NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bear Territory Thursday: Looking back on Cal's NCAA Tournament victory over Duke in '93

     I thought that with the Sweet 16 starting today, it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and revisit Cal's huge upset over Duke in the 1993 NCAA Tournament. The 82-77 victory propelled Cal to the Sweet 16 and the loss ended Duke's hopes of winning three-straight national titles. The heroes for Cal were point guard Jason Kidd and forward Lamond Murray who combined for 39 points, 28 of which were scored by Murray. As for Duke, point guard Bobby Hurley, a senior, scored 32 points and dished out 9 assists.

     What struck me the most about this game as a result of watching it in its entirety, was how Cal dominated Duke for almost the entire game. Yes, the final two minutes were nerve racking, but for the vast bulk of the game, Cal was the better team. Cal took a 47-37 lead into the half thanks to a 13-0 run sparked by Jerod Haase and Monty Buckley. In the second half, Cal had a lead as big as 55-37 and continued to dominate Duke, going up 70-53.

     So while Jason Kidd referred to this win as a "miracle" in the "The Players' Tribune" earlier this week, it shouldn't be forgotten that Cal dominated Duke for much of this game. The biggest reason why Cal dominated Duke was that Cal played a much cleaner game. 11 of Cal's first 29 points were off of Duke turnovers while at that point of the game, Duke had scored just 4 points off of Cal turnovers. Cal simply took better care of the basketball and as a result, they took a 47-37 lead into the half.

     The only thing that Cal didn't do a good job of in the first half was keeping Duke away from the foul line. Duke shot around 15 foul shots in the first half, and made almost every one. If it weren't for Duke's ability to get to the foul line, Cal would have probably taken a 20 point lead into the half.

     What got Duke back into the game in the second half was Cal showing the signs of a young and inexperienced team. 11 players on Cal's roster were either freshman or sophomores and their star Jason Kidd was a freshman. As for Duke, they were captained by Bobby Hurley, a senior who still is the NCAA's all-time leader in assists. Cal's youth and inexperience caused them to turn the ball over a lot in the second-half (9+ turnovers) and Duke, being the veteran team that they were, made Cal pay.

     However, it took Duke quite a while to eventually get the lead, and when they did, Cal took it right back thanks to Jason Kidd hitting a miracle shot in the paint which lead to a three-point play. With Cal up 79-77, Duke wasn't able to take the lead again, partly due to some luck for Cal and also the law of averages, which states that when you go down by double-digits against a really good team, you aren't likely to come back.

     Some of the lucky breaks for Cal in the final two minutes include Duke forward Grant Hill traveling, Cal getting the ball back after Jason Kidd missed a free throw, and Cal retaining the ball after it appeared to go off of Jason Kidd on a no-call near the basket. In addition, Cal was lucky that Lamond Murray was able to play in the second half after suffering an ankle sprain while Duke center Cherokee Parks sat out the second half due to an ankle sprain of his own.

     There is no doubt that the basketball gods smiled on Cal on March 20, 1993, but make no mistake that Cal was the better team that day. They dominated Duke early in the game, and held on for the win. In many ways, the game was won when Cal went on that 13-0 run in the first half. While it is true that Duke did eventually take the lead, it was only for a brief moment and they appeared to be gassed down the stretch.

     When Cal basketball players, coaches, and fans look back on this game, they shouldn't take inspiration from the fact that miracles can happen. They should take inspiration from the fact that Cal dominated Duke. Cal didn't win that game because they got lucky. Cal won that game because they were better than Duke. It's that simple.

(Note: If you want to read Jason Kidd's write up about the game in "The Players' Tribune", click here)

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord for NBA news 


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