At the thrilling conclusion of Duke’s incredible 23-point comeback and 71-69 win over Louisville on Tuesday night, commentators were quick to point out that the victory represented the biggest come-from-behind miracle in Coach K’s celebrated career.
That might not be the only record that the Blue Devils set at 1 Arena Plaza.
Depending on how the numbers are interpreted, Duke may have pulled off the most impressive quick-draw comeback in NCAA hoops history. No Division 1 team has ever been trailing by as many as 23 points with less than 10:00 to go in the 2nd frame and rallied to win the basketball game in regulation.
Only 2 short-order comebacks in D1 history come close to matching Duke’s tremendous Tuesday in Kentucky. VCU trailed South Florida 67-41 with 9:26 to go in a 1993 contest, and managed to tie the Bulls through 40 minutes of play before winning 95-91 in OT. George Mason trailed Saint Francis 77-48 with 11:59 left in a 1996 game and came back to prevail 96-95.
Louisville appeared to have vanquished Duke when forward Jordan Nwora nailed a bomb from beyond the arc to give the Cardinals a 59-36 lead with 9:58 remaining. But Coach K made a brilliant move, installing a zone defense and encouraging the underdogs to fire at-will as if the teams were playing in “garbage” time. A round of careless Louisville possessions later, and the deficit was in the teens.
Then Duke’s ice-cold stars began to thaw out. Electric frosh forward Zion Williamson sank a pair of foul shots to close the differential to just 10 points, then converted a beastly bucket-and-1 to put pressure on the Cardinals with 4:13 left.
The Blue Devils continued their surge, and Cam Reddish hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 69-69 with less than 90 seconds to go. Reddish hit 2 free throws to seal the deal with :14 remaining.
The pair of teenage forwards combined for 49 of Duke’s 71 points.
In terms of pure point margin, the biggest comeback in D1 history occurred last February when Drexel fell behind 53-19 to Delaware late in the opening half. The Dragons put on a retaliatory show of offense that its program will never forget, prevailing 85-83 in front a home crowd in Philadelphia.
Photo from YouTube.