It wasn’t even 48 hours ago that Kentucky was suffering its latest eviscerating loss in the NCAA tournament, so it feels almost cruel to point out that today marks the 25th anniversary of its most famous such defeat — Christian Laettner’s buzzer-beater to lift Duke over the Wildcats in the 1992 East Regional final.
Duke and Kentucky were the top two seeds in the East that year, and both had advanced mostly comfortably to the Elite Eight when they met in Philadelphia on March 28, 1992, and produced one of the greatest games of all-time — in any sport.
The Blue Devils led 50-45 at the half. It stayed close throughout the second half, and the Wildcats tied the game at 93 with 33 seconds to go. It went to overtime. Kentucky took a 103-102 lead on a floating bank shot from Sean Woods with only 2.1 seconds remaining. The rest you know all too well:
Famously, no one guarded Grant Hill on the inbounds pass as he heaved it all the way to the other end of the court. Laettner managed to catch it, dribble, make a spin move and get off a clean shot that went in as the horn sounded, giving Duke the 104-103 win and pushing the Devils into the Final Four.
It was a heck of a game all around for Laettner, who was 10-for-10 from the field and the free-throw line, going for 31 points along with seven rebounds and three assists. It was only fitting to cap the brilliant performance with the shot known now simply as … “The Shot.”
Duke went on to beat Indiana and Michigan to win the championship, its second in a row.
This past Sunday, Kentucky lost again in a regional final in heartbreaking fashion, when North Carolina’s Luke Maye made a last-second game-winner just a few seconds after the Wildcats had tied the game on a Malik Monk 3-pointer. And Laettner was watching: