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March 28, 1992:
Duke 104 – Kentucky 103
But Blue Devils’ senior forward Christian Laettner – a demonstrated master of late-game one-upmanship – wasn’t ready to call it a career just yet. Forced to inbound the ball from beneath his own basket following a timeout, Grant Hill – curiously left unguarded by Kentucky’s defense – hurled a baseball pass 80 feet downcourt to Laettner, who turned, faked, and sank the game-winning field goal as time expired.
As it turned out, the Blue Devils would need every ounce of their All-American’s perfection in the narrow victory – his line for the day was impossibly sterling: 10-for-10 from the field, 10-for-10 from the line, 31 points. Duke would go on to become the first program in 18 seasons to win back-to-back national championships, but Laettner’s final reel heroics before the jam-packed Philadelphia Spectrum crowd remains that celebrated team’s most resonant – and emotional – moment. Watch Here >
Loyola Marymount’s Stirring Run
But on the eve of the NCAA Tournament, tragedy struck. Just days before the first round, during a West Coast Conference tournament game against Portland, Gathers – the All-American center whose Herculean brawn was matched only by his enormous heart – collapsed and died on the court after throwing down a thunderous slam dunk.
In the wake of inconceivable loss, the Lions responded with an inspired run deep into the NCAA Tournament. In each of Loyola’s four NCAA games, Kimble – a right-handed shooter – took his first free throw left-handed, as Gathers would have done. Against all odds, Loyola crashed the Sweet 16 with an eye-opening 149-115 victory over defending national champion Michigan. The Lions would plunge all the way into the Elite Eight before bowing to eventual champ UNLV.
But everybody remembers Kimble’s touching tribute.
March 27, 2004:
Oklahoma State 64 – Saint Joseph’s 62
But while many hoped for a Hollywood ending to the story of the year, second-seeded Oklahoma State had a rewrite in mind. The Cowboys trailed St. Joe’s, 62-61, at the tail end of an exhausting Regional Final. That’s when John Lucas III, an excellent point guard in his own right, calmly netted a three-pointer over Pat Carroll’s outstretched arm.
When Jameer Nelson’s potential game-winner fell short, Cowboy Country – and the junior guard’s famous namesake, who was in attendance – exulted in the victory that sent Hall of Fame coach Eddie Sutton to his first-ever Final Four. Watch Here >
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