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Full Court Press: Kentucky vs. Duke

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Laettner capped perfect night with game-winner
By Jay Bilas
Special to

Editor's note: ESPN's Jay Bilas was an assistant at Duke when the Blue Devils beat Kentucky, 104-103, to win the 1992 East Regional. He shares his memories of the final frantic seconds of that classic game.

The startling thing that stands out in my mind is the perfection it took to beat Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional Final. I can't think of any mistakes we made that were not forced. Christian Laettner went 10-for-10 from both the floor and the line. Considering that it took that level of play to win, it was an amazing performance by him and a lot of guys.

When Sean Woods hit that shot to put Kentucky ahead -- just threw it up off the backboard -- I have to admit that the thought that crossed my mind was "What can you do? How are you going to beat something like that?" I wouldn't have given that shot a 1-in-10 shot of going in, given how we defended it. But that's usually the kind of finish you're going to get beaten by. That's how close we came to not repeating.

Christian Laettner's last-second jumper gave Duke a 104-103 OT win over Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional Final.
In the timeout before the final play, I think the players were a little shell-shocked and deflated. Coach K took control of that right away and basically said, we're going to win and this is how we're going to do it. When he got the players together he asked "Grant, can you throw a 90-foot pass?" Hill said yes and Coach K said "I do too," and drew up the play. There wasn't one note of negativity from Coach and the players carried that onto the floor.

It took perfection. It took Laettner hitting that shot. And what are the chances of that happening. First, the chances of the pass being completed are minimal. The ball is in the air too long. Odds are that someone would at least get a finger on it and deflect it. But maybe the most impressive thing, once the pass was completed with that little time left, was that Laettner had the onions to put the ball on the floor and throw a head-and-shoulder fake, when all I could think was "Shoot it!"

People give Kentucky a lot of grief for not putting a man on the ball, but that's missing the point. You can have somebody on the ball or not and it's not going to make a big difference. All it might have done would make Grant Hill throw it on the move a bit. The big deal on that play was Kentucky was very concerned, and rightfully so, with not fouling. Because of that they were paralyzed and couldn't make a play on the ball. What I took from that is, if that ball is in the air loose, go get it. If the referee calls the foul, so be it. But in those situations it's better to be proactive. It's like a Hail Mary play in football, you just have to get a finger on it and the play is busted.

It took an amazing sequence of events for that game and the final play to end up the way they did.

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