Three Duke Games on Pat Forde's List of Final Four Classics
Three Duke games made Sports Illustrated basketball writer Pat Forde’s list of top Final Four games in the history of the tournament.
Duke’s win over UNLV, on its way to the Blue Devils’ first national championship in 1991, was one of Forde’s top national semifinal games in history.
After setting a record in the previous year’s national championship game for margin of defeat, the Blue Devils pulled off a 79-77 upset to move on to face Kansas in the title game. Here is Forde’s commentary on the game:
“The Rebels were unbeaten and seemingly unbeatable, especially playing a team they had pounded by 30 for the title the previous season. UNLV was on its way to consecutive national championships and becoming the first undefeated team since Indiana 1976. But Christian Laettner keyed the monumental upset, hitting the winning free throws with 11 seconds remaining. With point guard Greg Anthony fouled out, the ball never found its way into the hands of UNLV All-American Larry Johnson on the final possession.”
The other two games on Forde’s list didn’t have positive results for the Blue Devils.
Duke’s 79-78 loss to UConn in 2004 was also chosen as one of the top semifinals. Forde said:
“The de facto national championship game. UConn had stormed through every NCAA tourney game by at least 16 points, while the Blue Devils had only been challenged once prior to San Antonio. Trailing by eight points with four minutes remaining, UConn pitched a 12-0 shutout late in the game to snatch it away. The Huskies blew out Georgia Tech two days later in the final.”
UConn’s 77-74 upset of Duke in 1999 was one of Forde’s top national championship games. He said of the game:
“The hype machine had already been in high gear for this 37-1 Blue Devils team, labeling it an all-time great and spawning discussion of whether it might be the best ever. Then it ran up against a team that forever changed the trajectory of the UConn program. Duke had several future pros, but Huskies wing Richard Hamilton was the best player on the floor (27 points, seven rebounds). From this game through the present, UConn has won more national titles (four) than Duke (three).”