Duke vs. Michigan State: What it’s like to beat college basketball’s most hated program, in the words of the men who did it.

Seven Players and a Coach Explain What It’s Like to Beat Duke in the NCAA Tournament

The stadium scene.
April 3 2015 1:53 PM

I Beat Duke

What it’s like to take down college basketball’s most hated program, in the words of the men who did it.

(Continued from Page 1)

The crazy thing about the play is Dwight Stewart, who was our center, he fumbled the ball, but he had the presence of mind to gather himself and to pass it. I think most guys would probably take an ill-advised shot. So when I saw him bobble the ball, I looked at the clock. I knew that when he did pass it, somebody—whoever caught it—was going to have to shoot. So it was probably in my mind that I was going to shoot, so I caught it, I just shot it, and it just so happened that [Duke forward] Antonio Lang—most people look at that photo and they see how close he was, because of the angle of the photo it looks like he could’ve blocked the shot. I’ve always disputed that, because I’ve got another photo that shows that the ball had already been released. He was close, but he wasn’t as close as the picture everyone sees in Sports Illustrated. Had he not jumped so far, he probably could’ve blocked it. But he kind of jumped from quite a bit of distance, so he was actually on his way down, and the ball was already gone. He wasn’t that close, but he was close. He was very close.

Garrett Temple, Louisiana State University

J.J. Redick #4 of the Duke Blue Devils dribbles against Garrett Temple #14 of the LSU Tigers.
Duke's J.J. Redick dribbles against LSU's Garrett Temple during third round game of the NCAA Tournament on March 23, 2006.

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In 2006, No. 4 seed LSU beat No. 1 seed Duke 62-54 in the Sweet 16. The Tigers, who were led that season by Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Tyrus Thomas, won the game in large part due to the defense of freshman Temple, who held J.J. Redick to just 11 points in his final college game. Temple now plays for the Washington Wizards.

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When we saw that we were a No. 4 seed, we kind of felt a little disrespected because we won the [SEC] outright that year, and Tennessee, who was behind us, they ended up getting a No. 2 seed. But we knew we were going to have a chance to play Duke if we won our first two games. And we knew we wanted to show the nation what type of team we really are.

I knew I was going to have a chance to guard one of the best shooters in the game. Of course I was really excited about that. [J.J. Redick] ran off screens a lot. [Duke forward] Shelden Williams set a lot of screens for him. His whole team set a lot of screens for him. The offense basically was designed to get him the ball. The toughest thing was just to keep up with him and just continue to put a hand in his face when he lets the ball go and hope he misses it. He missed a few of them, so that was good. In the second half, a few times, he tried to tangle us up on purpose, putting his hand in my jersey and also complaining to the refs and throwing the ball against the pad [underneath the basket]. He never said anything to me, but I could tell he was frustrated.

It’s either love or hate. There’s no in-between with Duke. A lot of guys on my team, coming from where we came from, you just don’t relate to guys from the Duke team. So obviously it was a hate relationship with us, whether we were playing against them or not, or just being fans. You have to have confidence in order to be at the top. They definitely had the confidence. It seemed like once you got past that confidence, that year they were beatable just like anybody else. Once we found that out, we knew what we had to do to win the game.

Somebody tweeted about the game and put up a link to it three months ago. I was bored and actually clicked on it and watched the game. At the end of the game, when Tyrus [Thomas] went the full length of the court and dunked it, that was the dagger. His enthusiasm in that game was incredible.

We shook hands, and I remember Coach K just saying, “Great job, young man. Great job,” to me personally. And J.J. and Shelden shook hands with us. I still see J.J. now, playing against each other [in the NBA]. We definitely talk more than people who haven’t played each other before. I wonder if when J.J. was in Orlando, if him and Glen [Davis] talked about that game at all.

Matt Bonner, Florida

Chris Carrawell #23 of Duke passes the ball as Florida's Matt Bonner #15 of Florida.
Florida's Matt Bonner plays defense asDuke's Chris Carrawell passes the ball during the 2000 NCAA Tournament.

Photo by Al Bello/Allsport/Getty Images

In 2000, No. 5 seed Florida upset No. 1 seed Duke 87-78 in the Sweet 16. Bonner, a freshman who now plays for the San Antonio Spurs, scored eight points.

I remember probably more so than any game in my college career—our team was just really revved up, amped up, excited, pumped up for that game. I remember coach [Billy] Donovan took the motivational approach, making us believe that we had already won the game before it even started. We stepped on the court full of confidence and played that way, and we pulled off the upset.

It was a Sweet 16 game, so we had several days to prepare. You can’t put it into words. During two lines of layups, everybody’s going full speed, dunking it every time. You know, staring down the Duke players [while] running back to the rebounding line. Stuff like that. We really came out with an edge. It was just a mindset you created going into that game.

You could argue this, but definitely for my generation, they’re the greatest program in college basketball. If you look at their consistent success, and obviously having Coach K as your head coach is a huge part of that. He’s a legendary coach, and he really gets the most of his players year in and year out. They’re always a contender. It’s kind of like how most baseball fans don’t like the Yankees.

As someone who played college basketball and now play in the NBA, I love running into Duke guys and busting their chops about Duke. It’s one of those things. We have an assistant coach, Chip Engelland, who went to Duke. Every time Duke loses, I shoot him a text—“Hey did you catch the Duke score? I missed it,” or something like that. That’s kind of my ace in the hole, for sure. No matter what happens, no matter what we’re joking about, I can always go to that.

But all of that is out of respect for the program, really. That’s why you have the Duke haters out there, because they’re so successful. Everybody wants to beat Duke. They get everybody’s best shot every game.

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