In 2001 Duke was king, and
So as the years went on, I became the type to cry, even die a bit inside, when Duke came up on the short end.
Basically, I was a little bitch.
On January 27, 2001, I felt like I was about to be tossed into purgatory. The Blue Devils were down 10 to Maryland with under a minute to play, and were seemingly ready to walk off the court and concede defeat in a battle for ACC supremacy. The Terps, you remember, were currently undergoing a mini-renaissance under Gary Williams. They had a veteran nucleus and young explosive talent coming off the bench. Tonight All-American guard Jay Williams was struggling, and Steve Blake was prancing around like he was the best point guard in the ACC. Frankly, he wasn't even the best point guard on his team. Juan Dixonwas Maryland basketball at the time, but Blake always seemed to get the camera time. Watching it all unfold, the Terps only needing two hours to supplant North Carolina as the heel in ACC basketball, was quite an unpleasant thing to watch. Suddenly I was losing feeling in my extremities. And why was everyone I knew calling my phone!?
Then eight points in 13 seconds happened, a sequence of events that can only be described as bold and beautiful.
It was Williams with a lay-up, then a steal, then a three. That alone was something Duke fans could savor. You only see that sort of stuff in 128-bit video graphics. But then Drew Nicholas missed a pair of free throws and Williams subsequently sank another three. Duke was only down two.
Now it was on, and Williams had this look in his eyes like he knew he was the only player in the country capable of this sort of feat.
A few more things happened, just not as thrilling, and like that we were preparing for overtime. In the extra session, Duke would of course prevail with a 98-96 miracle victory (StatSheet.com crunches the numbers), Mike Patrick began having hot flashes, and Brad Daugherty was so overwhelmed he went to cover NASCAR full-time for ESPN. That's how impactful Jay Williams was. How bold and courageous he was that night cannot be overstaed
Of course this was a huge choke job by the Terapins, too. Duke would retain it’s number-two national ranking, but further affects from the January loss would manifest itself just eight weeks later. Remember, these teams faced each other four times that season, highlighted by a Final Four match-up under Hubert H. Humphrey’s Metrodome. In that game, after falling behind 39-17, the Blue Devils miraculously (again, it was an absolute miracle!) closed the gap to just nine by halftime led by a strong performance by a young Carlos Boozer, playing despite being hampered by a foot injury suffered in February against, you guessed it, Maryland. Shane Battier played all 40 minutes, serving as Coach K's Avatar-like figure on the court en route to a 95-84 victory, earning them a spot in the national championship game.
Since then, my affection for Duke has slowly waned, and I view my former devotion to the school as more of a past affliction suffered during my childhood. But 2001 my admiration and respect for Willaims has not changed. He's as good as it gets when it comes to college basketball, and his one-man comeback against Maryland may never be replicated by another.