Maurice Williamson and Jamie Brandon would have another quality day against Arkansas in their rematch.

LSU had gone 11-3 since that game as Shaq became a monster.  In previous seasons, you could tell that Shaq was good and sometimes dominating.  But, as a junior in 1992, he played like a man possessed and a man, as it turned out, ready for the NBA.

Arkansas though may have had the only man in the SEC that could think of handling Shaq.  6’9″ 280 lb (before his first meal of the day) senior Oliver Miller had led the NCAA in field goal percentage in 1991.  But, as a senior, the weight got the best of him and Miller’s play was a little bit down as he averaged 13.5 points per game on 60% field goal shooting after averaging 15.7 ppg on 70% FG shooting in 1991.  But in terms of going up against Shaq, Miller still had the best chance.

Miller and Day were joined by fellow senior star, point guard Lee Mayberry.  These three players were Arkansas’ stars and leaders.  They, along with fellow senior Isaiah Morris, averaged in double figures with Day leading the way at 22.7 points per game.

But the Razorbacks had lost some scrappers from their 1990 Final Four team and 1991 Elite 8 team.  This included Arlyn Bowers, Ernie Murry, and Ron Huery.  The loss of these guys cut down on Arkansas’ perimeter athleticism.

Darrell Hawkins and JC transfer Robert Shepherd helped out but junior shooter Warren Linn started along with Day, Miller, Mayberry, and Roosevelt Wallace.  Young swingmen Ken Biley and Clint McDaniel also helped out Nolan Richardson’s 40 minutes of hell.

Arkansas got off to a good start as Linn, Day, and Mayberry nailed threes while Miller and Wallace each got field goals as well.  Their biggest lead was 13-5 before LSU started bombing the threes.

Maurice Williamson nailed two while Clarence Ceasar also hit a triple.  Vernel Singleton got going as well for Dale Brown as LSU came back to take a 23-22 lead at the 11:47 mark when Williamson made his 3rd three for 11 points.

Shaq had only contributed a tip-in at this point but his teammates ran it up.  Jamie Brandon and Ceasar each had two field goals during LSU’s run.  O’Neal got his second field goal on an inbounds lob pass to put LSU up 32-24.

Shaq would then score 11 LSU points in a row to increase the lead to 41-29.  Brandon and Singleton would then finish the half strong for LSU as the Tigers ran to a 51-36 halftime lead.

Mayberry had kept Arkansas in it with 4 three-pointers.  But LSU had balance as Shaq had 13 points and 8 rebounds, Williamson had 12 and 3 fouls, Singleton and Brandon had 9, and Ceasar had 8 while holding Todd Day to 7 points.

But, as expected, Arkansas came out firing in the 2nd half.  Day tipped in a Wallace miss while Linn and Mayberry nailed threes to cut the lead to 54-44 and force Dale Brown to use a timeout at the 18:32 mark.

LSU was able to settle it down from there and regain a 14-point lead as O’Neal continued to dominate, this included slamming one down on three guys.  The Tigers advantage stayed in double figures over the next 6 minutes but Arkansas kept putting the pressure on them.

Finally, a three-point play by Hawkins on a cut sliced the lead to 67-58.  Then a three-point field goal by Mayberry, his 6th of the game, cut it to 69-63 and forced Brown to use another timeout with 10:09 left.

This one didn’t help as Arkansas’ pressure was relentless.  Day got a three-point play on a twisting banker in the post.  Day followed with a steal and found Hawkins for a layup.  LSU’s lead was down to 69-68.

Vernel Singleton would score 5 points to keep LSU ahead, but gave up an offensive tip-in and a foul against Day that put Arkansas ahead 76-74.

Singleton would continue to be a big factor offensively as he led the Tigers to an 84-82 lead.  But with 3:05 left, the refs fell for a flop by Day that drew the 5th foul on Singleton.  His loss would hurt LSU.

The Tigers remained up by a score of 87-84 before Lee Mayberry hit a step-back three (his 8th of the game) from the wing to tie it up.  But Mayberry missed his chance to give Arkansas the lead as he bricked a pull-up from the foul line on their next possession.

Ceasar rebounded and LSU called timeout with 27 seconds left, looking for the last shot.  The Tigers had not been looking inside to O’Neal down the stretch but they got it inside to him this time.  But Miller, with help from a weakside player who looked like he grabbed Shaq’s arm, blocked O’Neal’s shot and the game was headed to overtime.

The extra period would be no contest as LSU’s didn’t get the ball inside to Shaq once (amazing, isn’t it?).  Mayberry scored 4 quick points to reach a career high and Todd Day contributed the next 5, including a double-pump reverse of the fast break while Ceasar fouled him.

That three-point play put the Razorbacks up 98-89 with 1:25 left in overtime and it was all but over after that.

1992 would be Arkansas’ final season in Barnhill Arena, and, as it turned out, their final loss there was when they played #1 UNLV in 1991.  Arkansas sent Barnhill out on top with a 100-83 victory over Mississippi to claim the SEC West title (by a game over LSU) and a #1 seed in the SEC tournament.

There, they were upset by Alabama 90-89 in the Semifinals.  This might have helped Arkansas slip to a #3 seed in the Midwest Regional.  In the 2nd round, they would play a team that they had already lost to during the season.

LSU would finish as a #3 overall seed in the SEC and lost to Kentucky in the Semifinals.  With that, they earned a #7 seed in the West Regional and when all was said and done, it looked like Shaq was out there by himself.

LSU starters (points scored)

Clarence Ceasar (15) – Small Forward

Vernel Singleton (23) – Power Forward

Shaquille O’Neal (21) – Center

Jamie Brandon (12) – Point Guard

Maurice Williamson (17) – Shooting Guard

LSU bench (points scored)

Justin Anderson (4)

Paul Marshall (0)

Geert Hammink (0)

Harold Boudreaux (0)

Mike Hansen (0)

LSU Coach: Dale Brown

Arkansas starters (points scored)

Todd Day (27) – Small Forward

Roosevelt Wallace (8) – Power Forward

Oliver Miller (10) – Center

Lee Mayberry (35) – Point Guard

Warren Linn (13) – Shooting Guard

Arkansas bench (points scored)

Darrell Hawkins (11)

Isaiah Morris (2)

Ken Biley (0)

Robert Shepherd (0)

Clint McDaniel (0)

Arkansas Coach: Nolan Richardson

March 4, 1992 – (#2)Indiana Hoosiers 64 @Iowa Hawkeyes 60

What it came down to for Indiana was that they were a game ahead of Ohio State at the top of the Big Ten standings and were essentially another game ahead having swept the Buckeyes.

But Ohio State had gotten through its toughest road games to finish the season by winning at Purdue and at Michigan State.  They would coast and put pressure on the Hoosiers, who had 3 tough road games in March.  The first was at Iowa, the second was at Michigan, and the final game of the season was at in-state rival Purdue.

At the time that Indiana traveled to Iowa City, the Hawkeyes were tied with Michigan State for 3rd in the Big Ten at 8-6.

Iowa was rated #21 in the pre-season poll coming off a rebound of a 21-11 season.  But after starting out 6-0, Dr. Tom Davis’ Hawkeyes lost 4 of their next 6 and fell out of the polls for the season.

But still, Iowa had a steady 16-8 record and had only lost one game at home so far this season.  That loss was in the Big Ten opener against Michigan.  Since then, Iowa had beaten Michigan State and Ohio State when they had come in ranked.  But the Hawkeyes had not beaten a tough opponent on the road, with their biggest loss of the season coming at Indiana, 81-66.

The Hawkeyes were led by junior center Acie Earl, Iowa’s only future NBA player.  Earl averaged 19.5 points per game to lead the way.  Senior James Moses and a trio of sophomores; Chris Street, Val Barnes, and Kevin Smith each averaged double figures (or near double figures) and were in the starting lineup for most of the season.

Off the bench came seniors Rodell Davis and Troy Skinner, juniors Wade Lookingbill and Jay Webb and sophomore James Winters.  But all played as Tom Davis liked to use his bench because he preferred to play a fast pace and a pressure defense.  Although the constant substitutions wore teams down, Davis still didn’t have as much talent as he inherited in the late ’80’s and, as a result, wasn’t as successful with his style.

Iowa put the pressure on the Hoosiers early as James Moses scored 5 quick points, Val Barnes hit a three and Kevin Smith hit a pull-up in the lane in transition.  The Hawkeyes led 10-2 at this point but Calbert Cheaney and Eric Anderson brought Indiana back to within 10-8 before the first media timeout.

The Hawkeyes continued to hold the lead through most of the 1st half despite Cheaney taking advantage of his matchup with the smaller Moses and scoring at will when Indiana broke the press and moved the ball.

This didn’t happen as often as it should have as the Hoosiers took some quick shots by the wrong people (essentially everyone except Cheaney) and had to use a timeout 7 seconds after a media timeout because they couldn’t get the ball inbounds against the press.  For the most part, they handled the press in the back-court but they fell into the trap of playing a faster tempo than they were used to

A three-pointer by Smith put Iowa up 30-22 with under 7 minutes left in the half, but the momentum changed when Iowa started turning the ball over.

The Hoosiers went on an 11-0 run, with Cheaney scoring 7 of those points (including a technical free throw after the Iowa bench wasn’t happy with a foul call on Chris Street).  But Iowa finished the half on a 6-0 spurt and led 36-33 at the break.

Iowa held that lead through the first 8 minutes of the 2nd half despite Cheaney scoring the first 10 points.  Three-pointers by Moses and Barnes held off the Hoosiers until Greg Graham hit a three to tie it at 46 with 11:47 left.

Cheaney then hit a baseline jumper to bring his point total to 29 (29 of Indiana’s 48 at that point).  But Cheaney followed by committing his 4th foul and Bob Knight sat him down.

Naturally, Indiana struggled to score but they held Iowa in check as well.  Finally, Graham and Moses dueled each other for 2 minutes.  Graham scored 6 points while Moses had 7 to give Iowa a 55-54 advantage at the 6:21 mark.

But Iowa went back into a drought and Indiana took the lead when Alan Henderson connected on a baseline jumper.  Graham followed with a banker after a steal by Jamal Meeks.

The Hoosiers took a 62-57 lead after making 4-of-4 free throws and Graham was at the line with 1:38 left.  But Greg went 0-for-2 and Smith made a three-pointer to cut the lead to 62-60 with 1:19 to go.

Indiana ran down the shot clock and Damon Bailey drew a hand-check foul on Moses with less than 10 seconds left on the 45-second shot clock.  But Bailey only had a 1-and-1 and missed the front end.

Iowa attacked and Smith got a good shot from the corner to tie the game.  The ball went in-and-out.  Henderson rebounded and Street fouled him with 20 seconds left.  Henderson split his free throws and Iowa had a chance to tie it with a three-pointer.

Moses and Barnes each got good looks but each bounced off the rim.  Finally, Graham grabbed a rebound and was fouled with 2.8 seconds left.  His free throw put the icing on a tough Hoosier victory as they survived their first road test to end the season.  Graham had scored all 14 of his points in the final 13 minutes to help out Cheaney, who went scoreless after picking up his 4th foul.

But it would be the last road test the Hoosiers survived.  The free throw line cost them more in a loss at Michigan and then, with the Big Ten title on the line, the Hoosiers lost a slug fest at Purdue 61-59 and finished one game behind Ohio State in the Big Ten standings.

Indiana was still named a #2 seed in the West Regional and made a deep tournament run, but they wouldn’t be the most successful Big Ten team in the tournament either.

Iowa finished 5th in the Big Ten, one game behind Michigan and Michigan State, after losing to the Spartans in the final game of the season.

They were named a #9 seed in the East Regional and beat Texas in the 1st round when Earl, Moses, and Barnes each scored over 20 points.  But for the 2nd straight season, the Hawkeyes became a 2nd round victim to Duke.

Iowa would come back the next season as a better team, but they would have to play through something most teams couldn’t and didn’t have to endure.

Indiana starters (points scored)

Calbert Cheaney (29) – Small Forward

Eric Anderson (10) – Power Forward

Alan Henderson (9) – Center

Damon Bailey (2) – Point Guard

Greg Graham (14) – Shooting Guard

Indiana bench (points scored)

Chris Reynolds (0)

Jamal Meeks (0)

Matt Nover (0)

Indiana Coach: Bob Knight

Iowa starters (points scored)

James Moses (20) – Small Forward

Chris Street (4) – Power Forward

Acie Earl (12) – Center

Kevin Smith (10) – Point Guard

Val Barnes (8) – Shooting Guard

Iowa bench (points scored)

James Winters (0)

Wade Lookingbill (2)

Jay Webb (2)

Troy Skinner (2)

Rodell Davis (0)

Iowa Coach: Tom Davis

ccheaney

Calbert Cheaney was Indiana’s big and only scorer against Iowa until Greg Graham got going in the final 12 minutes *photo courtesy of Inside the Hall

March 14, 1992 – ACC Tournament Semifinals: (#20)North Carolina Tarheels 80 vs(#18)Florida State Seminoles 76

North Carolina had lost 5 of their last 6 regular season games.  But they recovered nicely in the ACC Quarterfinals by handling Wake Forest 80-65.

Florida State had book-ended their 2nd place finish in their first ACC season by defeating North Carolina twice.  They defeated the Tarheels 110-94 on February 27 and then didn’t play for two weeks.

The Seminoles didn’t miss a beat as they defeated N.C. State in the ACC Quarterfinals, but their star Sam Cassell missed some action due to cramps.  This may have been the best indication of not playing for a while.

Cassell wouldn’t have issues with cramps against North Carolina but Florida State seemed to play with less energy overall than they usually did.

Dean Smith helped out by changing defenses constantly and North Carolina also slowed down the tempo, and Florida State in a half-court game didn’t turn out to be pretty.

They did get out on the break on their first possession as Charlie Ward blocked a Derrick Phelps shot and then Ward found Rodney Dobard on a 3-on-2 break for a slam.  But that would be about it for the 1st half.

Ward and Cassell each nailed an early three but George Lynch kept North Carolina in it early on as he scored UNC’s first 7 points.  The Tarheels went on a 6-0 run to break a 12-all tie as Florida State went scoreless for 6 minutes.

Doug Edwards brought the Seminoles back to within two points but then North Carolina made their big run.  Kevin Salvadori took advantage of his size and got two easy baskets.  Hubert Davis got a transition layup to force Pat Kennedy to use a timeout with 6 1/2 minutes left and FSU trailing 24-16.

It didn’t help as Edwards committed his 3rd foul on an illegal screen on their first possession following the timeout.  Davis later hit a three-pointer and then hit a tough runner in transition while drawing contact from Dobard.  That three-point play gave the Tarheels a 32-18 lead with 4:48 left in the half.

But then Carolina went into a drought as Davis took a rest.  Florida State got back into the game but didn’t exactly burn the nets in doing so.  Chuck Graham scored 8 of their last 13 points of the half as the Seminoles cut UNC’s lead to 37-31 at the half.

The 2nd half would be more of the same.  North Carolina raced back to a 10-point lead as Florida State could never find a rhythm.  Davis and Lynch led the way for the Tarheels, but they could not put Florida State away.

The Seminoles cut the lead to 57-52 with 7:38 left despite shooting only 37% from the field, including 4-for-23 on threes.  While North Carolina wasn’t helping themselves by only shooting 42% from the field, they would get to the line continually and end the game like they did in their win against Duke.  They scored their last 14 points from the line in the last 5 minutes.

But first, Lynch hit a turnaround jumper from the baseline and Davis hit a regular jumper from the baseline as North Carolina regained a 62-52 lead.  Their last field goal came when Phelps broke the Florida State press and found Lynch for a layup to put the Tarheels up 66-54.  Lynch would finish with a double-double.

Florida State used their last timeout (remember that) with 3:16 left when Byron Wells got a layup to cut the lead to 69-59.  Despite a lot of time left, Florida State went to the fouling game and it almost worked.

Henrik Rodl missed two free throws and Charlie Ward followed with a three to cut the lead to 71-64.  Salvadori followed by missing two free throws but Lynch tipped out his second miss and North Carolina recovered the ball.  They smartly got it to Davis, who was fouled by Bob Sura with 1:56 left.

Davis, an 84% foul shooter, made his two shots but Cassell found Edwards for a layup and a foul.  The three-point play cut the lead to 73-67.  Florida State’s press then forced a turnover for one of the few times all game as Cassell knocked away a pass to Graham.  Cassell then nailed a three from the top after a kickout by Edwards and the lead was down to 73-70 with 1:29 left.

Florida State played straight up defense this time as North Carolina ran down the shot clock.  The Seminoles forced a tough shot and a miss by Phelps.  But Davis grabbed the rebound and Cassell was called for his 5th foul.

Davis split the free throws this time.  Florida State pushed the ball but Edwards missed a three.  Lynch rebounded and Davis was fouled with 23.3 seconds left.  Davis again split the free throws.

Florida State again had to push it without any timeouts.  This time, Ward nailed a three to cut the lead to 75-73.  But then Florida State signaled for a timeout to stop the clock.  A technical was called and, with 12.4 seconds left, Davis made both free throws this time to essentially put the game away.

This wouldn’t be the last time in the next year that a team tried to call an illegal timeout against North Carolina, but the next time would be in a much bigger game.

As for now, North Carolina was in the ACC Championship and was playing Duke for the second straight season, and 4th time in 5 seasons.

Like 1991, it would be no contest.  Unlike 1991, it would be Duke that ran off an 18-8 run to finish the 1st half ahead 44-36.  It was never close in the 2nd half as the Blue Devils cruised 94-74.  Dean Smith didn’t think the Dukies could play better than they did in the regular season finale, but, according to Smith, they did.

North Carolina would be named a #4 seed in the Southeast Regional.  They would make it to the Sweet 16 for the 12th straight season and take on top-seeded Ohio State.

Florida State would be named a #3 seed in the West Regional.  They defeated Montana and Georgetown, ending Alonzo Mourning’s career, by identical scores of 78-68 before succumbing to 2nd seeded Indiana in the Regional Semifinals, 85-74.

Florida State would be back with the same roster in 1993 after finishing their first season in the ACC at 22-10.

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Henrik Rodl (0) – Small Forward

George Lynch (21) – Power Forward

Eric Montross (8) – Center

Derrick Phelps (11) – Point Guard

Hubert Davis (28) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Brian Reese (6)

Kevin Salvadori (4)

Pat Sullivan (2)

Matt Wenstrom (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

Florida State starters (points scored)

Chuck Graham (14) – Small Forward

Doug Edwards (12) – Power Forward

Rodney Dobard (7) – Center

Charlie Ward (15) – Point Guard

Sam Cassell (14) – Shooting Guard

Florida State bench (points scored)

Bob Sura (10)

Andre Reid (2)

Byron Wells (2)

Ray Donald (0)

Florida State Coach: Pat Kennedy

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

At top, Charlie Ward drives for a reverse layup against Kevin Salvadori, Hubert Davis (#40), and George Lynch (jumping).  But, at bottom, Davis got the last laugh in this game with a breakaway layup as Sam Cassell turned away *photos courtesy of Getty Images (x2)

March 19, 1992 – East Regional 1st round: (#13)LaSalle Explorers 76, (#4)Seton Hall Pirates 78

It wasn’t like the LaSalle Explorers were going to duplicate their 30-2 season in 1990, but they had slipped.

After losing Lionel Simmons, Speedy Morris’s team went 19-10 in 1991 but lost in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC for future references) tournament semifinals to eventual champion Saint Peter’s (the MAAC’s only representative in the 1991 NCAA tournament).

Then the Explorers lost their other star in guard Doug Overton to graduation.  For 1992, they went 20-10 during the regular season and beat top-seeded Manhattan 79-78 in the MAAC title game to earn the conference’s only berth in the NCAA tournament.

Other than stalwarts Simmons, Overton and Bob Johnson, Morris had everyone else still remaining from the 1990 team.  Seniors Randy Woods and Jack Hurd led the high-powered offense.  Woods averaged 27.3 points per game and Hurd 18.0.  LaSalle, on average, shot 26.9 three-point attempts per game (with Woods and Hurd launching 20).

Inside, Morris had seniors Milko Lieverst and Bron Holland.  The point position was shared by junior Jeff Neubauer and freshman Paul Burke.  Burke was two weeks removed from an appendectomy, but he was playing nonetheless.  Other reserves included Blitz Wooten, Ray Schultz and Luteke Kalombo.

Their 1st round opponent had tied for 1st in the Big East regular season but were unable to win back-to-back tournaments.  P.J. Carlesimo and the Pirates had lost Anthony Avent and Oliver Taylor from the 1991 team that went to the Elite 8 and challenged unbeaten UNLV for a half.

But returning were juniors Terry Dehere and Jerry Walker, senior Gordon Winchester, and sophomores Arturas Kornishovas and Bryan Caver.  Newcomers included 7’2″ JC transfer Luther Wright and freshmen John Leahy and Danny Hurley (brother of Duke’s Bobby Hurley).

The Pirates went 21-8 during the regular season with Dehere leading the way at 19.3 points per game.  Walker also averaged in double figures at 13.8.  Winchester, Caver, and Kornishovas each averaged between 8.6 and 8.9, and freshman Leahy was at 7.2 while shooting 57% from three-point range.

Seton Hall had finished the season by winning 10 of their last 12 games but they struggled early on against LaSalle.  Winchester was the best defender that Carlesimo had and P.J. decided to put him on Hurd instead of Woods (although Woods probably had a quickness advantage over Winchester).

Woods responded by scoring 9 quick points (including two three-pointers) as LaSalle took an 11-4 lead in the first 4 minutes and 11 seconds.  But Woods went cold and so did LaSalle’s offense.

Seton Hall cut back into the lead over the next 4 minutes and even took a 16-15 advantage when Caver nailed his second trey of the game.  But then Hurd scored 5 points and Woods 4 more as Speedy Morris’s team re-took a 24-20 lead.

Trouble looked to be brewing though as Woods picked up his 3rd foul.  But Morris kept him in the game and Woods kept scoring without committing another foul.  He finished with 21 1st half points.

But Seton Hall stayed in it despite not shooting well.  The Pirates committed their 12th turnover just before the half however, and LaSalle took advantage as Neubauer nailed a corner three at the buzzer to give the Explorers a 36-31 halftime lead.

The scoring picked up in the 2nd half as Dehere got going for the Pirates.  Meanwhile, Holland scored 6 early points for LaSalle and Hurd nailed a three as the Explorers stayed ahead.

It wasn’t until mid-way through the 2nd half that Woods got his first field goal, and it started a run as LaSalle took as much as a 60-52 lead with 8 minutes left.  But Seton Hall got right back into the game as Caver hit a runner in the lane and Leahy connected on a three.

Freshman reserves more-or-less were squaring off in the 2nd half as Leahy and Burke nearly matched each other.  Burke hit a pull-up from the baseline to stem the tide after Morris used a timeout.  Burke later connected on a three to answer Leahy’s and put LaSalle up 67-62.

Woods followed by connecting on another three and Carlesimo had to use a timeout with 4:05 left and his team down 70-62.  Dehere hit a three after the timeout and Leahy connected a possession later.  But a cut by Burke and a feed from Hurd kept LaSalle ahead 74-68.  However, Leahy hit another trey and LaSalle used another timeout with 2:27 left.

It didn’t help as LaSalle missed some tough shots on their next few possessions.  Meanwhile, Walker got two layups (one on a putback) and Dehere hit a free throw with 1:12 left to give Seton Hall a 76-74 lead.

The Explorers then ran down the clock and got a layup as Lieverst fed Hurd on a cut to tie the game.  Seton Hall did not use a timeout and ran a motion game.

Dehere passed off to Caver and then went to the left corner with under 10 seconds left.  Caver fed Dehere for a long jumper from the wing that went down.  LaSalle got a timeout with 1.8 seconds left but could not do anything with their last attempt as long full-court inbounds pass went astray.

Dehere was the hero for the moment and Seton Hall survived a scare.  The Pirates would drill Missouri 88-71 in the 2nd round before losing to top-seeded Duke (and Danny’s brother Bobby) 81-69 in the Regional Semifinals.  But Seton Hall would be back next season.

Meanwhile, LaSalle would not be back into the NCAA tournament until 2013 (when they were a cinderella that lost to another cinderella).  Speedy Morris coached through 2001, but his last winning season was a 14-13 mark in 1993.

LaSalle starters (points scored)

Jack Hurd (13) – Small Forward

Bron Holland (8) – Power Forward

Milko Lieverst (4) – Center

Jeff Neubauer (3) – Point Guard

Randy Woods (33) – Shooting Guard

LaSalle bench (points scored)

Paul Burke (12)

Blitz Wooten (1)

Ray Schultz (2)

Luteke Kalombo (0)

LaSalle Coach: Speedy Morris

Seton Hall starters (points scored)

Gordon Winchester (6) – Small Forward

Arturas Karnishovas (7) – Power Forward

Jerry Walker (12) – Center

Bryan Caver (13) – Point Guard

Terry Dehere (24) – Shooting Guard

Seton Hall bench (points scored)

John Leahy (14)

Luther Wright (2)

Darrell Mims (0)

Danny Hurley (0)

Seton Hall Coach: P.J. Carlesimo

March 20, 1992 – West Regional 1st round: (#13)Southwest Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns 87, (#4)Oklahoma Sooners 83

Now called Louisiana-Lafayette, the Ragin’ Cajuns had a checkered history since entering Division 1 in 1971.  In 1972, they were 25-4 and in 1973, they were 24-5.  Each year, they lost in the Sweet 16 but they had an All-American guard in Dwight “Bo” Lamar.

But after an NCAA investigation, Southwestern Louisiana was found guilty of over 120 violations and was given a two-year death penalty.  Since then, they had only been in the rankings for two weeks and had no NCAA tournament victories.

But Marty Fletcher, who had previously been an assistant coach at N.C. State under Norm Sloan and Jim Valvano, started turning the program back around when he took over as head coach in 1986.  By 1990, the Ragin’ Cajuns were 20-9 but 4-6 in the American South Conference.  In 1991, they were 21-10 but only 6-6 in the ASC, losing for the second straight season in the conference tournament semifinals.

For 1992, Southwest Louisiana moved to the Sun Belt Conference.  They finished at 12-4 during the conference season and beat top-seeded Louisiana Tech in the championship to earn the Sun Belt’s NCAA berth.

Fletcher did have some talent but none of it would translate to any NBA games.  The Cajuns had 4 players average in double figures but the top scorer was junior swingman Todd Hill at 14.3 points per game.  Sophomore shooting guard Byron Starks averaged over 11, along with reserve sophomores Michael Allen and Tony Moore.

Senior big man Marcus Stokes averaged 9.7 but 11.7 rebounds per game.  JC transfer and big man Carroll Boudreaux was right behind him at 9.3 but way behind Stokes at 5.8 rebounds (2nd on the team).  Junior Cedric Mackyeon was the reserve big man.  The point guard was senior Eric Mouton who averaged 5.4 assists per game while attempting just under 4 shots per game.  That team went 20-10 and made their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1983.

Oklahoma did not make the NCAA’s in 1991 despite some talent in shooting guard Brent Price and big man Jeff Webster.  Price was now a senior and the 2nd leading scorer at 18.7 points per game for Billy Tubbs.  Webster was a sophomore who averaged 14.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

The big factor for Oklahoma was the return of senior forward Damon Patterson, who averaged 20.6 points and 8.8 rebounds after missing the 1991 season due to academic issues.  The point guard was junior Terry Evans and the center was junior Bryan Sallier.  Sallier was out for this game though with an injury.

In his place stepped in another crop of JC transfers that Tubbs was known for grabbing.  Derrick Gallien would be a big factor against Southwest Louisiana.  He was joined by the likes of Joel Davis, Angelo Hamilton, and Bryatt Vann as incoming JC transfers.

Oklahoma went 21-8 in 1992 and finished 4th in the Big Eight with an 8-6 record.  But they went 2-5 against the 3 teams above them (Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Missouri) including an 85-67 drubbing at the hands of Kansas in the Big 8 Semifinals.

They got off to a slow start as Evans picked up two early fouls and the Ragin’ Cajuns took a 6-0 lead after two jumpers by Starks.  The lead did not relinquish quickly although Gallien kept Oklahoma in the game by drawing fouls on Boudreaux and getting to the line.

The Cajuns had their biggest lead at 22-13 when Moore came off the bench for 5 quick points.  Allen later hit a three to make it 25-17, but Evans responded with a trey and Gallien got a three-point play on a drop-step in the lane for his 11th point.  This cut the lead to 25-23 with 11:21 left in the 1st half.

The Sooners grabbed their first lead when Price made his first three-pointer of the game to make it 28-27.  The lead swung back-and-forth until Patterson got it going with 9 straight Oklahoma points.  The Sooners took their biggest lead at 41-34 with 3:57 left as Southwest Louisiana went into a 4+ minute field goal drought.

But back they came late in the half led by the bench.  Allen connected on a three, Moore on another jumper, and then Stokes fed Mackyeon at the end of the shot clock for a slam and a foul.

That three-point play cut the lead to 43-42 but Southwest seemed to miss out on their chance for a halftime lead when Stokes missed two free throws.  However, Mouton flopped and drew the 3rd foul from Evans on a charge with 6.2 seconds left.

Then Allen got the ball and pulled up from deep at the top of the key.  Allen’s long three went down at the buzzer and the Cajuns did have a halftime advantage at 45-43.

Gallien would pick up his 3rd and 4th fouls early in the 2nd half and sat for the rest of the game, which may have turned into a factor as the non-scoring Davis played in his spot down the stretch.

Boudreaux would also pick up his 3rd and 4th fouls but his replacement, Mackyeon, was much more effective.  The 2nd half was a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair for the first 11 minutes.

Then with the game tied at 64, Mackyeon tipped in a miss and Moore hit a jumper from the top.  SW Louisiana’s 4-point lead was the biggest for either team in the half.  They maintained it at 70-66 when Starks hit a jumper for his 10th point of the 2nd half and 21st of the game.

But a turnaround jumper by Webster in the post and then a pull-up by Patterson in the lane tied the game at 70 and forced Fletcher to use a timeout with 5:11 left.

The Cajuns then ran down the shot clock.  At the end, Allen crossed the ball to Moore, who connected on a three as the buzzer went off.  Moore then stole a pass and drew Price’s 4th foul.  A putback by Mackyeon gave the Cajuns a 75-70 lead.

But then Fletcher’s strategy to slow the game down backfired as Oklahoma came up with some turnovers that led to baskets.  Price would get the latest steal which was followed by two free throws to tie the game at 75 with 2:02 left.

After a timeout, Patterson fouled Hill (SW Louisiana’s leading scorer who was 2-for-10 on the day) on a jumper with 1:48 left.  Hill made both shots.  Then Mackyeon deflected a pass by Davis, who Mackyeon was backing off of because the non-scoring Davis wasn’t a threat to shoot, and Mouton came up with a steal.  Davis fouled Stokes at the other end and Marcus made both free throws with 1:22 left to give the Cajuns a 79-75 lead.

Mackyeon then rebounded an airball by Webster and drew a foul from Jeff.  It looked to be about put away as Mackyeon made both free throws for an 81-75 lead.  But Evans came right back with a three-pointer and Oklahoma used a timeout right after the basket at the 1:04 mark.

SW Louisiana then seemed to be trying their best to give the game away.  Price came up with a steal and was fouled by Mouton.  Price made the first free throw with 47.2 seconds left, but he missed the second.  However, Webster grabbed the rebound and kicked it out to Price, who missed a three that would’ve given Oklahoma the lead.

Mackyeon got the rebound this time but Price would come up with another steal later on the possession.  Price led a long pass to Hamilton who was called for traveling on his breakaway attempt to tie the game.

That would turn out to be Oklahoma’s last chance as Allen hit two free throws and the senior Mouton went 4-for-4 down the stretch to seal the deal.  The Ragin’ Cajuns had come up with the 2nd upset of the day after the previous day didn’t have one.  They would play 12th seeded New Mexico State (who had come up with the first upset of the day in beating #5 DePaul) in the 2nd round.

The run would end for the Cajuns 81-73 at the hands of the Aggies.  To this day, that remains the only NCAA tournament win for Southwest Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette) that wasn’t vacated due to NCAA violations.  The Cajuns would get another two years probation for NCAA violations in 2006.

For Billy Tubbs, this would turn out to be his last NCAA tournament appearance with Oklahoma.

Southwest Louisiana starters (points scored)

Todd Hill (7) – Small Forward

Marcus Stokes (9) – Power Forward

Carroll Boudreaux (8) – Center

Eric Mouton (4) – Point Guard

Byron Starks (21) – Shooting Guard

Southwest Louisiana bench (points scored)

Tony Moore (15)

Michael Allen (13)

Cedric Mackyeon (10)

Southwest Louisiana Coach: Marty Fletcher

Oklahoma starters (points scored)

Damon Patterson (17) – Small Forward

Jeff Webster (23) – Power Forward

Derrick Gallien (13) – Center

Terry Evans (12) – Point Guard

Brent Price (12) – Shooting Guard

Oklahoma bench (points scored)

Joel Davis (4)

Angelo Hamilton (2)

Bryatt Vann (0)

Oklahoma Coach: Billy Tubbs

March 20, 1992 – Southeast Regional 1st round: (#11)Temple Owls 66, (#6)Michigan Wolverines 73

After a strong 8-3 finish to the regular season in which the Fab 5 started 9 of the last 10 games, the Michigan freshmen would now get to try their hand at the NCAA tournament.

They’d get pressure right off the bat from an experienced John Chaney coached Temple team that had gone to the Elite 8 the season before.  Some experience from that team was returning in senior forwards Mik Kilgore and Mark Strickland and junior point guard Vic Carstarphen.  Kilgore led the Owls by averaging 14.5 points per game while Strickland and Carstarphen averaged just under double figures.

But Chaney’s future NBA talent came mostly from a pair of sophomores who were academically ineligible in 1991.  Swingmen Aaron McKie and Eddie Jones made an impact by averaging in double figures in their first year of college ball.

Another future NBA player, as well as future starting point guard for Temple, was freshman Rick Brunson.  McKie, Jones, and Brunson would usher in a new Temple era after Mark Macon left his impact the previous 4 seasons.  But in this season of transition, Temple finished the regular season at 17-12 and lost to West Virginia in the Atlantic 10 Semifinals.

The Michigan freshmen would hit the tournament running as they grabbed an early 10-3 lead with Juwan Howard scoring 6 of those points inside against the under-sized Owls.

But Temple responded with an 8-0 run as Jones came off the bench to cap it with 4 points.  They went into a cold stretch halfway through the 1st half and Michigan took advantage.

Jimmy King and Jalen Rose hit threes.  Chris Webber got two layups (one on a putback).  Rose got a breakaway three-point play after Webber pushed the ball and hit Rose with a no-look pass.  A 19-5 run was capped when reserve (and non-freshman) James Voskuil nailed a three and the Wolverines led 32-18 with 6 minutes left.

However, it was the Wolverines turn to go cold and Vic Carstarphen’s turn to get hot on both ends.  Carstarphen first hit two three-pointers.  Then he drew a charge from Rose and started talking trash.  Rose would pick up a technical for an extra elbow and, since a technical counted as a personal in college, had 3 fouls.

A three-point play by McKie on a hustle putback cut the lead to 36-33 with under 2 minutes left.  But Michigan would finish on a 6-0 run as Howard scored 4 more points.  The Wolverines led 42-33 at the break.

Michigan started off strong in the 2nd half as well.  Webber hit a hook shot in the lane and Ray Jackson got two slams.  Two more threes from Carstarphen, who now had 16 points, was the only thing that kept Temple in the game as they trailed 49-39.

Temple would make their big run after they trailed 53-45.  McKie nailed a three and Strickland put back a miss.  Then, to help Temple matters, Howard picked up his 4th foul with 12:21 to go.  The game would be tied a minute later at 53.

Jones would then hit a three and Carstarphen a free throw as the Owls grabbed a 57-53 lead.  Temple was on a 12-0 run as Michigan went 5+ minutes without a point.

But Rose would show off his big shot chops just when it looked bad for Michigan.  Rose hit two pull-up bankers from the baseline to tie the game.  Strickland hit a turnaround banker in the lane with 6:55 left to give the Owls the lead again.

But it would be Temple’s turn to go into a drought following the media timeout and Howard’s re-emergence into the game.  Although Michigan wouldn’t exactly burn the nets over the final 7 minutes, they did better than Temple’s 0-for.

Webber found Howard for a hook shot in the lane and then King kicked out to Rose for a three.  Then with under 3 minutes to go, Rose fed Jackson for a layup on a cut.  The game would be officially put away with 1:45 left when Kilgore was called for an intentional foul.

Michigan would nail their free throws while Temple went 6+ minutes without scoring.  The Wolverines wouldn’t have as much of a challenge in their next game, thanks to an upset that happened following this game that I’ll write about next.  But then the Wolverines would have to deal with the top seeds of the Southeast Regional, including a conference opponent.

Temple starters (points scored)

Mik Kilgore (7) – Small Forward

Mark Strickland (10) – Power Forward

Frazier Johnson (0) – Center

Vic Carstarphen (17) – Point Guard

Aaron McKie (17) – Shooting Guard

Temple bench (points scored)

Eddie Jones (12)

Rick Brunson (1)

Johnnie Conic (2)

Temple Coach: John Chaney

Michigan starters (points scored)

Ray Jackson (6) – Small Forward

Chris Webber (11) – Power Forward

Juwan Howard (15) – Center

Jalen Rose (19) – Point Guard

Jimmy King (15) – Shooting Guard

Michigan bench (points scored)

Rob Pelinka (2)

Eric Riley (2)

James Voskuil (3)

Freddie Hunter (0)

Michigan Coach: Steve Fisher

March 20, 1992 – Southeast Regional 1st round: (#14)East Tennessee State Buccaneers 87, (#3)Arizona Wildcats 80

East Tennessee State was going to the NCAA tournament for the 4th straight season.  In 1989 as a 16th seed, they came oh so close to topping #1 Oklahoma.  They went 55-12 over the next two seasons with 5’7″ mighty mite Mr. Keith Jennings leading the way.  They were in the polls for the first (and last) time ever in 1991 and climbed to as high as 10, but they did not have an NCAA tournament win to go with it.

Although the Buccaneers lost Jennings to graduation, coach Alan LeForce and his team rebounded after a slow start in 1992.  East Tennessee State was 7-4 to start before a 16-2 finish and another Southern Conference championship.  The Bucs were coming in on an 8-game winning streak.

They were a senior dominated team who had Rodney English, Calvin Talford, Greg Dennis, and Jason Niblett (the only junior in the starting lineup) averaging double figures while Marty Story did the dirty work inside.  East Tennessee State was a perimeter team that shot a lot of threes.  This would create mismatches against big teams like Arizona.

Lute Olson and his Wildcats had not won the Pac-10 regular season title for the first time since 1987.  But Olson’s team was still a threat, especially inside with seniors Sean Rooks and Wayne Womack and junior Ed Stokes.  But the perimeter players weren’t bad either as Arizona trotted out junior forward Chris Mills, who was tied with Rooks as Arizona’s leading scorer at 16.2 points per game.  The guards were sophomore Khalid Reeves, senior Matt Othick, and freshman Damon Stoudamire.

Arizona was coming in at 24-6, but three of their losses came at the buzzer.  Darrick Martin of UCLA beat them at the buzzer in Arizona before Washington and USC (on the last game of the regular season) did the same thing.  As a result, Arizona finished behind UCLA and USC in the standings but were a dark horse pick to go all the way.

This game got off to a slow start as Arizona led 6-5 after 4 minutes.  But then it picked up as Niblett matched a three by Reeves and then Talford connected from behind the arc to give ETSU a 12-11 lead.

The Buccaneers would hit 7 threes over the first 12 minutes of the half, but Arizona’s power game was matching them and the game was tied at 26 at the 7:35 mark.  But then East Tennessee State kept making threes while Arizona went cold.

Niblett, English, and reserves Jerry Pelphrey (who’s brother, John, played at Kentucky) and Trazel Silvers each connected as ETSU went 11-for-17 on threes in the first half and finished the half with a 19-8 run.

The 2nd half didn’t get much better for Olson.  Rooks picked up his 3rd foul trying to guard ETSU’s perimeter center Greg Dennis.  He picked up his 4th foul on a charge a minute later and had to sit.

Then with 13:49 left, Talford got a layup and drew the 4th foul on Mills.  The three-point play put ETSU up 61-45 and Olson had to put Rooks back into the game to replace Mills.

Arizona didn’t let the lead grow as Womack got two three-point plays on putbacks.  But the Wildcats big run didn’t come until Dennis picked up his 4th foul with 11:45 left and ETSU up 66-53.

Mills came back in and hit a jumper after rebounding his own missed free throw.  Rooks put back a miss by Womack and Reeves hit two free throws to cut the lead to 66-60.  ETSU wasn’t helping themselves as they missed 6 straight free throws.  But Arizona could not take advantage and had their own field goal drought.

With around 5 minutes to go, Reeves fouled out for Arizona after shooting 2-for-8 from the field.  This put in Stoudamire, who would have the most success in penetrating ETSU’s defense and feeding the big men inside.  The problem with Reeves, Othick, and (to some degree) Mills was that they were taking outside shots instead of going inside to take advantage of Arizona’s power game.  Othick did not hit a field goal in his last college game.

With 3:39 left, Stoudamire fed Rooks for a layup to cut the lead to 75-70.  But Arizona’s field goals were few and too far between at this stretch.  The only points over the next 2 minutes came on 4 free throws by ETSU.

Arizona wouldn’t go quietly over the last minute as Rooks and Stoudamire connected on threes and two free throws by Stoudamire cut the lead to 83-80 with 22.9 seconds left.

But Rooks committed his 5th foul on Dennis and his career was over.  Dennis made two free throws and then rebounded an airballed three by Stoudamire to put the game away.

East Tennessee State finally had its NCAA tournament win, but the euphoria would be short-lived as they lost to Michigan 102-90 in the 2nd round.  Their next NCAA tournament appearance would come in 2003.

Arizona would come back strong the next season but, as it turned out, their loss to East Tennessee State wouldn’t be their most shocking tournament loss.

East Tennessee State starters (points scored)

Rodney English (21) – Small Forward

Marty Story (8) – Power Forward

Greg Dennis (8) – Center

Jason Niblett (13) – Point Guard

Calvin Talford (15) – Shooting Guard

East Tennessee State bench (points scored)

Trazel Silvers (12)

Jerry Pelphrey (5)

Eric Palmer (5)

Leslie Brunn (0)

East Tennessee State Coach: Alan LeForce

Arizona starters (points scored)

Chris Mills (17) – Small Forward

Wayne Womack (19) – Power Forward

Sean Rooks (17) – Center

Matt Othick (0) – Point Guard

Khalid Reeves (10) – Shooting Guard

Arizona bench (points scored)

Damon Stoudamire (15)

Ed Stokes (2)

Deron Johnson (0)

Ray Owes (0)

Arizona Coach: Lute Olson

March 21, 1992 – Midwest Regional 2nd round: (#6)Memphis State Tigers 82, (#3)Arkansas Razorbacks 80

Thanks to Larry Finch recruiting a bunch of new stars from the Memphis area, Memphis State University was on its way back.  The Tigers had not gotten out of the round of 32 since they made the Final Four in 1985.

The Tigers had missed the tournament the last two seasons but had two new stars who saw some time in the NBA.  The most famous was a Prop 48 sophomore with the nickname of Penny.  Anfernee Hardaway averaged 17.4 points per game, 7.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks and won the player of the year award in the Great Midwest Conference, which included stars for Cincinnati, who we’ll get to later.

But the player who would prove to be more effective in their matchup with Arkansas was freshman power forward David Vaughn.  Vaughn averaged 13.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.  Finch’s new stars carried Memphis State to a 21-10 record coming into this game.

One of those 21 wins came at the hand of Arkansas in a high-scoring charged-up atmosphere in Memphis.  Big men Vaughn and Anthony Douglas each had over 20 points as the Tigers won 92-88.

Vaughn and Douglas were backed up by junior Kelvin Allen and senior Tim Duncan who wasn’t the Tim Duncan, who was still in the Virgin Islands at this time.

Finch had a plethora of guards to play along with Hardaway.  There were seniors Tony Madlock and Ernest Smith, junior Billy Smith, and freshman Marcus Nolan, who would find himself with the ball and time running out just after he came into the ball game for the first time.

The Arkansas Razorbacks had won 6 in a row before being upset by Alabama in the Semifinals of the SEC tournament.  They beat Popeye Jones and Murray State, who had given top seeded Michigan State a run for their money in 1990, in the 1st round 80-69.  Senior Todd Day struggled with 9 points but fellow seniors Oliver Miller and Lee Mayberry came through.

Day seemed determined to make up for the lack of production in the 1st round game as he came out shooting and hitting.  He immediately got a wing jumper after Miller controlled the opening tip and then proceeded to knock down three triples for 13 points in the first 5 minutes and a 19-6 Arkansas lead.

This would prove to be the biggest lead for Nolan Richardson and the Razorbacks as Day went cold and Memphis State crept their way back into the game.  Hardaway would make his first field goal on a three-pointer to cut the lead to 30-26 with just over 6 minutes left.

Hardaway finished the 1st half with 7 points while Vaughn had 10.  But Memphis State mostly struggled, especially over the last few minutes, with turnovers and getting back on defense.

Usually when a team is on offense and a shot goes up, whoever is up top (usually the point guard) will immediately get back on defense to cut off any breakaways.  Memphis State was not doing this and it led to several Arkansas breaks.

The latest of which came in the last few seconds as Miller rebounded a missed free throw and threw a perfect pass to a streaking Darrell Hawkins.  His layup put Arkansas ahead 44-36 at the break.  Day had only scored 1 point since his barrage in the first 5 minutes.

Hawkins and Isaiah Morris were also helping out with the Arkansas scoring and continued to do so early in the 2nd half.  They took a 50-38 lead before Day picked up his 3rd foul and a technical.

This lapse in judgement led to a Memphis State run.  A pull-up by Ernest Smith and a slam from Vaughn forced Richardson to use a timeout with 16:11 left.  But Hardaway hit a jumper, Douglas put back a missed free throw, and then Hardaway tied it at 52 with a three-pointer.

Arkansas regained a 57-52 lead despite Day picking up his 4th foul while continuing to go scoreless.  They increased that lead to 64-56 when Mayberry, who wasn’t shooting well, hit a runner on the baseline.

But then Billy Smith, who was scoreless to this point, hit a three and then got a steal and slam.  This forced Richardson to use another timeout with 8:11 left.  A few minutes later, Richardson lost Day, who fouled out after not scoring in the 2nd half and scoring 1 point after the first 5 minutes.  The streakiness would become a microcosm of Day’s NBA career.

After Day fouled out, Vaughn hit two free throws to cut the lead to 67-65 and then Billy Smith made his second three to give Memphis State their first lead of the game.

The Tigers would increase that lead to as much as 6 but their guards were getting in foul trouble.  Billy Smith had 4 fouls, Madlock fouled out with 4:53 remaining, and, most notably, Hardaway picked up his 4th foul when Hawkins hit a high-arcing runner in the lane.  The three-point play cut the lead to 76-73 with 3:46 left.

Miller and Vaughn traded baskets before Hardaway fouled out with 1:50 remaining when he touched Morris as he grabbed an offensive rebound.  Morris split the free throws but Hawkins grabbed his second miss and Mayberry tied it at 78 with a high-arcing runner on the baseline.

Ernest Smith tried to come right back and get one in transition.  He missed but Vaughn slammed it in with 1:08 left to give Memphis State an 80-78 lead.  Vaughn would then foul Hawkins on a drive and the unheralded junior, who was leading the way for Arkansas, hit both free throws to tie it.  Finch got a timeout with 41.6 seconds left.

There was still a 6-second difference between the shot clock and game clock but Finch told his team to run it down.  As the clock neared the end, freshman Marcus Nolan had the ball and it didn’t look like the Tigers were going to get anything off.

Nolan quickly got it to Vaughn, who launched a shot at the perimeter as Miller lunged at him and the shot clock was down to 1 second.  The shot missed but Vaughn followed up and out-jumped two teammates (while Arkansas, most notably the 300 lb+ Miller, stood and watched) for a putback to give the Tigers the lead again.

Arkansas got a timeout with 5.8 seconds left.  Richardson’s answer was to give the ball to Mayberry and have him try to go full court.  Mayberry made it just over half-court before launching a long three and coming up short at the buzzer.

The young Memphis Tigers were moving on and would have some more drama in the next round.  Meanwhile, Arkansas would lose several seniors (most notably: Day, Miller, and Mayberry) that had been a part of a Final Four team in 1990.  But Richardson would reload and be back with some talent that would go to more Final Fours and bring home some hardware with an Arkansas native who was now President watching.

Memphis State starters (points scored)

Anfernee Hardaway (14) – Small Forward

David Vaughn (26) – Power Forward

Anthony Douglas (12) – Center

Tony Madlock (7) – Point Guard

Billy Smith (10) – Shooting Guard

Memphis State bench (points scored)

Ernest Smith (9)

Kelvin Allen (4)

Tim Duncan (0)

Marcus Nolan (0)

Memphis State Coach: Larry Finch

Arkansas starters (points scored)

Todd Day (14) – Small Forward

Isaiah Morris (15) – Power Forward

Oliver Miller (14) – Center

Lee Mayberry (8) – Point Guard

Robert Shepherd (5) – Shooting Guard

Arkansas bench (points scored)

Darrell Hawkins (22)

Clint McDaniel (2)

Ken Biley (0)

Roosevelt Wallace (0)

Warren Linn (0)

Davor Rimac (0)

Shawn Davis (0)

Arkansas Coach: Nolan Richardson

david-vaughn

David Vaughn’s putback sent Arkansas home and Memphis State to the Sweet 16 *photo courtesy of comc.com

March 21, 1992 – West Regional 2nd round: (#7)LSU Tigers 79, (#2)Indiana Hoosiers 89

The question for LSU for the past few seasons was whether Shaquille O’Neal was going to get enough help.  In LSU’s 1st round defeat of Brigham Young, Maurice Williamson contributed 30 points to go along with Shaq’s 26 in a 94-83 win.

But with an experienced Indiana team up next, the question would resurface.  Another question was about Dale Brown as a coach.  The last time these two teams met in the NCAA tournament was 1987.  Indiana came from behind to win 77-76 on their way to the National Championship.  Apparently after the game, Bob Knight said something along the lines of knowing his team had a chance to come from behind with Dale Brown coaching on the other side.  Ouch!

Knight vehemently retracted (or denied) his statement in a press conference the previous day.  But two coaching moves left one to question Dale Brown in what turned out to be his second-to-last NCAA tournament game.

It started out well for the Tigers as Vernel Singleton hit three jumpers from the top.  Williamson connected on two more field goals (including a three) and when Shaq got a three-point play on a finger roll, LSU led 14-7 at the 15:38 mark.

The run continued as Clarence Ceasar scored 5 points, Singleton hit another jumper, and Shaq got two slams.  LSU was 12-for-15 from the field and led 27-13 at the 11:55 mark.

But Brown took O’Neal out of the game at that point and Knight brought in senior Jamal Meeks.  The two moves seemed to coincide with the game turning.  Meeks hit a three and then drew Williamson’s 2nd foul on a charge.

Shaq came back in but Calbert Cheaney challenged him for a reverse layup.  While LSU was bound not to stay as hot as they started, their zone defense was exploited by Indiana.  Namely, the Hoosiers big men of Alan Henderson, Eric Anderson, and Matt Nover stepped out for corner jumpers that were open because the zone wasn’t going to the corner.

They battled their way back and then took the lead on a 12-0 run.  Anderson had 7 points while Nover scored 8, Henderson 10, and Cheaney 13.  Meanwhile Shaq committed two fouls and had 9 points at the half as Indiana led 45-38.

But O’Neal came out and dominated the start of the 2nd half (it also did help that he got the ball inside from teammates).  Shaq scored all 9 points in a 9-2 LSU run to tie the game at 47.

But Damon Bailey and Eric Anderson would hit three-pointers to build Indiana’s lead back up again.  Cheaney would also get into the middle of the lane and hit some high arcing shots over Shaq.

O’Neal would continue to dominate offensively to keep LSU in the game.  But a three-point play by Henderson (on a baseline jumper that was open because LSU didn’t adjust their game plan) put the Hoosiers up 69-59.

The Tigers would make their final run with over 6 minutes left.  O’Neal got a three-point play for his 28th point (and 19th of the 2nd half).  Singleton then grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast for a layup.  Ceasar hit a long two and then two free throws from O’Neal cut the lead to 73-70.

But then Bailey hit his second big three-pointer of the game and Cheaney got a three-point play on a banker in the lane.  LSU would be finished when Singleton fouled out with 2:34 left.

O’Neal would get some garbage points and finish his college career with an impressive stat line: 36 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks, 12-for-12 from the free throw line (wait, what?!?! Yep, Shaq was 12-for-12 from the line).

LSU would not be the same under Dale Brown after Shaq left for the NBA.  In fact, other than a 2006 Final Four appearance (and a shellacking from UCLA), LSU basketball would not be the same after Shaq.  Even when another #1 draft choice showed up 23 years later.

Meanwhile, Indiana followed up this performance with two impressive wins.  They beat back Florida State 85-74 in the Sweet 16 after starting the 2nd half on a 10-0 run.  Then the Hoosiers avenged an opening game loss to UCLA in a big way, 106-79, to reach the 5th Final Four for Indiana under Bob Knight.

LSU starters (points scored)

Clarence Ceasar (12) – Small Forward

Vernel Singleton (14) – Power Forward

Shaquille O’Neal (36) – Center

Jamie Brandon (0) – Point Guard

Maurice Williamson (11) – Shooting Guard

LSU bench (points scored)

Justin Anderson (3)

Harold Boudreaux (3)

T.J. Pugh (0)

Mike Hansen (0)

Geert Hammink (0)

Paul Marshall (0)

John Picou (0)

David Mascia (0)

LSU Coach: Dale Brown

Indiana starters (points scored)

Calbert Cheaney (30) – Small Forward

Alan Henderson (19) – Power Forward

Matt Nover (13) – Center

Chris Reynolds (0) – Point Guard

Damon Bailey (9) – Shooting Guard

Indiana bench (points scored)

Jamal Meeks (4)

Eric Anderson (12)

Greg Graham (2)

Indiana Coach: Bob Knight

College Basketball: NCAA Playoffs: LSU Shaquille O'Neal (32) in action vs Indiana Eric Anderson (32) at BSU Pavillion. Boise, ID 3/21/1992 CREDIT: John W. McDonough (Photo by John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X42640 )

College Basketball: NCAA Playoffs: LSU Shaquille O’Neal (32) in action vs Indiana Eric Anderson (32) at BSU Pavillion.
Boise, ID 3/21/1992
CREDIT: John W. McDonough (Photo by John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
(Set Number: X42640 )

March 21, 1992 – Midwest Regional 2nd round: (#7)Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 79, (#2)USC Trojans 78

The USC Trojans had climbed the ladder quickly in 1992 thanks to the brilliance of Harold Miner and a slew of come from behind, close-game victories.  Now they were on the verge of their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1961.

Georgia Tech was probably still the team that people watched and said, “Who are these guys? They aren’t Kenny Anderson.”  But Tech had finished 4th in the ACC and held off Houston in the 1st round as freshman Travis Best hit a big three-pointer in the late going.

That three by Best seemed to up his confidence to the point that he scored the Yellow Jacket’s first 7 points of this game and had 10 in the first 6 minutes.

Georgia Tech grabbed an early lead as senior Jon Barry helped out by hitting two threes, as well as holding Miner down in their individual matchup.  Baby Jordan would be held without a field goal for the first 19 minutes and 50 seconds of the game.

After three straight field goals by Malcolm Mackey, the only starter remaining from the 1990 Final Four team, Georgia Tech had a 26-14 lead halfway through the 1st half.

Senior Duane Cooper led USC back into the game at that point but they would make their big run over the final 4 minutes when reserve JC transfer Dwayne Hackett went crazy and nailed 4 three-pointers.

USC finished the 1st half on a 14-3 run and took a 39-38 lead in the last 10 seconds when Miner made a wing jumper for his first field goal.  The trend didn’t look good for Bobby Cremins and Georgia Tech as the Yellow Jackets shot 60% from the field and held Miner to a 1-for-6 half but trailed 39-38 at the break.

The bad trend came to fruition over the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half.  USC’s inside game of Mark Boyd and Yamen Sanders took control against Mackey and Matt Geiger and got several points and rebounds.

Miner also woke up a bit, hitting back-to-back three-pointers to put the Trojans up 60-49 with 12:50 to go in the game.  But Tech would make a quick run over the next minute as power freshman James Forrest scored 5 points and the lead was cut to 62-56 with 11:47 left.

USC would then be held to 1 field goal over the next 9 minutes as Geiger, Mackey, and Forrest re-established control of the inside game and Barry continued to do a solid job on Miner and nail three-pointers.

Tech tied it with 6:49 left and then took a 74-69 lead with under 3 minutes left.  During that stretch, Barry hit two three-pointers, Geiger had 6 points on 3 layups and Mackey hit 4 free throws.

But just when it looked like Tech had control of the game for good, Boyd grabbed an offensive rebound and put the ball back in.  Miner followed with a runner after a spin in the lane.  Then freshman Lorenzo Orr took a feed from Cooper and hit a runner with 1:16 left to give USC a 76-74 lead.  Bobby Cremins couldn’t exactly halt the run because he only had 1 timeout left.

Tech ran down the shot clock and Best found Barry for a runner in the lane to tie the game.  But USC had the ball and were close to running it down for the final shot.

George Raveling didn’t use a timeout.  Miner was bottled up so USC decided to go with the mismatch.  With Georgia Tech’s powerful front line, USC had countered with a three-guard lineup of three of their top four scorers; Miner, Cooper, and junior Rodney Chatman.

In this particular case, Chatman was guarded by James Forrest.  So the top was cleared out and Rodney went 1-on-1 to the right baseline.  He pulled up quickly as Forrest fell down and hit a 6-footer with 2.2 seconds to play.  USC led 78-76 and it looked like Rodney Chatman would join a long list of unsung NCAA tournament heroes.

Cremins used his last timeout but Georgia Tech would still have to go the length of the court (although it would be a tenth of a second more than Duke would have later in the tournament).

What followed was a few breaks, quite frankly, without even getting to the last shot.  The first inbounds play from the full-court got the ball to Barry running towards USC’s basket from halfcourt.  Barry dribbled and happened to dribble the ball out of bounds off the foot of his defender, Chatman, with 0.8 seconds on the clock.

Without dribbling the ball off of his defender, Barry would have had to launch a prayer from half-court.  Now Georgia Tech was getting the ball at half-court but the confusion continued.  Cremins was lobbying for more time on the clock but didn’t have a timeout to further lobby his point (and, remember kids, there was no replay review at the time).

Meanwhile, George Raveling seemed to be arguing that somebody on Georgia Tech was trying to call for a timeout.  This, obviously, would have ended the game and sent USC to the Sweet 16.

Amid the confusion, the referee handed the ball to Geiger to inbound and everyone seemed dazed.  For Tech; Mackey, Barry, and Best seemed to be trying to get open while James Forrest just stood in the near corner (it really looked like Forrest could have had a backdoor lane open to the basket if he took it).  For USC, they seemed to be a bit confused of what they were doing defensively (I’m sure if Raveling could have done it over or had more time, he may have used a timeout to set his defense).

But, anyway, Geiger looked for the open man for 4 seconds before whipping a pass to Forrest.  James turned and launched a three that perfectly swished in as Al McGuire went crazy and Georgia Tech ran off with a stunning win (and James Forrest joined a long list of unsung NCAA tournament heroes).

USC would compete in the NIT in 1993 and ’94 under Raveling.  But George retired from coaching following a car accident that happened a month before the 1995 season.  Raveling eventually recovered and has served in many basketball roles since his retirement.  USC has had brief moments of basketball prominence since 1992, but ’92 was the last season that they had a single-digit number of losses and had a single-digit ranking in the polls.

Georgia Tech would move on against another cinderella team in Memphis State.

Georgia Tech starters (points scored)

James Forrest (15) – Small Forward

Malcolm Mackey (16) – Power Forward

Matt Geiger (12) – Center

Travis Best (16) – Point Guard

Jon Barry (20) – Shooting Guard

Georgia Tech bench (points scored)

Bryan Hill (0)

Ivano Newbill (0)

Fred Vinson (0)

Georgia Tech Coach: Bobby Cremins

USC starters (points scored)

Harold Miner (18) – Small Forward

Mark Boyd (12) – Power Forward

Yamen Sanders (14) – Center

Duane Cooper (11) – Point Guard

Phil Glenn (0) – Shooting Guard

USC bench (points scored)

Dwayne Hackett (12)

Rodney Chatman (6)

Lorenzo Orr (5)

USC Coach: George Raveling

March 22, 1992 – Midwest Regional 2nd round: (#9)UTEP Miners 66, (#1)Kansas Jayhawks 60

The UTEP Miners won one of the most important NCAA Championships in 1966.  In the title game, Don Haskins trotted out five black starters.  They beat Kentucky’s all-white team to win the National Championship.

Haskins was still coaching the team 26 years later, but the Miners had not reached the Sweet 16 since the year after their National title in 1967.

But UTEP had a group of seniors who had been to the NCAA tournament before.  Their only player who would go on to play an NBA game was 6’8″ power man Marlon Maxey.  Maxey and shot-blocker David Van Dyke formed a dominant inside tandem and they were the top two scorers for Haskins.

The guard combination also averaged double figures but they were small as hell.  There was 5’11” senior Prince Stewart and 5’8″ JC transfer Eddie Rivera.  Rivera had come in and become a clutch player for the Miners in 1992.  He had hit the big shot in their 1st round win against Evansville.

Other key contributors were two 6’5″ swingmen in junior Johnny Melvin and sophomore Ralph Davis.  Both would have big games against Kansas, who wasn’t as athletic at the forward position.

The backup big man was Roy Howard and the backup guard was Gym Bice (apparently, Bice intentionally changed his name to “Gym,” pronounced the same as “Jim,” to flaunt his work ethic as a basketball player).  Both Howard and Bice would pass away from separate accidents in later years.

Not much was expected of UTEP in 1992, but they finished the regular season at 25-6 and 2nd in the WAC at 12-4.  They were this close to winning their conference tournament, but lost to top-seeded BYU 73-71 when Kevin Nixon made a prayer from over half-court.

Still the Miners were invited to the Big Dance and unlike BYU, who lost to LSU, UTEP won their 1st round game.

But now they ran into a 27-4 fast-paced Kansas team who had run Howard off the floor 100-67 in their 1st round game.  Kansas ran through the Big 12 in impressive fashion and looked like a much better team than they were when they went to the final game in 1991.

But Haskins had a strategy and it involved his guards slowing the tempo and taking time off the shot clock (not to the extent of Princeton, but still).  It worked early on despite Kansas grabbing a lead.

Van Dyke picked up 2 very early fouls but stayed in.  Rex Walters hit two early threes for Kansas and Roy Williams’ team went on an 8-0 run to take a 16-8 lead with 11:54 left.

But then the Jayhawks went cold and UTEP hit the offensive boards.  Four putbacks helped the Miners tie the game at 18 with 7:10 left despite Maxey picking up his 3rd foul.  Van Dyke would follow with his 3rd foul not too far later.

Kansas regained a lead but fell into a turnover lull that prevented them from increasing it.  UTEP would big up some big momentum just before the half as Howard, who also had 3 fouls, grabbed a defensive rebound when Walters shot the ball too early on the final possession.

Howard then threw a long outlet to Stewart who finished off a 2-on-1 breakaway just before the buzzer to tie the game at 27.  With the game as low as 27 at halftime, Haskins strategy was paying off.

The teams continued to trade barbs early in the 2nd half.  Maxie and Melvin were doing the job for UTEP while freshman Greg Ostertag made a big contribution for the Jayhawks.

Kansas went on a 5-0 run to take a 43-40 lead midway through the 2nd half.  They then tried to break open the game with a 1-3-1 trap.  UTEP was able to control the ball but didn’t seem like they were going anywhere for the duration of the 45-second shot clock.

But at the end, Rivera (who was struggling in shooting the ball but controlling the tempo nicely) penetrated and found Van Dyke for a baseline jumper as the shot clock expired.  This would prove to be a big hoop and UTEP re-took the lead when Stewart nailed a three with under 8 minutes to go.  Rivera followed with a steal and found Davis for a breakaway slam as the crowd was starting to get into it on UTEP’s side.

But with 5 1/2 to go, Van Dyke picked up his 4th and 5th fouls on consecutive possessions.  Alonzo Jamison tied it at 47 with two free throws.

However, things would start to unravel for Kansas as UTEP hit the offensive boards again.  Davis out-hustled Jamison to put back a Stewart airball and draw Jamison’s 4th foul.  Davis missed the free throw but Melvin grabbed the offensive rebound.

With the Miners up 51-47, they ran off more clock before Stewart missed a driving shot.  But Davis grabbed the rebound again and put it back in for his 6th consecutive point on UTEP’s 6-0 run.

Stewart then got a steal before Kansas could get it across half-court.  The clock was run down again before Rivera hit a pull-up from the top for his only field goal of the game.  UTEP now led 55-47 with 3:19 left.

But Kansas didn’t give in as the scoring picked up over the last 3 minutes.  Adonis Jordan found Jamison for a layup.  Walters then came up with a steal and Steve Woodberry nailed a three with 2:34 left.  Kansas was back to within 55-52.

Melvin followed by driving past Jamison for a layup as he charged into Richard Scott.  The basket counted for Melvin and Scott missed the back end of the ensuing 1-and-1.

But Kansas kept it to within 58-55 with just over a minute left and all they needed was a stop.  They didn’t get it.  UTEP ran down the shot clock and Melvin hit a driving double-pump scoop as time expired.

Jamison hit two free throws with 37.5 seconds left.  Stewart threw a long, dangerous pass to Davis at the other side of the court and Davis found Maxey for a slam.  Walters was then fouled by Rivera.  He split the free throws but Scott put back his miss to cut it to 62-60 with 16.3 seconds left.

But Johnny Melvin again wouldn’t give the Jayhawks a chance to tie it.  He was fouled by Scott with 13 seconds left and made both free throws.  Stewart then knocked the ball away and the Miners added icing when Davis nailed a jumper at the buzzer.

For UTEP, this would be their biggest NCAA tournament win since their National Championship and it would also be their last.  The Miners lost a close one to Cincinnati in the Sweet 16, 69-67.  Haskins retired in 1999 without another tournament appearance.  He passed away in 2008.

Kansas would lick their wounds and come back for a long tournament run in 1993.  But this wasn’t the last time that the Jayhawks lost before they should have in an NCAA tournament.

UTEP starters (points scored)

Johnny Melvin (18) – Small Forward

Marlon Maxey (14) – Power Forward

David Van Dyke (6) – Center

Eddie Rivera (2) – Point Guard

Prince Stewart (8) – Shooting Guard

UTEP bench (points scored)

Ralph Davis (12)

Roy Howard (6)

Gym Bice (0)

UTEP Coach: Don Haskins

Kansas starters (points scored)

Alonzo Jamison (10) – Small Forward

Richard Scott (12) – Power Forward

Eric Pauley (6) – Center

Adonis Jordan (2) – Point Guard

Rex Walters (14) – Shooting Guard

Kansas bench (points scored)

Steve Woodberry (6)

Ben Davis (4)

Greg Ostertag (6)

Patrick Richey (0)

Malcolm Nash (0)

David Johanning (0)

Kansas Coach: Roy Williams

melvin-utep

Johnny Melvin celebrates UTEP’s upset of Kansas in 1992 *photo courtesy of UTEP Athletics

March 22, 1992 – East Regional 2nd round: (#6)Syracuse Orangemen 71, (#3)UMass Minutemen 77 (OT)

The UMass Minutemen were making their 2nd ever NCAA tournament appearance and first in 30 years.  They also had a young coach who has become pretty well known by the name of John Calipari.

In 1992, Calipari was 32 years old and in his 4th season coaching UMass.  His team was starting to look like the mini-version of his Kentucky teams that basketball fans have come to know and love (is “love” the right word here? I’ll let you decide).

Of the players who regularly played for Calipari in 1992, nobody was taller than 6’7″.  But all were athletic and some had big bodies.  They pressed and played man-to-man all over the floor.  They hit the boards and threw down alley-oops.  The only main difference was Calipari’s 1992 UMass team only had one NBA player in freshman Lou Roe.

Calipari was getting under-appreciated talent and getting the best out of them.  Roe joined a starting lineup of all upper-classmen (Calipari with upper-classmen?!?! Yep, it was a different time).

The seniors included the guard combination of Anton Brown and leading scorer Jim McCoy (who looked like NBA talent until you realized he was 6’4″ 180lbs and didn’t hit a three-pointer all year).  The other was an athletic big body forward in Will Herndon.  Herndon was 6’3″ but a solid 220 and did the opening jump ball.

The juniors were Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Harper Williams.  Williams was their “big man” at 6’7″ 230 lbs but attacked the boards ferociously along with Herndon.  The 5th starter was Tony Barbee, who was UMass’s outside shooter long with Brown.  Each starter averaged in double figures with Roe contributing 7.8 off the bench.  Roe would be known on the team for playing better in TV games, like this one.

UMass went through the season at 28-4 and won the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament title (in a conference that included Temple – UMass/Temple became a pretty nice rivalry that peaked in 1994).  But the Minutemen had played only 2 ranked teams all year (getting drilled by Kentucky and beating Oklahoma, both were ranked #14 at the time of the matchups), so it didn’t come without controversy that UMass was named a #3 seed.

The tournament and the fact that UMass was playing an opponent in close proximity that had become a basketball power in Syracuse gave Calipari and the Minutemen a chance to show how good they were.  It also helped that the game was in Worcester (not far at all from Amherst, Mass).

Syracuse had been free-falling before winning the Big East tournament.  They won a typical slow-down game with Princeton in the 1st round 51-43 despite leading scorer Dave Johnson going 1-for-10.  Freshman Lawrence Moten picked it up with 23 points.  But Johnson would need a better effort against a UMass team that drilled Fordham in the 1st round.

The Minutemen started off fast as McCoy got a driving basket off the opening tip.  But UMass missed its next 7 shots and Syracuse took an 8-4 lead despite Johnson picking up 2 fouls.  Johnson stayed in the game as Jim Boeheim switched to a 2-3 zone defense (the defense his team would live by in the 21st century).

UMass got it together and took a 17-12 lead when Roe came off the bench and scored 6 points.  But then the Minutemen went into a 6 minute drought and Johnson led Syracuse on a 9-0 run.  Despite the aggressive defense from Herndon, Johnson used his 6’7″ height to go down low and score 16 1st half points, which was more than making up for his 1st round performance.

But McCoy’s 10 points in the 1st half kept UMass within 32-30 at halftime.  The Minutemen were fortunate to be that close as they weren’t shooting well, especially close in.  Barbee had picked up his 3rd foul just before the half as well.

Over the first 3 minutes of the 2nd half, it continued even as the scoring picked up.  UMass took a 37-36 lead on a three-pointer by Brown.  But Moten came right back with a three that kicked off a 9-0 Syracuse run which wasn’t helped by Roe picking up his 3rd foul.

But back came UMass as the crowd got into it.  McCoy hit a pull-up from the wing, Harper Williams followed up two misses for a score, Roe hit a driving banker, and McCoy hit on a double-pump.  The Minutemen tied it at 50 when Barbee hit a wing jumper and then took the lead when Brown made a runner in transition.

They increased that lead to 56-50 when McCoy found Herndon on a 3-on-1 break for a layup, UMass was on a 19-5 run.  But Syracuse got back into it and cut the lead to 58-57 when reserve Michael Edwards nailed a three (this would be Edwards’ only points of the game, but he did out-score the man playing in front of him in Adrian Autry.. Autry finished with 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but was 0-for-11 from the field with 1 point).

The Minutemen held the lead but could not exactly put the game away at the free throw line.  A driving lefty layup by Moten cut the lead to 64-62 with 1:24 left.  UMass then ran down the shot clock with Barbee missing from the top at the buzzer.  Moten grabbed the rebound initially but Herndon stole it from him.

Now in UMass’s effort to avoid being fouled, McCoy slipped and was called for traveling with 36 seconds left.  After a timeout, Syracuse went to the weapon that had been working all day.  They got the ball to Johnson down low and he nailed a banker over Roe (who actually matched him in height) to tie the game at 64.  UMass used a timeout with 12.1 seconds left.

Calipari went to McCoy at the wing.  The senior drove for a shot but Autry made yet another non-scoring contribution as he blocked the shot and the buzzer sounded.  The heated game was headed to overtime.

In the extra period, UMass scored the first 4 points.  Syracuse then tied it at 68 before Autry fouled McCoy with 2:33 left.  McCoy hit two free throws and, after Moten missed a pull-up jumper, Brown found Barbee for a baseline drive and UMass led 72-68 with 1:30 left.

After a timeout, the Orangemen again went down low to Johnson.  He connected on a turnaround and drew a foul from Harper Williams.  The three-point play cut the lead to 72-71 with 1:15 to play.

UMass ran down the 45-second shot clock but didn’t look like they had anything going.  Syracuse knocked the ball out of bounds with 36 seconds left (and 6 on the shot clock if you’re doing the math).  But even on the inbounds, Herndon didn’t have any urgency as he took the inbounds and got the ball to Harper Williams up top.

Williams finally saw the clock and launched his 6th three-point attempt of the season.  Wouldn’t you know it, it swished in and UMass led 75-71 as the crowd and the UMass bench had an “Holy sh-t, WTF!?!” reaction.  It was Williams’ second make of a three that season and the last of his college career.

Syracuse must’ve been shocked too as they didn’t call a timeout and Moten tried to answer with a trey and came up with an airball.  The Orangemen then lacked the necessary urgency as they let 15 seconds go off the clock before committing a foul with 4.8 seconds left.  McCoy’s two free throws sealed the game.

UMass had its big win for its respectability and the legend of Calipari (that didn’t involve NCAA infractions) had begun.  The Minutemen would now take their hand at another basketball power in the Sweet 16 that Calipari would get to know in 17 years.

Syracuse starters (points scored)

Mike Hopkins (8) – Small Forward

Dave Johnson (26) – Power Forward

Conrad McRae (14) – Center

Adrian Autry (1) – Point Guard

Lawrence Moten (19) – Shooting Guard

Syracuse bench (points scored)

Michael Edwards (3)

Dave Siock (0)

Scott McCorkle (0)

Syracuse Coach: Jim Boeheim

UMass starters (points scored)

Tony Barbee (8) – Small Forward

Will Herndon (7) – Power Forward

Harper Williams (18) – Center

Anton Brown (10) – Point Guard

Jim McCoy (24) – Shooting Guard

UMass bench (points scored)

Lou Roe (10)

Mike Williams (0)

Kennard Robinson (0)

Jerome Malloy (0)

UMass Coach: John Calipari

March 26, 1992 – East Regional Semifinals: (#3)UMass Minutemen 77, (#2)Kentucky Wildcats 87

Despite being the #2 and #3 seed in the region, UMass and Kentucky were not supposed to be in this position, as one would say.  With its win over Syracuse, UMass became the second team in the country, behind Duke, to get to 30 wins.  UMass’s underdog status was explained in the latest game post.

Kentucky had been put on probation and nearly got the death penalty in 1989.  But Wildcat fans could probably thank the hire of the former Knicks coach for their quick return.  Bronx product Jamal Mashburn wanted to play for Rick Pitino, and hadn’t even visited Kentucky before making his choice.

Now a sophomore, Mashburn averaged 21.3 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game to lead Kentucky in both categories by a wide margin.  Mashburn was, quite simply, the superstar who was playing with a bunch of role players.  But the Wildcats featured great ball movement and a full-court press that created extra baskets.  They also had some fine shooting.

Pitino had a group of seniors known as the Unforgettables who stuck with the program as it went through probation.  Forwards John Pelphrey and Deron Feldhaus and guards Sean Woods and Richie Farmer.  Pelphrey and Feldhaus averaged double figures while Pelphrey and point guard Woods racked up the assists.

Others from the group were younger guys as Pitino was starting to land some stars, although he’d get bigger stars as the decade went on.  There was junior guard and JC transfer Dale Brown, sophomore center Gimel Martinez and sophomore point guard transfer from Missouri Travis Ford, and there were freshmen big men Andre Riddick and Aminu Timberlake (who would become famous in the next Kentucky game for, let’s just say, being at the right place at the right time).

This group had been ranked all season but never topped its pre-season #4 ranking.  Kentucky was blown out by Pitt in its second game of the season at Rupp Arena.  They followed by winning 13 of their next 14 games with only a few of those games being close (a 2-point win vs. Indiana and a 1-point loss to Georgia Tech).  Then in a stretch at the end of January, Kentucky lost 3 of 4 games before finishing the regular season at an 8-1 clip and winning the SEC tournament.

They were 26-6 entering the NCAA tournament and blew out Old Dominion before having to hold off Iowa State 106-98.  One of Kentucky’s early season wins came against UMass as the Minutemen had no answer for Jamal Mashburn.

They still didn’t have an answer for Mashburn in the 1st half or for Kentucky in general.  The Wildcats hit their first 8 field goal attempts thanks to their passing and cutting that put Calipari’s team in a daze.

UMass’s offense was also in a daze as they missed some good shots but also took very quick ones.  The analysis from Len Elmore was that the Minutemen seemed to be letting the moment be bigger than they were, like they were happy and shocked to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

Mashburn had 8 early points, all from the paint or from the line, before nailing a three to put Kentucky up 17-10.  Feldhaus followed with a three as Kentucky was 8-for-8 from the field.  But even after their first miss, which was tipped in by Feldhaus, Kentucky continued to increase its lead.  It reached 28-11 after a driving banker by Woods.

Pelphrey later nailed a three with just over 8 minutes to go to make the score 35-16.  Pelphrey then found Mashburn for a layup to give the Wildcats their biggest lead at 37-16.  UMass followed with a 6-2 run before Pelphrey answered a Minutemen basket by driving for a three-point play.  After a rebound-slam by freshman Riddick, Kentucky led 44-24.

But UMass had already started playing out of their doldrums and, at this point, Calipari switched to the zone as UMass’s man-to-man couldn’t handle Kentucky.  It worked as UMass made a run.

Four free throws by Lou Roe started the rally.  Then Will Herndon stole a pass, Anton Brown pushed the ball and found Tony Barbee for a three-pointer as the crowd, which seemed mostly pro-UMass in the close proximity of Philadelphia, started to come alive.  Two free throws by Brown cut the lead to 44-33 with 3:20 left.

Mashburn answered with two baskets to bring his 1st half total to 17 points, but the Minutemen were in a stretch where they made 8 consecutive field goals and cut the lead to 50-39 just before halftime.

With 1.4 seconds left in the half, UMass inbounded the ball on the other side of the court from Kentucky’s basket.  They didn’t go long as Herndon casually tossed it in to Jim McCoy about 70 feet away from the basket.  McCoy threw up a prayer and it was answered with a swish.

UMass had cut Kentucky’s lead to 50-42 at halftime and had oodles of momentum.

It did carry over as UMass cut the lead to 52-48 despite Harper Williams picking up his 3rd foul.  Pelphrey also committed his 3rd foul after hitting a jumper to make it 54-48.  But Mashburn followed with a putback and Farmer drove down the lane for a lefty layup and the lead was back to 10.

But UMass answered quickly as Barbee hit a scoop shot after the Minutemen broke Kentucky’s press and drew a foul.  He missed the free throw but Williams put back the miss to cut it to 58-52.

Although Kentucky’s lead would eventually be cut to 60-58, UMass fell into a rash of turnovers from rushed plays that prevented them from tying and perhaps taking the lead in the game.  The Wildcats eventually regained a 66-58 advantage.

But back came UMass over the next 4 minutes as they cut the lead to 68-65 when Brown threw an alley-oop to Herndon in transition.  The lead would be cut back to 70-68 when Brown nailed a three with just over 6 minutes left.  With UMass perhaps on the verge of finally getting over the hump, the game turned quickly.

Feldhaus missed a three and the ball kicked back to the foul line where the point guards Anton Brown and Sean Woods went for it.  Woods got a hand on it from behind Brown and tapped it back to Pelphrey.  As Kentucky reset it offense, a whistle blew and a referee, Lenny Wirtz, could be seen running towards the UMass bench.

He had called a technical against Calipari at the 5:47 mark.  The initial explanation was that Calipari left the coaching box and the announcers thought he was shouting at his team to continue their stellar defense.  From that sense, it seemed like a horrible technical to call on the coach.  This was especially considering that Rick Pitino was notorious for leaving the coach’s box and was called out after the previous tournament game by Iowa State veteran coach Johnny Orr.

While replay showed Calipari did leave the box and had his arms up, another perspective eventually came out that Wirtz, the veteran ACC official who was 3 years from retirement, had grown sick of Calipari essentally arguing every call against his team and thought Calipari coming out of the box with his arms up meant he was vehemently saying that Woods had gone over the back of Brown to tap back the last rebound.

Either way, the technical was called.  Farmer hit the two free throws and Kentucky got the ball back.  Pelphrey then found a cutting Feldhaus for a layup.  Then after a UMass turnover, the two seniors did it again as Pelphrey found a cutting Feldhaus for a layup.  The lead was up to 76-68 with 3:51 left and UMass was essentially done.

Kentucky would coast from there and the attention stayed at the technical foul.  But Calipari eventually would learn how to “work the officials” without going too far.  The young coach who was getting some media attention for the first time had evidently gone too far in the eyes of Wirtz, who had been officiating games since before Calipari was born according to a postgame article.

Calipari and Pitino would meet in two Final Four games over the next 20 years, the first meeting would come 4 years later as the two coaches were still coaching the same two teams.  But before that, both teams (and coaches) would have to go through some NCAA tournament disappointments/heartbreaks, starting with Pitino two days later.

Massachusetts starters (points scored)

Tony Barbee (10) – Small Forward

Will Herndon (15) – Power Forward

Harper Williams (8) – Center

Anton Brown (14) – Point Guard

Jim McCoy (21) – Shooting Guard

Massachusetts bench (points scored)

Lou Roe (9)

Jerome Malloy (0)

Derek Kellogg (0)

Kennard Robinson (0)

Massachusetts Coach: John Calipari

Kentucky starters (points scored)

John Pelphrey (18) – Small Forward

Jamal Mashburn (30) – Power Forward

Gimel Martinez (0) – Center

Sean Woods (12) – Point Guard

Richie Farmer (7) – Shooting Guard

Kentucky bench (points scored)

Deron Feldhaus (11)

Dale Brown (5)

Travis Ford (0)

Junior Braddy (2)

Aminu Timberlake (0)

Andre Riddick (2)

Kentucky Coach: Rick Pitino

calipari-pitino

John Calipari (left) and Rick Pitino would be noted by 1992 media of how similar they were *photo courtesy of Deadspin

March 27, 1992 – Southeast Regional Semifinal: (#4)North Carolina Tarheels 73, (#1)Ohio State Buckeyes 80

Ohio State had snuck past Indiana for the Big Ten title and a #1 seed.  They seemed to solidify that ranking by blasting Mississippi Valley State and UConn by wide margins in the 1st two rounds.  But a troubling trend was developing in the performance of Jim Jackson.

Jackson’s stats looked good in Ohio State’s 78-55 win over UConn: 23 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 7-for-10 from the foul line, until you looked at field goals and realized that Jackson had missed his first 8 shot attempts and finished 7-for-26 from the field.

Jackson’s slow start had also put the Buckeyes down 28-16 early to UConn before rallying to take a 31-30 halftime lead and blow away the Huskies in the 2nd half.  But even so, Ohio State was a #1 seed in 1991 who was blown away by St. John’s in the Sweet 16.  The Buckeyes had yet to perform up to their capability for a consistent period of time in the NCAA tournament the last two years, perhaps a win vs. tradition-rich North Carolina would go a long way.

North Carolina survived a 1st round scare against Miami (Ohio) 68-63.  Eric Montross was dominant with 22 points on 11-for-13 shooting and George Lynch came up with a huge late steal to put it away.  But Hubert Davis, who had come into the NCAA tournament scalding hot, shot 2-for-17 from the field.  He improved to 6-for-15 in UNC’s 2nd round victory over Alabama in which defense dominated for the Tar Heels.  But Davis was struggling and Dean Smith had to play Derrick Phelps 79 of 80 minutes in the 1st two games with no discernible backup point guard.

With all of that being said, these were still two of the best teams in the country and the game played like it.  Jackson got involved early with a feed to Lawrence Funderburke for a slam and then a steal and slam to get on the board before missing 8 shots.

But Jackson later picked up his 2nd foul and was not as aggressive, although Randy Ayers kept him in the game.  Davis hit two jumpers early and North Carolina went on a 12-2 run to take a 22-13 lead as Ohio State missed 8 straight shots.

But a 9-point margin would be the biggest lead the Tarheels would get as Funderburke and reserve guard Jamie Skelton kept Ohio State within reach.  Funderburke proved to be a big factor in the 1st half in his matchup against Montross.  He had 12 points including 4 slams, most of which were set up by Mark Baker who was consistently beating his counterpart, a tired Derrick Phelps, off the dribble.

But other than Funderburke, Baker, and two field goals by Skelton, the other Buckeyes did not show up in the 1st half.  Montross and Davis each had 10 points to lead North Carolina to a 37-32 halftime lead.  But the margin could have been bigger as Carolina uncharacteristically rushed shots and possessions in certain stages.

Montross started the 2nd half with a hook shot to give the Tarheels a 7-point lead.  But then Jimmy Jackson got going.  He put back a miss by Jamaal Brown, got a slam after a steal by Brown, and then nailed a corner three to tie the game at 39.  Jackson, who was notably a 2nd half player, had gotten Ohio State going as well.

Chris Jent hit two three-pointers and followed up another miss and a reverse slam by Funderburke after a save by Brown and a feed by Baker put Ohio State up 50-44.

But Montross and Davis led the Tarheels back and North Carolina took a 55-54 lead halfway through the 2nd half.  The key almost at this point would be whether either could rest key players.  Ayers took out Funderburke for a few minutes and rested Jent, Baker, and Brown for longer stretches while Skelton, Alex Davis, and future NFL tight end Rickey Dudley filled in admirably.

Meanwhile, Dean Smith tried to give Montross some rest but could only take him out intermittently and went with a big lineup of 7-footers Montross and Kevin Salvadori, the lineup that gave Duke problems.  But the physical presence of Funderburke and especially Dudley, despite both being undersized, countered this lineup.  Also, Smith was not able to give any rest to Derrick Phelps again.

Skelton would prove to be an even bigger factor than he was in the 1st half.  He hit one jumper and then found Funderburke for a turnaround jumper in the lane.  Then Skelton nailed a three to give Ohio State a 63-61 lead.  Davis hit a pull-up from the wing to tie it at 63 with 7:15 left.

But then a tired North Carolina team went cold and Ohio State spread the ball out to make them play defense.  Jackson went 1-on-1 twice for baskets to put Ohio State up 67-63.  But even when the Buckeyes didn’t score, they hustled for offensive rebounds and took a lot of time off the clock.

Funderburke put back a miss by Skelton to bring his total to 21 points in what was his best game since joining Ohio State mid-season.  But Skelton, who stayed in the game even as starters returned, hit the two biggest shots.  A three-pointer from the top with just over 2 minutes left and then a driving layup with 1:19 to go to put Ohio State up 74-69.

The Tarheels scrambled to try and stay in the game, but their final dagger would be a missed driving layup by Phelps that would have cut the lead to 75-73 with 30 seconds left.  Ohio State sealed the game from the line and now had a chance to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1968.

North Carolina would add a little bit more depth in 1993 but were still very dependent on Phelps and would prove to be a very different team when he did not play.

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Brian Reese (8) – Small Forward

George Lynch (9) – Power Forward

Eric Montross (21) – Center

Derrick Phelps (6) – Point Guard

Hubert Davis (21) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Henrik Rodl (4)

Kevin Salvadori (2)

Pat Sullivan (2)

Donald Williams (0)

Matt Wenstrom (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

Ohio State starters (points scored)

Jim Jackson (18) – Small Forward

Chris Jent (15) – Power Forward

Lawrence Funderburke (21) – Center

Mark Baker (6) – Point Guard

Jamaal Brown (6) – Shooting Guard

Ohio State bench (points scored)

Jamie Skelton (14)

Rickey Dudley (0)

Alex Davis (0)

Bill Robinson (0)

Ohio State Coach: Randy Ayers

March 27, 1992 – Midwest Regional Semifinal: (#7)Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 79, (#6)Memphis State Tigers 83 (OT)

In a cinderella Midwest Regional, the top 3 seeds were out in the 2nd round.  Georgia Tech and Memphis State had gotten here by virtues of game-winners by James Forrest and David Vaughn.

It set up a matchup between Tech’s powerful frontcourt and slower tempo and Memphis’ three-guard lineup, led by Penny Hardaway, and up-tempo game.

The 1st half was at Memphis State’s tempo, but it didn’t necessarily reflect in the score.  The Tigers did take a 9-2 lead when Hardaway nailed a transition three, Anthony Douglas hit a turnaround banker from the post, Hardaway found Billy Smith on a 2-on-1 break for a slam, and Vaughn got a layup off an inbounds play.

But Tech came back to take an 11-10 lead with a 7-0 run capped by a Jon Barry three-pointer.  The teams went back-and-forth from there in what was a high-scoring 1st half.  In a 13-minute stretch which went until the final 2 minutes of the 1st half, Tech’s biggest lead was 4 while Memphis State’s was 5.

Barry led the way for Bobby Cremins with 13 points to that point and Travis Best had 8.  Anthony Douglas led the scoring for Larry Finch’s team with 10 points while Vaughn and Hardaway each had 6, but Penny’s only field goal was the first one of the game (see how unpredictable the game was; Memphis State’s frontcourt was out-playing Georgia Tech’s but the Yellow Jackets’ backcourt was out-playing Memphis State’s).

With under 2 minutes to go, a layup by Malcolm Mackey tied the game at 36.  Then Barry drove on Hardaway and drew a foul.  Penny thought it should have been a charge and batted the ball in frustration.  This resulted in a technical foul being called on Penny.

Barry went on to hit 4 free throws (2 on the technical and 2 on the regular foul) and then connected on a running jumper from the baseline just before the halftime buzzer to put Tech up 42-36 and give Barry 19 points.

This momentum carried over into the 2nd half as Barry hit another three and then got the bounce on a runner.  Despite Matt Geiger picking up his 3rd foul, the Yellow Jackets took a 50-40 lead after a slam by Forrest.

While Georgia Tech was doing this, they were slowing the tempo as well to combat the fact that Cremins did not have a deep bench.  But then Memphis State’s defense stepped up and, led by Hardaway, the Tigers went on a 14-4 run.

Penny had 10 of those 14 points, including the last 8, and hit the tying three-pointer with just under 13 minutes to go in regulation.  Georgia Tech answered with a 6-0 run as Forrest hit a lefty runner from the baseline and later got a steal and layup.

Over the next several minutes, one basket was scored by each team and Geiger had picked up his 4th foul.  With 6 minutes left, Finch took a timeout with his team trailing 63-56.

Following the timeout, Hardaway nailed a three and the scoring picked up again over the final 6 minutes.  Best found Forrest for a baseline jumper.  Billy Smith nailed a pull-up three.  Barry hit a pull-up in the lane for his 28th point.  Reserve Kelvin Allen put back a miss by Penny and Billy Smith followed with two free throws.

Memphis State had cut the lead to 67-66 with 3:21 left.  But they went cold again while Mackey got credit for a basket after Vaughn was called for goaltending and Best found Forrest for a slam.

The Tigers used another timeout with 2:01 left, trailing 71-66.  After Tim Duncan (as noted in the previous Memphis State game, not that Tim Duncan) grabbed an offensive rebound, Hardaway nailed a three to cut the lead to 71-69.

Georgia Tech ran down the shot clock but Best threw the ball away with 1:09 to go.  Following a Tigers miss and another Tech turnover, Hardaway drove and drew a foul from Mackey with 38.7 seconds left.

At this point in his career, Penny was a 65% free throw shooter and finished 7-for-12 on this day.  In this instance, Hardaway missed the first and made the second free throw.  Tech still led 71-70.

Barry then inbounded the ball and went long to Geiger.  Geiger scored on a breakaway and drew a foul.  The three-point play put Georgia Tech up 74-70 with 36.7 seconds left and seemed to be the nail in the coffin.  But the same Georgia Tech team had made an improbable comeback against USC, so it wasn’t over folks!

Douglas put back a missed three by Hardaway and Memphis State used their last timeout with 20.8 seconds left.  Duncan then fouled Geiger 3 seconds later and forced Matt into a 1-and-1.  This time, Geiger missed the front end and Hardaway rebounded.

Like few other than Penny could, Hardaway immediately pushed the ball and Memphis State had a transition opportunity.  Penny found Billy Smith, who pulled up and nailed a banker with 9.3 seconds left to tie the game.  Georgia Tech used its last timeout.

Having to inbound it full-court without timeouts.  Geiger had to get the ball to Mackey in the back-court.  Mackey was immediately trapped and held the ball for 5 seconds trying to find somebody.  Best finally got it but had to throw up a hook shot prayer from the other side of mid-court that went over the backboard.  The game was headed into overtime.

Interestingly on the replay, while Mackey was trapped and Best and Barry were moving to try and get the ball.  Forrest was standing at the same spot that he was standing in the final seconds against USC not moving and waiting for the ball.  Lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same spot.

In overtime, Tech took a 77-74 lead.  But Geiger fouled out with 2:05 left and Memphis State snapped out of its drought again, this time from the free throw line.  Douglas made two after Geiger’s foul and senior Tony Madlock made two more to give the Tigers the lead.

Then after Hardaway blocked a shot by Mackey, Madlock was fouled again with 32.3 seconds left (near the end of the shot clock).  He made two more to make it 80-77 Memphis State.

Georgia Tech got the ball to Barry, who was long on a tying three-point attempt.  Douglas rebounded the miss and got it to Madlock, who was fouled by Barry with 16.9 seconds left.

Madlock made his 5th and 6th consecutive free throw but Tech would get one last chance perhaps when Best drove and scored and then fouled Hardaway (the 65% foul shooter) with 8.3 seconds left.

But after missing the first, Penny made the second free throw to put the game away.  Memphis State had survived another thriller and was going to the Regional Finals to take on a familiar opponent.

Memphis State and Cincinnati were both in the Great Midwest Conference.  But the Bearcats had held the edge so far as they had beaten the Tigers three times so far.  The 4th time would most definitely not be the charm for Memphis State as Cincinnati ran away with it 88-57.

As it turned out, Cincinnati (who was coming from the cinderella regional) would not be the most cinderella team in the Final Four.

Georgia Tech starters (points scored)

James Forrest (16) – Small Forward

Malcolm Mackey (13) – Power Forward

Matt Geiger (5) – Center

Travis Best (13) – Point Guard

Jon Barry (29) – Shooting Guard

Georgia Tech bench (points scored)

Bryan Hill (3)

Ivano Newbill (0)

Fred Vinson (0)

Georgia Tech Coach: Bobby Cremins

Memphis State starters (points scored)

Anfernee Hardaway (24) – Small Forward

David Vaughn (8) – Power Forward

Anthony Douglas (16) – Center

Tony Madlock (10) – Point Guard

Billy Smith (15) – Shooting Guard

Memphis State bench (points scored)

Ernest Smith (8)

Kelvin Allen (2)

Tim Duncan (0)

Marcus Nolan (0)

Memphis State Coach: Larry Finch

penny_hardaway

Penny Hardaway burst onto the scene in 1992 as Memphis State made its tournament run *photo courtesy of Operation Sports

March 27, 1992 – Southeast Regional Semifinals: (#6)Michigan Wolverines 75, (#2)Oklahoma State Cowboys 72

Oklahoma State is Eddie Sutton’s alma mater and both were seeking some form of redemption when Sutton took over as coach in 1990.

Oklahoma State had been known as Oklahoma A&M when they dominated the college scene in the 1940’s.  They were also known as the Aggies at that time when they were coached by Hank Iba, one of the all-time greats.  They also had the game’s first big man in Bob Kurland.  Iba and Kurland led the Aggies to the NCAA Championships in 1945 & ’46 and each won two Olympic Gold Medals in separate Olympics.

Iba made two more Final Four appearances but in his last 16 seasons at the helm of Oklahoma State (Oklahoma A&M became Oklahoma State in 1957, when Eddie Sutton was playing for the Cowboys), they made two NCAA tournament appearances.  And since Iba retired in 1970, the only NCAA tournament appearance for the Cowboys was a 1st round exit in 1983.

So Oklahoma State was looking to regain some of their success from the past and they looked to Sutton, who’s name wasn’t highly thought of in 1990.

Sutton had been highly successful at the helm of Creighton, Arkansas (with a Final Four appearance in 1978), and in his first few seasons at Kentucky.  But his Kentucky tenure ended abruptly, while coaching his son Sean, when the Wildcats were placed on probation after outstanding NCAA violations.  Kentucky went on 3 years probation, which was ending in 1992, and Sutton was out of a job.

But Sutton did come into Oklahoma State looking at some talent who had finished above .500 the last two seasons.  Future (and in some cases, troubled) NBA talent did grace the court in Stillwater.  John Starks and Richard Dumas had been there before Sutton.  But the talent Sutton got was 6’5″ 250 lb “big man” Byron Houston and speedy guard Corey Williams.

Houston was reminding people of Charles Barkley with his height, weight, and low-post power game.  Houston had averaged a double-double the last two seasons and was a co-Big 8 Player of the Year in 1991.  His numbers fell off a bit as a senior in 1992, but Houston still averaged 20.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and was an All-American.  But his final game may have been his worst.

With Houston, Williams, and the transferred Sean Sutton leading the way, Oklahoma State finished 24-8 in 1991, tied for 1st in the Big 8, and a #3 seed in the East Regional.  They made it to the Sweet 16 but were upset by 10th seeded Temple.  Houston finished 6-for-18 in the 72-63 overtime loss.

The Cowboys came back in 1992 with seniors Houston, Williams, Sutton, and Darwyn Alexander combining with freshman big man Bryant “Big Country” Reeves.  They won their first 20 games and climbed as high as #2 in the nation (and may have been #1 had they not suffered their first loss at Nebraska the same day Duke suffered their first loss at North Carolina).

But then Oklahoma State lost 6 of their final 10 games of the regular season and fell to 2nd in the Big 8 at 8-6.  They then lost to Kansas in the Big 8 title game but were still named a #2 seed in the Southeast Regional.  They looked impressive in their first two games against Georgia Southern and Tulane.  In fact, in their 87-71 2nd round win against Tulane, the Cowboys set an NCAA tournament field goal percentage record by going 28-for-35 from the field (80%).

Also noteworthy was the fact that Sutton (both of them) were returning to Kentucky as the Southeast Regional was to be played at Rupp Arena.

But now they were taking on a team that was athletically superior, especially in the front court.  Bryant Reeves had trouble early on as Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, and Eric Riley ran circles around him.  Houston would have even more trouble against the taller Michigan front line.

Webber had a career-high 30 points and Howard added 23 in the Fab Five’s 2nd round victory over East Tennessee State.  They got off to a great start against Oklahoma State led by their front-court mismatches.  The Wolverines had a 27-17 lead with just over 8 minutes to go in the 1st half.

But Oklahoma State’s back-court switched the momentum by going with a full-court pressure and spreading the floor on offense.  Sutton hit a three and had a driving three-point play.  Williams followed with a three and later hit another trey while drawing a foul.  The four-point play put Oklahoma State up 30-29.

Furthermore, Sutton took out a scoreless Reeves and put in freshman Randy Davis (who would transfer following the season after becoming academically ineligible) who had much more quickness.  Davis’ contribution was drawing fouls #2 and 3 on Webber on consecutive possessions and hitting 3 of 4 free throws.

Oklahoma State led 35-33 at the half as Williams had 13 points and Sutton 10.  But Houston was held to 1-for-8 from the field.

However, things still looked good for Oklahoma State when Sutton got a steal early in the 2nd half and had a breakaway.  Webber chased him down and Sutton drew a cheap 4th foul on Webber with 17:54 to go.  Webber had to sit in favor of Eric Riley with plenty of time left.

With that change, Reeves and Houston both scored inside.  But Riley kept Michigan in it with a putback.  However, with 15:41 to go, Howard picked up his 4th foul and Steve Fisher had to go with senior and former walk-on Freddie Hunter.

Hunter played solid minutes and, most notably, drew Randy Davis’ 4th foul as well as continued to shut Houston down.  Reeves got going down low but Michigan’s back-court of Jalen Rose and Jimmy King, as well as Riley, kept Michigan ahead.

King had a driving three-point play to give Michigan a 43-41 lead and Rose scored 8 consecutive points.  Meanwhile, Riley proved to be a big factor down low.  But a three-pointer by Sutton cut the Wolverines lead to 55-54.

By this time, Webber was back in.  But with 7:13 left, Reeves drove on Chris and drew Webber’s 5th foul.  With Webber out, Reeves hit a free throw to tie the game at 55 with his 7th 2nd half point.

But the Cowboys could not take further advantage and Michigan ended up taking a 63-57 lead with 3:56 left when Rose made a three-pointer after a feed from Hunter.

Riley later tipped in a miss and hit two free throws as Riley finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Rose had 25 and 11.  Oklahoma State had 2 field goals in a 6 minute stretch and the game looked over when Michigan led 70-63 with 56 seconds left.

But 12 seconds later, Williams nailed a three and the Cowboys took their last timeout.  Then after Rose split a pair of free throws, Williams made another three to cut the lead to 71-69.  Williams fouled Howard with 23.8 seconds to go and the 67% foul shooter made both free throws.

But the Cowboys weren’t done as Sutton nailed a running, leaning three-pointer (that would have been called a two-pointer had replay been around at the time) to cut the lead to 73-72.  Oklahoma State almost stole the inbounds as Darwyn Alexander deflected the pass out of bounds with 8.7 seconds left.  Fisher took a timeout to calm his freshmen.

Rose was fouled with 7.3 seconds left and split the free throws.  Michigan used a timeout to set its defense and then Sutton took it the length of the court.  Sutton tried to find Williams on a backdoor cut but Jimmy King deflected it to Howard and Williams fouled him with 1 second left.

Howard put in the clinching free throw and the Fab Five was moving on to take on Big Ten rival (especially in football) Ohio State, who had beaten them twice this season.

Riley’s bench production more than matched Jamie Skelton’s for Ohio State against North Carolina.  Neither bench would be much of a factor in the Regional Final.

Sutton would continue to rebuild the program at Oklahoma State as Big Country led them for the next 3 seasons.  But Byron Houston had finished his college career with a pathetic 2-for-14 from the field.  Houston’s NBA career would prove to be just as bad but his personal shortcomings proved to be worse.

Michigan starters (points scored)

Ray Jackson (3) – Small Forward

Chris Webber (4) – Power Forward

Juwan Howard (13) – Center

Jalen Rose (25) – Point Guard

Jimmy King (15) – Shooting Guard

Michigan bench (points scored)

Eric Riley (15)

Freddie Hunter (0)

Rob Pelinka (0)

Michael Talley (0)

James Voskuil (0)

Michigan Coach: Steve Fisher

Oklahoma State starters (points scored)

Darwyn Alexander (13) – Small Forward

Byron Houston (4) – Power Forward

Bryant Reeves (9) – Center

Sean Sutton (18) – Point Guard

Corey Williams (25) – Shooting Guard

Oklahoma State bench (points scored)

Randy Davis (3)

Cornell Hatcher (0)

Milton Brown (0)

Terry Collins (0)

Oklahoma State Coach: Eddie Sutton

March 28, 1992 – East Regional Final: (#2)Kentucky Wildcats 103, (#1)Duke Blue Devils 104 (OT)

This is the game!  It is still referred to as the Greatest Game in NCAA history and is kept alive through any NCAA tournament history program/highlight and through I Hate Christian Laettner.

In a documentary chronicling the game, it was said that this may be the closest to the Rocky story (the fact that this game was played at the Spectrum in Philadelphia with the Rocky statue outside may have helped this premise).

Kentucky was once a power but now was searching for their self-respect after their scandal of 1989.  Now they were on the precipice of the Final Four and taking on the new basketball power.

Duke was looking to go to their 5th straight Final Four and 6th in 7 years.  They were also looking to become the first team since UCLA in 1973 to win back-to-back NCAA championships.

With all of that as the main backdrop, the game got underway.  John Pelphrey nailed two three-pointers and Mashburn hit another for Kentucky.  But three layups/dunks by Laettner on assists by Bobby Hurley cut Kentucky’s early lead to 11-10.  Pelphrey also picked up 2 fouls in that stretch.

But Kentucky’s press, which they needed to be effective, started forcing some turnovers and Kentucky went on a 9-2 run to take a 20-12 after a three-pointer by Gimel Martinez.

But Duke stormed back into it after they got out on the break.  They went on an 8-0 run that culminated in a three-point play by Grant Hill off an assist from Hurley in transition.

But despite the Blue Devils eventually taking the lead, they did commit a high amount of turnovers against the Wildcats pressure defense.

This allowed Kentucky to stay in the game despite Pelphrey picking up his 3rd foul not too far after coming back into the game.  Duke’s biggest lead was 7 points as Grant Hill had 11 off the bench and Laettner 10.

Duke led 50-45 at the half.  Mashburn had a quiet 11 points in the 1st half as Kentucky wasn’t looking to him as much as they were against UMass (and Laettner was a better matchup against Mashburn than anyone UMass had).  Pelphrey was effective when he was in the game with 9 points.

However, the Wildcats started slowly in the 2nd half.  Martinez and Pelphrey each picked up their 4th fouls.  Duke ran off to a 64-55 lead with 11:53 left.  Not too far after, Martinez fouled out.  This left freshman Aminu Timberlake with an extended chance against Laettner (remember that).

A three-pointer by Hurley gave Duke their biggest lead at 67-55 and Kentucky used a timeout.

Rick Pitino was able to get his team a bucket as Sean Woods fed Dale Brown on a backdoor cut.  Then they set up the press and Deron Feldhaus got a steal.  Woods then found Mashburn for a three from the top and Coach K had to use a timeout with 10:25 to go.

It didn’t help immediately as Kentucky got another steal and Mashburn nailed another three to cut the lead to 67-63.

Hurley would respond with his 4th three-pointer of the game but Mashburn came right back with a turnaround from the baseline.  As that shot was going in, Laettner (who was in rebounding position) was shoved out of bounds by Feldhaus with Timberlake standing right there.

Laettner mentioned in the 30 for 30 linked at the top of this post that he took note of that push and thought it was Timberlake.

Meanwhile, Hurley would get his 10th assist of the game when he found Thomas Hill for a slam and a foul in transition.  But Hurley also had 8 turnovers.  Dale Brown responded with a three for Kentucky to cut the lead to 73-68.

Then Laettner posted up against Timberlake, backed in and drew a foul while Timberlake fell to the ground.  While he was on the ground, Laettner held a foot over him and then stepped on Timberlake’s stomach intentionally.

Laettner just received a technical but could very well have been thrown out of the game, which obviously would have become a factor.

But Laettner stayed in and his two free throws with 7:40 left gave Duke a 79-69 lead.  But then Mashburn found Brown on a cut for a big three-point play.

Kentucky’s press then became effective again as Duke kept committing turnovers (they had 19 at this point of the game).  Finally, a three-pointer by Woods tied the game at 81 with 5 1/2 minutes remaining.

From there, the teams went back-and-forth but Kentucky didn’t grab a lead until Brown nailed a three to put them up 89-87.  Brian Davis came right back with a breakaway layup for Duke.

The Blue Devils regained the lead at 93-91 when Thomas Hill hit a runner at the end of the shot clock with 1:03 to go.  But Feldhaus recovered a Grant Hill block on Pelphrey and put in a banker to tie the game again.

Duke did not take a timeout and ran down the clock.  Hurley then went 1-on-1 but missed a running jumper.  Kentucky rebounded and got a timeout with 0.8 seconds left (although they probably would have been given more time had replay existed then).  But the Wildcats couldn’t get a shot off as their inbounds pass was deflected and the game was headed to overtime.

Pephrey nailed a three to give Kentucky the early lead.  Then Davis committed his 5th foul on an offensive foul.  Kentucky ran down the shot clock but Thomas Hill came up with a steal.

Duke ran the ball down in transition and gave Hurley a look from three-point range.  He missed but Grant Hill grabbed the rebound and gave Hurley another chance from the top.  This time Bobby made it to tie the game at 96.

Pelphrey then drove against Grant Hill and made a banker in between Hill and Laettner.  Laettner tied the game with two free throws after Mashburn committed his 4th foul.

Laettner then rebounded a miss by Woods and Duke took a timeout with 54.5 seconds left.  They ran down the shot clock and then, off an out of bounds play, Laettner made a tough turnaround double-pump banker from the post with Mashburn in his face.  Duke led 100-98.

Kentucky didn’t use a timeout and were able to get Mashburn open off a pick-and-roll.  Pelphrey fed Mashburn for a layup and a foul.  The three-point play gave Kentucky a 101-100 lead with 19.6 seconds left.

Duke didn’t use a timeout and Kentucky went to their press.  Hurley fed the ball to Laettner on a long pass.  Laettner drove against Mashburn and Jamal reached in and was called for a foul with 14.1 seconds to go.  It was Mashburn’s 5th.

Laettner hit two free throws and Kentucky ran the ball down and called a timeout with 7.8 seconds left.  With Mashburn out of the game, the ball would be in the hands of the Unforgettables.

Sean Woods took the inbounds pass and Pelphrey set a screen which knocked off Hurley.  Woods drove as Laettner switched on to him.  As Feldhaus stood wide open at the baseline, Woods and Laettner got into the air and Woods launched a runner with Laettner’s arms out-stretched.  It banked in with 2.1 seconds left and looked like it would be one of the most unbelievable game-winners in NCAA tournament history.

Duke used a timeout but had to go the full-length of the floor.  The previous time they had to do this against Wake Forest, Grant Hill threw a long curveball to Christian Laettner and Laettner had to gather himself and stepped out of bounds.

But this time, Kentucky didn’t play a man on the inbounds passer as Pitino decided to put Pelphrey as free safety.

So Grant Hill took his time and threw the long pass to Laettner.  Laettner caught it at the top of the key with Feldhaus and Pelphrey right there.  Christian dribbled and turned to his right.  He then launched just before the buzzer sounded and it swished in.

The Duke team celebrated while Thomas Hill had his famous reaction of putting his hands on his head and crying (an amazing reaction for it being so immediate).

Duke had won the most incredible game in NCAA history and now were on to the Final Four.  Christian Laettner also had a memorable game without counting the game-winner.  Laettner was 10-for-10 from the field and 10-f0r-10 from the line.  Hard to get more perfect than perfect.  The perfect game.

For Kentucky, this game was credited with helping get them back on the map.  Kentucky has, for the most part, been at the top of its perch since that game and has had Duke right up there with them.

A rivalry had started because of this incredible game from Philadelphia in 1992.

Kentucky starters (points scored)

John Pelphrey (16) – Small Forward

Jamal Mashburn (28) – Power Forward

Gimel Martinez (5) – Center

Sean Woods (21) – Point Guard

Richie Farmer (9) – Shooting Guard

Kentucky bench (points scored)

Dale Brown (18)

Deron Feldhaus (5)

Travis Ford (0)

Aminu Timberlake (1)

Andre Riddick (0)

Junior Braddy (0)

Kentucky Coach: Rick Pitino

Duke starters (points scored)

Brian Davis (13) – Small Forward

Antonio Lang (4) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (31) – Center

Bobby Hurley (22) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (19) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Grant Hill (11)

Cherokee Parks (4)

Marty Clark (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Christian Laettner’s game-winner from close-up, far-away, and reaction *photos courtesy of NY Daily News, Big Blue History, and Masslive

March 29, 1992 – Southeast Regional Final: (#6)Michigan Wolverines 75, (#1)Ohio State Buckeyes 71 (OT)

Compared to the Duke/Kentucky classic, this may have not seemed as much.  But the only thing different between this game and the all-time great game from the previous night was that Duke/Kentucky was higher scoring.

Michigan and Ohio State are perhaps the greatest football rivalry and seemingly, every few seasons, one team has a chance to deny the other a chance for the National Championship.  Now for the first time in basketball, one rival could eliminate the other.

Michigan’s Fab Five were already icons, but their run was adding to the aura.  They had beaten Temple and East Tennessee State before upsetting Oklahoma State despite Chris Webber fouling out.  Non-freshman Eric Riley had come off the bench to lead the Wolverines, along with Jalen Rose, to its victory against Oklahoma State.

Meanwhile, Ohio State was the top seed, but it wasn’t until the 2nd half against North Carolina that their All-American Jim Jackson got it going.  Still, the Buckeyes needed a career-game from Lawrence Funderburke and a big spark off the bench from Jamie Skelton to hold off the Tar Heels in the Sweet 16.

Now Ohio State was on the verge of their first Final Four in 24 years.  They had beaten Michigan twice that season as their experience had taken over at various points.  In the first matchup in Ann Arbor, the Buckeyes held Michigan to 13 1st half points and no three-pointers in a 68-58 victory.  In the 2nd matchup in Columbus, Ohio State finished the game on a 23-10 run in the last 5 minutes to win 77-66.

But now Michigan, who had said Ohio State was a better team than Indiana, had more experience and was eager for a third chance at the Buckeyes.

The game started out quickly as Jim Jackson, normally a 2nd half player, hit two buckets to match Michigan baskets.  Webber connected on a turnaround banker from the post and two free throws but Jamaal Brown hit a three and Mark Baker drove for a bucket.  After 4 minutes, Ohio State led 9-8.

The game got chippy as the scoring continued.  Juwan Howard and Chris Jent bumped each other near the sideline and Jent even head-butted Howard (it seemed like the referees missed that since each player received a technical).

Bill Robinson came off the Ohio State bench and was a factor with 4 points and several hustle plays.  But Michigan was able to stay within 17-16 at the 11:57 mark.  Each team had also committed 6 early turnovers and Webber was proving to be a much bigger factor then he was against Oklahoma State as he drew 2 quick fouls on Funderburke before the under 8 minute timeout.

After that break, Jim Jackson drove baseline for his 6th point and a 24-22 Ohio State lead.  That would be the Buckeyes last lead for awhile.  Howard lobbed to Webber for a slam and his 8th point.  Rose hit a pull-up from the foul line and Howard hit a hook in the lane as Michigan took a 28-24 lead into the last media timeout of the 1st half.

The Wolverines built that into a 37-31 halftime lead after Howard hit a turnaround from the post in the last 5 seconds.

Webber led the Wolverines with 10 points while Howard and Rose each had 8.  Jim Jackson led Ohio State with 9 while Jamaal Brown had 7.

Brown and Jent opened the 2nd half with threes to tie the game at 37.  Then after two free throws by Webber, Funderburke recovered a loose ball and slammed one down to tie the game again.

But Funderburke was not nearly the factor that he had been against North Carolina as Webber was dominating the paint.  C-Webb put back a miss by Howard and later had a thunderous slam after a lob pass by Jimmy King.

Then after Howard got a layup after a touch-pass by Webber on the break, Randy Ayers had to use a timeout about 4 minutes into the 2nd half with his team trailing 45-39.

Michigan would take as much as an 8-point lead but Ohio State stayed in it as the game started to turn into a low-scoring crawl that many of the football games between these programs were known for.

The Wolverines maintained a 57-50 lead when King tipped in a miss by Pelinka with under 10 minutes to go.  But then, like the 2nd matchup, Ohio State’s defense and experience took over.

Although an 11-0 run over the period of 6 1/2 minutes qualifies as a spurt, it didn’t feel like one as much as just a normal flow in which Michigan went cold.

Jim Jackson started it with a spin and a runner in the lane.  Then Skelton hit a running jumper as he and Alex Davis were relieving the starting Buckeye guards at that moment.  Davis tied it at 57 at the 7:46 mark with 3 free throws after Rose fouled him on a shot behind the three-point line.

There were only 4 points scored in the next 3 1/2 minutes, all by Ohio State.  Funderburke split Howard and Webber in the post for a slam and then Jimmy Jackson hit a runner in the lane at the end of the shot clock.

With Michigan desperately needing some answers, Rose (who had emerged as their leader of sorts) hit a pull-up in the lane to end Michigan’s drought.  Then after Webber blocked a driving layup by Baker, King lobbed to C-Webb for a slam to tie the game at 61 with under 2 minutes to go.

Ohio State ran down the 45-second shot clock and Jamaal Brown hit a pull-up from the top as the clock expired after pump-faking Rose.  Ohio State led 63-61 and Michigan took a timeout with 44.2 seconds left.

The Wolverines went back to Rose.  He drove and missed but Webber tipped it in with 30 seconds left.  Ohio State didn’t use a timeout and got it to Jim Jackson at the top of the key to go 1-on-1.

As Jackson drove, Michigan collapsed and deflected his pass to Funderburke.  Jent picked up the ball and had a seemingly easy shot from the baseline.  But he rushed it and missed.  Michigan back-tapped the ball out as the buzzer sounded and everyone tried to catch their breath before the overtime.

The first few minutes of overtime were as much of a defensive battle as the 2nd half.  Over the first two minutes, each team had a basket.  Rose had hit a pull-up from the top at the end of the shot clock.  Jackson had gotten a breakaway slam after Funderburke deflected a pass to Jent.

But then Rose found Jimmy King for a three from the top to put Michigan up 68-65.  Rose followed with two free throws at the 2-minute mark for a five-point lead.

Ohio State got a basket from Jackson at the 1:43 mark to cut the lead to 70-67.  The Buckeyes set up the press after a timeout but Howard would break it and get the ball to Webber, who was way outside guarded by Jent.

After Webber passed the ball to Ray Jackson, he cut to the basket as Jent fell asleep for a second.  Webber got a return pass, scored, and was fouled by a beaten Jent with 1:23 left.  That three-point play would turn out to be the difference as Michigan grabbed a 6-point lead.

Two free throws from Rose would eventually make it 75-67.  Ohio State scrambled back and had a chance to cut the lead to 75-72 with a timeout remaining and the clock running out.  But Jent, who was not having the best ending to the game, missed the three (karma for the head-butt?).  Brown followed up his miss with 3 seconds remaining but it was too-little too-late as it remained a two-possession game.

The Fab Five were on to the Final Four as their magical run continued.  But at Ohio State, the Jim Jackson era was over.  And the program would not recover under Randy Ayers.  The Buckeyes next Tournament appearance would be under Jim O’Brien (and more than a cloud of scrutiny) in 1999.

Michigan would now play another cinderella in Cincinnati, while powerhouses Indiana and Duke matched up in the other National Semifinal.

Michigan starters (points scored)

Ray Jackson (5) – Small Forward

Chris Webber (23) – Power Forward

Juwan Howard (10) – Center

Jalen Rose (20) – Point Guard

Jimmy King (15) – Shooting Guard

Michigan bench (points scored)

Eric Riley (2)

Rob Pelinka (0)

James Voskuil (0)

Freddie Hunter (0)

Michigan Coach: Steve Fisher

Ohio State starters (points scored)

Jim Jackson (20) – Small Forward

Chris Jent (6) – Power Forward

Lawrence Funderburke (12) – Center

Mark Baker (8) – Point Guard

Jamaal Brown (16) – Shooting Guard

Ohio State bench (points scored)

Bill Robinson (4)

Jamie Skelton (2)

Alex Davis (3)

Rickey Dudley (0)

Ohio State Coach: Randy Ayers

jim-jackson-vs-michigan

The Jim Jackson era at Ohio State ended with a Regional Final loss to Jimmy King (background) and rival Michigan *photo courtesy of Getty Images

April 4, 1992 – National Semifinal: (#6)Michigan Wolverines 76, (#4)Cincinnati Bearcats 72

For a six-year stretch from 1958-63, the Cincinnati Bearcats were a basketball powerhouse.

They made 5 consecutive Final Fours, 3 consecutive National Championship Games, and won 2 consecutive National titles.  They also had one of the greatest players ever in Oscar Robertson.

But, other than a brief revival in the mid-70’s with Gale Catlett (who would go on to coach West Virginia for 24 seasons) as head coach, the Bearcats basketball program had been pretty dormant. They went 14 consecutive seasons without making the NCAA tournament.

In 1989, Cincinnati hired Bob Huggins as coach.  Huggins had had a successful run at nearby Akron.  Huggins decided he needed to quickly rebuild the program and started going after Junior College talent.  By 1992, he had 10 transfer, including 8 from the JuCo ranks.

But he had talent.  Herb Jones and Corie Blount were JuCo players of the year in 1990 and ’91, respectively.  Now they were in Cincinnati’s frontcourt along with Terry Nelson.

Jones, a senior, was the leading scorer at 18.2 points per game.  Blount, a junior, averaged 8.4 and 6.3 rebounds, 2nd on the team behind Jones.  Nelson was an undersized physical presence and not much of a scorer.

Huggins’ talented back court included one of his former Akron players in senior Anthony Buford.  The other was, along with Blount, Cincinnati’s only NBA talent.  That was junior Nick Van Exel.

Van Exel gained the starting spot at the point midway through the season and Cincinnati was 18-1 since.  He averaged 12 points per game during the season but stepped it up in the Great Midwest Conference Tournament and NCAA Tournament, averaging 15.7 while shooting 67.4% from the field.

The bench consisted of former starting point guard Allen Jackson, swingman Erik Martin, and former starting center Jeff Scott.  Jackson and Scott were replaced by Nelson and Van Exel after Cincinnati lost to DePaul to fall to 12-3.

They went 18-1 since and beat Penny Hardaway and Memphis State 4 times during that stretch, including an 88-57 drubbing in the Regional Finals.

But Cincinnati and its JuCo stars were still an unknown commodity and had nowhere near garnered the attention of the Fab Five of Michigan.  Michigan had openly talked about wanting to play Duke in the Title Game and, as Anthony Buford had said during the week, it looked like Michigan might be overlooking the 29-4 Bearcats who were a #4 seed in the Midwest Regional.

There wasn’t a shortage of trash-talking throughout the week and even into the pregame.  But the talking ceased a bit and each team got off to a good start.

Chris Webber hit two hooks from down low and Jimmy King hit two threes while Nick Van Exel picked up where he left off with 7 quick points.  Through the first 4 minutes, Michigan was 5-for-5 from the field and Cincinnati was 4-for-5.

The Bearcats were, however, forcing some turnovers due to their press, which they could unleash at any point (whereas most teams can only set up their press after a made basket or on an out-of-bounds play).

The pressure defense turned around the game after Cincinnati’s big men, Blount and Scott, got into foul trouble and Michigan went on a 9-0 run to take a 25-18 lead halfway through the 1st half.

Michigan had the inside advantage but could not take control because the Wolverine guards didn’t have the time to get it inside.  A three-pointer by Buford started an 11-2 run to give the Bearcats a 29-27 lead.

Erik Martin proved to be a spark off the bench despite being under-sized.  He scored 4 points and got some key defensive boards.

Van Exel also found people for scores off steals and penetration as Cincinnati took a 41-34 lead while Michigan went on a 4 1/2 minute field goal drought.

But Eric Riley followed up two misses to break the drought and Webber got a slam off a long pass from Jalen Rose in the final seconds of the half to cut Cincinnati’s lead to 41-38 at the break.

The Bearcats continued to hold the lead into the 2nd half as their press kept Michigan off-balance.  The main problem for the Wolverines was that they were not able to get the ball to either Jalen Rose at the top or inside to Webber or Howard.

Cincinnati took as much as a 50-43 lead before King nailed his 3rd three-pointer of the game and Howard followed up a miss.

The game became a defensive struggle over the next several minutes as Cincinnati kept forcing turnovers and disrupting Michigan’s offense, but the Bearcats could not buy a basket at the other end.  The game would be tied at 56 with 7:45 left.

Michigan then took its first lead in a while when Howard recovered a loose ball and scored on a layup.  The Wolverines then got a spark from a player who was a starter before the Fab Five took hold.

Forward James Voskuil injected his team with some life and scored one of his two big baskets, a driving banker while drawing a foul, down the stretch to give Michigan a 61-58 lead.  This three-point play also drew the 4th foul from Van Exel.

Rose then pushed the ball and found Webber for a slam to put Michigan up 63-58 at the 5:06 mark.  That lead would be increased to 7 before Herb Jones nailed a three and then Buford got a steal and breakaway.  Michigan used a timeout at the 3:29 mark with their lead cut to 65-63.

But on the Wolverines next possession, Howard found Voskuil wide open at the top of the key.  The junior raised up and nailed a three to give the Maize in Blue a 68-63 advantage.

This looked to be a dagger as Cincinnati stayed in it but could not make some key shots/plays.  Michigan took a 74-67 lead when Webber found King for a slam on the break and that looked to be the game.

But Michigan had to survive one more scare.  With 14.1 seconds left, Van Exel hit a double-pump three-pointer from the top (it should have been a two-pointer but there was no replay in 1992) and drew a foul from Voskuil.

The three-pointer cut the lead to 76-72 with Van Exel on the line.  Van Exel missed the free throw to cap his 5-for-10 performance from the line (each team missed 7 free throws but Michigan attempted 8 more).  But the ball was back-tapped to Van Exel and Cincinnati still had a timeout to use.

Van Exel pulled up for three that if it went in, Cincinnati could have used their last timeout to stop the clock trailing by one point.  However, Nick the quick could not nail the three and Michigan held on.

The Fab Five were now one game away from an improbable dream (at least for five freshmen in 1992).

Cincinnati’s run to the Final Four started a run of excellence (even if it wasn’t close to the best run program) for the Bearcats under Bob Huggins over the next decade.

Michigan starters (points scored)

Ray Jackson (3) – Small Forward

Chris Webber (16) – Power Forward

Juwan Howard (12) – Center

Jalen Rose (13) – Point Guard

Jimmy King (17) – Shooting Guard

Michigan bench (points scored)

James Voskuil (9)

Michael Talley (4)

Eric Riley (2)

Michigan Coach: Steve Fisher

Cincinnati starters (points scored)

Herb Jones (14) – Small Forward

Terry Nelson (4) – Power Forward

Corie Blount (1) – Center

Nick Van Exel (21) – Point Guard

Anthony Buford (18) – Shooting Guard

Cincinnati bench (points scored)

Erik Martin (10)

Tarrance Gibson (4)

Jeff Scott (0)

Allen Jackson (0)

Cincinnati Coach: Bob Huggins

webber

Chris Webber looks excited when going up for a big slam as Anthony Buford looked on in the background *photo courtesy of Pinterest

April 4, 1992 – National Semifinal: (#2) Indiana Hoosiers 78, (#1)Duke Blue Devils 81

This matchup had a tremendous amount of hype, although most of it had to do with the coaches.

Mike Krzyzewski had played under Bob Knight at Army and was an Assistant Coach under Knight at Indiana before getting his first coaching job at Army in 1975.

So it was student vs. teacher with two very successful coaches and two very successful programs.

But Duke was still coming off the high of beating Kentucky at the last second.  For most of this game, especially the 1st half, Christian Laettner looked emotionally spent.

Indiana had mainly gotten to the Final Four with its torrid shooting during the NCAA tournament.  They shot 62% against Eastern Illinois, 55% against LSU, 50% against Florida State, and, most impressively, 58% against UCLA in the Regional Final.

They started out the same way against Duke by hitting 8 of their first 10 shots.  Alan Henderson led the way with 9 points early on on 4-for-4 shooting.

But he got help from Damon Bailey, Calbert Cheaney, Jamal Meeks, Matt Nover and Eric Anderson, who each hit a field goal during that early stretch to give Indiana a 21-14 lead.

But Duke stayed in the game thanks to Bobby Hurley.  Hurley hit three early three-pointers and 11 points as Duke cut the lead down to 29-25 with under 8 minutes to go in the 1st half.

But Indiana was still hot from the field and Hurley wasn’t getting much help as, most notably, Laettner was 1-for-6 in the 1st half and 2-for-4 from the foul line for 4 points.

Mike Krzyzewski switched to a zone for a few possessions in which Indiana beat it by driving down the lane for scores.  Indiana regained as much as a 39-27 lead before Hurley hit his 4th and biggest three of the game to stem the tide.

Duke finally got its defense going a little bit and held Indiana to three points over the final 3 minutes of the half.  Hurley finished the half with 18 points and a big three-point play by Thomas Hill with 18.9 seconds left cut Duke halftime deficit to 42-37.

The 2nd half started out worse for Indiana as Cheaney committed his 3rd foul on a charge in which his basket was taken away.  Bailey then committed his 4th foul and, a possession later, Knight picked up a technical.

Meanwhile, Duke’s defense went up another notch and they grabbed a 43-42 lead when Hurley penetrated and found Grant Hill for a layup in traffic.  Duke then went down low to Laettner, who scored and drew a foul.

He missed the free throw but Duke had taken a 45-42 lead and it looked like Laettner was back.  But Christian would not get another field goal attempt for the rest of the game, part of the reason was Indiana’s sagging defense and the other part was Duke not getting him the ball.

Hurley hit his 5th three over Henderson to give Duke a 48-42 lead but the Blue Devils missed several chances to increase it right there.  But their defense held strong and Cheaney committed his 4th foul on a charge.

Finally, a three-pointer by Greg Graham got Indiana their first points of the 2nd half but they were still ice cold.  Meanwhile, Cherokee Parks and Grant Hill followed up misses to give Duke a 55-45 lead.

Then with about 10 1/2 minutes to go, Hill penetrated and found Parks for a slam.  As the freshman slammed one down, Bailey reached in for his 5th foul.  The three-point play gave Duke its biggest lead at 58-45.

Indiana finally got going a bit as Cheaney hit two field goals to stem Hurley’s 6th three-pointer.  Graham then got two field goals to cut the lead to 63-55 with 3:46 left.  Although Indiana was cutting into the lead and Duke was looking tired, the Hoosiers weren’t exactly putting together points at a pace to overcome the deficit before time ran out.

Alan Henderson fouled out on a charge after only 4 2nd half points.  But the Hoosiers got a break with 1:44 left when Grant Hill fouled Graham on a three-point attempt and fouled out.

Duke had already lost Brian Davis to a sprained ankle and their bench was already thin.  So Krzyzewski brought in sophomore guard Marty Clark to help handle the ball.  Graham hit his three free throws to cut the lead to 69-64.  Then Chris Reynolds stole the ball from Hurley on the pressure defense.

The Hoosiers worked it around to Cheaney, who drove baseline and did a 360 but airballed a very tough shot.  Clark rebounded and Graham, who led Indiana with 18 points, fouled out with 1:27 left (even though there was 1:27 left, the final 2 minutes took about half an hour, not a great game to plan anything after).

Clark coolly hit two free throws.  Thomas Hill got a steal and Cheaney committed his 5th foul and became the 4th Hoosier to foul out with 1:16 left.  Indiana now had to try and come back without its top 4 scorers on the season, it looked daunting.

Indiana brought in sophomore and former walk-on Todd Leary.  Hurley hit two free throws and Duke led by nine.  But with under a minute to go, Leary got open off an inbounds and nailed a three from the corner.

No matter, Thomas Hill hit two more free throws and Duke led 75-67 with 45.6 seconds left.  But then Jamal Meeks found Leary for another corner three.  Uh-oh!

Reynolds fouled Clark with 35.1 seconds left and Marty coolly knocked in two more.  Now Indiana went to Leary to make a move.  He got open at the top and nailed his third straight three-pointer to cut the lead to 77-73 with 26.8 seconds left.  Leary was doing much better than he would 18 years later.

Clark was fouled again but this time he missed the second free throw and Laettner fouled Nover on the rebound.  Nover hit two free throws with 24.6 seconds left to cut Duke’s lead to 78-75.

Now Laettner motioned Hurley to come get the ball.  Hurley sprinted to the baseline and got a handoff inbounds pass from Laettner.  Right after Hurley got it, his toes touched the out of bounds line.  Turnover Duke.  Indiana had a chance to tie it with 23.1 seconds left.

Without their top 4 scorers, Indiana’s shooters were Eric Anderson, who struggled after hitting his first shot in this game, and Leary.  Now Duke put Thomas Hill on Leary and didn’t let him get open.

He did for a second as Chris Reynolds penetrated.  But Reynolds went to the other side to Jamal Meeks.  Meeks was a senior that was known as a notoriously poor shooter.  But he was open for a tying three.

Not surprisingly, he clanked it short off the side of the rim.  After a rebound scramble, Antonio Lang was able to come up with the ball and was fouled.  Indiana’s comeback attempt would die and Duke was moving on.

What followed was a post-game awkwardness.  Knight and Krzyzewski kind of shook hands but there was no extended conversation or hugs.  Krzyzewski then got fed up in the post-game about all the questions about Knight and essentially said he was his own man and this was about the players more than the coaches.

Later, when Knight passed the Duke team in the hallway.  He reportedly talked to players but ignored Krzyzewski.  The two didn’t talk until 2001 when Krzyzewski went into the Basketball Hall-of-Fame and Knight presented him.

The two rekindled their friendship thereafter, but between 1992 and 2001, Indiana and Duke matched up twice more with the two coaches on the sideline.  They would also have a memorable NCAA tournament game in 2002.  But all of that was a long way away.

Indiana starters (points scored)

Calbert Cheaney (11) – Small Forward

Alan Henderson (15) – Power Forward

Matt Nover (9) – Center

Chris Reynolds (2) – Point Guard

Damon Bailey (9) – Shooting Guard

Indiana bench (points scored)

Greg Graham (18)

Eric Anderson (2)

Jamal Meeks (3)

Todd Leary (9)

Todd Lindeman (0)

Indiana Coach: Bob Knight

Duke starters (points scored)

Brian Davis (5) – Small Forward

Antonio Lang (4) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (8) – Center

Bobby Hurley (26) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (11) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Grant Hill (14)

Cherokee Parks (8)

Marty Clark (5)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

bobby-hurley

Bobby Hurley kept Duke alive with 18 1st half points and was a main catalyst in their 2nd half run *photo courtesy of Getty Images

April 6, 1992 – National Championship Game: (#6)Michigan Wolverines 51, (#1)Duke Blue Devils 71

The final score may not look like it but this was actually a pretty good game most of the way through, if not an ugly low-scoring affair.

Michigan was a game away from freshmen carrying a team to a National Championship 20 years before it actually happened (and it was a million times more un-heard of in 1992).

Duke was a game away from becoming the first team in 19 seasons to win back-to-back National Championships.

With all of that on the line, both teams got off to a slow start.  There was no scoring for over 2 minutes before Thomas Hill tipped in a Bobby Hurley miss.  Jimmy King then responded with a three.

But in those first 2 minutes, Christian Laettner committed 2 turnovers.  He committed 2 more after both teams had scored and was bench for Cherokee Parks.

Meanwhile, Chris Webber rebounded a miss by Juwan Howard and slammed it back in.  Hurley responded with a three and the game was tied at 5 at the 15:15 mark.

Laettner came back in but didn’t play much better, although he cut down his turnover-per-minute ratio significantly.  He also drew an offensive foul from Webber, which was Chris’ 2nd.

Thomas Hill followed with a three but Michigan responded with a 7-0 run, capped by a steal and layup by Jalen Rose after Laettner threw a kickout pass right to him.

Laettner finally hit a field goal to stem the tide but then he threw another pass that Rose stole and threw to King for a fast break alley-oop slam.  Michigan now led 14-10 and Laettner had 6 turnovers.

But Duke went on an 11-4 run over the next 4 minutes to take the lead as everyone seemed to be picking up fouls.

Michigan then regained the momentum as Rose found Webber with a long pass for a slam.  Jalen followed by hitting Howard on a 3-on-2 break for a short banker.

Then Webber orchestrated Michigan’s most impressive play of the game when he took the ball in transition, dribbling around several defenders, and hit Rob Pelinka with a behind-the-back bounce pass (which would sometimes be disastrous when Webber tried it in key NBA games).  Pelinka then did a 360 and laid it in to give the Wolverines a 24-22 lead.

Grant Hill would score 6 points late in the half to keep Duke within 31-30 at halftime.  But, like the Indiana game, Duke was fortunate to be that close.  Laettner, in particular, was not looking like himself.  Other than the 6 turnovers, Laettner was 2-for-8 from the field and, at times, was just not hustling and got benched for it.

As the story goes, Bobby Hurley gave his teammates a rousing speech at halftime and everything turned around.

It started when Thomas Hill came up with a steal and Hurley pushed the ball.  He quickly found Laettner for a layup to get him going.  A possession later, Hurley found Laettner for a three-pointer from the top and Christian already had as many points in the 2nd half as he had in the 1st.

Thomas Hill then went 1-on-1 with Rose and made a pull-up from the baseline to make Duke 3-for-3 from the field in the 2nd half.  The Blue Devils then hit two of their next 18 from the field and let Michigan hang around despite the Wolverines’ struggles from the field.

Rose and Webber would each pick up their 4th fouls in the 2nd half while Hurley did the same for Duke.  But after Rose got a breakaway layup following an outlet from Webber which cut Duke’s lead to 48-45, Krzyzewski used a timeout with 6:51 left.

After 33 minutes and 9 seconds, Duke was hanging on by a thread and looked mentally drained, although Laettner had 10 2nd half points so far including two three-pointers.

Coach K had been milking the shot clock over the past few minutes to try and get his team some rest.  The Blue Devils were also short-handed as Brian Davis was ineffective with his sprained ankle that he got against Indiana.  Grant Hill started in his place but Davis and Parks would be Duke’s only subs until the final minute of the game.

But, like the champion they were soon to become, Duke summoned the energy and scored on all but one possession in the final 6:51.

It started off the timeout when Laettner drove baseline, lost the ball on the dribble, but recovered it and hit on a reverse layup.  On their next possession, Duke again milked the shot clock before Grant Hill drove baseline for a reverse layup.

It wouldn’t be Hill’s most impressive play of the last 6:51.  On a subsequent possession, Hill drove past Webber on the baseline, went to the other side of the basket, and did a 180 slam that got the Duke crowd going and put the Blue Devils up 58-47.

Hill later tipped in a miss by the other Hill, Thomas, at the end of the shot clock and found Antonio Lang for a slam that broke Michigan’s press and broke their back with 1:45 to go.

Grant Hill would finish the game with two breakaways that made the final margin what it was.  It would simply be a prelude of what was to come for Grant Hill while he still had good feet.

Meanwhile, Duke’s defense had held Michigan to 20 2nd half points and a season-low of 51.  The Fab Five had come farther than anyone thought they could and would now have to live with the pressure in 1993.

Duke had been ranked #1 all season and finally finished the job.  They did something that hadn’t been done in close to 20 years and would only be done once in the next 20 years.

This back-to-back championships had also culminated a run of 5 straight Final Fours and 6 in 7 years, which was as close as one could come to UCLA’s dynasty of the ’60’s and ’70’s.

Duke would make one more run to a Final Four before encountering their share of problems for the first time in seemingly a while.

Michigan starters (points scored)

Ray Jackson (0) – Small Forward

Chris Webber (14) – Power Forward

Juwan Howard (9) – Center

Jalen Rose (11) – Point Guard

Jimmy King (7) – Shooting Guard

Michigan bench (points scored)

Eric Riley (4)

James Voskuil (4)

Rob Pelinka (2)

Freddie Hunter (0)

Michael Talley (0)

Jason Bossard (0)

Chip Armer (0)

Chris Seter (0)

Michigan Coach: Steve Fisher

Duke starters (points scored)

Grant Hill (18) – Small Forward

Antonio Lang (5) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (19) – Center

Bobby Hurley (9) – Point Guard

Thomas Hill (16) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Cherokee Parks (4)

Brian Davis (0)

Christian Ast (0)

Kenny Blakeney (0)

Ron Burt (0)

Marty Clark (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

laettner-vs-webberhill-vs-rosebobby-hurley-laettnerduke-92

At top and second from top, Christian Laettner and Grant Hill go against the defense of Chris Webber and Jalen Rose.  Second from bottom and at bottom: Bobby Hurley, Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Coach K and others celebrate Duke’s 2nd straight National Championship.. photos courtesy of Stuff About Minneapolis tumblr, The Players Tribune, USA Today, and Pinterest

1992 would be a top-heavy star-studded NBA draft.  LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal went #1 to the Orlando Magic.  Georgetown’s Alonzo Mourning went #2 to the Charlotte Hornets.  Duke’s Christian Laettner went #3 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Ohio State’s Jim Jackson went #4 to the Dallas Mavericks.  N.C. State’s Tom Gugliotta went #6 to the Washington Bullets.  Maryland’s Walt Williams went #7 to the Sacramento Kings.  Arkansas’ Todd Day went #8 to the Milwaukee Bucks.  Alabama’s Robert Horry went #11 to the Houston Rockets.  USC’s Harold Miner went #12 to the Miami Heat.  St. John’s Malik Sealy went #14 to the Indiana Pacers.  LaSalle’s Randy Woods went #16 to the Los Angeles Clippers.  UCLA’s Tracy Murray and Don MacLean went 18 and 19 to the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons.  North Carolina’s Hubert Davis went #20 to the New York Knicks.  Georgia Tech’s Jon Barry went #21 to the Boston Celtics.  Arkansas’ Oliver Miller and Lee Mayberry went 22 and 23 to the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks.  Alabama’s Latrell Sprewell went #24 to the Golden State Warriors.  Syracuse’s Dave Johnson went #26 to the Portland Trailblazers and Oklahoma State’s Byron Houston was the last pick of the 1st round to the Chicago Bulls.

2nd round picks included UTEP’s Marlon Maxey going to Minnesota, Arizona’s Sean Rooks going to Dallas, Oklahoma’s Brent Price going to Washington, Oklahoma State’s Corey Williams going to Chicago, Connecticut’s Chris Smith going to Minnesota, USC’s Duane Cooper going to the L.A. Lakers, Arkansas’ Isaiah Morris and Georgia Tech’s Matt Geiger going to Miami, Wake Forest’s Chris King going to Seattle, St. John’s’ Robert Werdann going to Denver, Duke’s Brian Davis going to Phoenix, and Michigan State’s Matt Steigenga going to the Bulls.

1992 draft picks only seen in past College Basketball posts included Stanford’s Adam Keefe (from 1989 College Basketball post) going #10 to the Atlanta Hawks, Virginia’s Bryant Stith (last seen in 1991 College Basketball post) going #13 to the Denver Nuggets, Missouri’s Anthony Peeler (last seen playing in 1990 College Basketball post) going #15 to the Los Angeles Lakers, UNLV’s Elmore Spencer (1991) going #25 to the Los Angeles Clippers, and Richmond’s Curtis Blair (1991) going in the 2nd round to the Houston Rockets.

UCLA’s Gerald Madkins and Darrick Martin would go undrafted but eventually get chances in the NBA.

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