Monday, December 05, 2005

INSTANT CLASSIC: Duke 77 - Virginia Tech 75

photo courtesy The Chronicle Online

the Video of "The Shot" (both long and short versions, best you'll find on the net)

It's a shame that Fox Sports broadcast the Virginia Tech/Duke basketball game last night, because if ESPN had carried it, we could already be watching the re-runs.

Chicago, IL native Sean Dockery made the most amazing half court shot in the history of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Now, CIS doesn't have as rich of a history of buzzer-beaters as you might think.

In the 1995 season, Jeff Capel hit a sick near-half court shot to send a game into overtime against the much better, heavily-favored North Carolina Tar Heels squad to send the game into overtime.

But, North Carolina ultimately won the game.

I believe it was the awesome UNC team with Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, and Dante Calabria (yeah, that asshole... I hated him even though I've always loved UNC basketball ever since I was a little kid). Either way, Capel's was probably the greatest all time clutch shot at Cameron, but Duke lost the game.

This game was different.

Duke played an awful, awful game. After finally pulling away late in the second half to build a double digit lead, Duke went into it's usual, dumb "Stall Offense." Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski loves to use this strategy, and it always backfires against athletic teams with great veteran players. Coach K never learns (although, 3 National Championships speak for themselves), because he doesn't seem to realize that by becoming passive and scared to kill your opponents when you have them down, you give them a window of opportunity with which to take advantage. Gary Williams and his Maryland Terps are masters of doing just that, and they first experienced success against Duke once Juan Dixon, a fellow Calvert Hall College High School alum, arrived at College Park to change UMD's destiny.

Virginia Tech played a fantastic, gutsy game. It's a shame that this loss will be ingrained in their memories for the rest of their lives. But, they can take comfort in the fact that they defeated Duke on Tech's home court last season, and could easily do it again in the future. Seth Greenberg is a truly great coach, and will be a force to be reckoned with in the ACC.

Duke allowed the now routine "Duke Choke" to happen, and we found ourselves down 1 point with 1.6 seconds to play.

Out of nowhere, freshman forward Josh McRoberts made a perfect inbounds pass, a bullet right to senior point guard Dockery, who promptly turned around got off a strong shot with great form (considering the distance). I was watching the game with my father and little siblings, and we went nuts once we saw the miracle pass through the cylinder.

You could feel thousands of kids start to cry in Blacksburg, VA, and you could see the looks of shock and disbelief in the watery eyes of the Tech players on television.

Make no mistake about it. Virginia Tech deserved to win the game. Duke got extremely lucky. What made this game even more surreal is the clock malfunction which occured immediately following Virginia Tech's made tip-in field gold. The clock was stopped at the :0.1 minute mark. As is customary in any close ACC game, the officials reviewed the play in order to determine how much time should have been added. The refs decided to add .06 seconds to the clock, which wound up making all the difference in the world for Dockery's shot.

Even more ridiculous is the fact Cameron time officials mistakenly put :16 full seconds on the clock, instead of the referee-mandated 0:1.6 seconds. Because of the inaccuracy, the game had to be halted for what had to have been 3 or 4 full minutes, maybe longer. Anyone who has played a sport at any level will tell you that this dramatically impacts all the players on the court, both physically and psychologically. So many variables went into the final product - Dockery's prayer shot - that's it's quite interesting to think about.

Regardless, there's something mystic about the Duke basketball program, whether you like Duke or hate Duke. Last night, a senior with guts and hustle proved that anyone can be the big man on campus, and I hope he has a stellar rest of the season on the way to a possible national championship.

Here's to Sean Dockery!

the ESPN recap of the game

quotes from the postgame conference

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