March 28, 1992, will forever go down as one of the most exciting days in the history of college basketball.
ASU head coach Bobby Hurley was a junior point guard at Duke at the time; none of the players he coaches now had even been born.
But when Hurley’s Sun Devils head to Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, the announcement of Hurley’s name will haunt Kentucky fans who have memories of what happened on that night more than 20 years earlier.
It was the 1992 East Regional Final. The Blue Devils, the defending national champions, faced Rick Pitino’s Kentucky Wildcats for a spot in the Final Four.
“It had been a roller coaster type of game, just one big shot after another,” Hurley told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Wednesday. “And they hit a straight-on bank shot with a little over two seconds left to go up in the game and we had to go the length of the court.”
It’s what happened next that enshrined that game in basketball history.
“I remember coach (Mike Krzyzewski) drawing up that play in the huddle and I was the second option, luckily. I was gonna get the ball somewhere near half court and take a dribble or two and fire up kind of a desperation shot,” Hurley said. “But Christian (Laettner) was the first option. The ball sailed right over my head. I was over near halfcourt, he was obviously over by the free throw line, so I probably had the best look in the building of him catching it and hitting the shot.”
That shot wasn’t just any shot. It was “The Shot.”
As time expired, Laettner knocked down a jumper to give the Blue Devils a 104-103 victory over Kentucky. They would go on to win the only back-to-back national championships in program history.
As hard to believe as those two seconds were, it wasn’t a fluke. Hurley said it’s a play that they had tried earlier that year against Wake Forest and lost on. As a result, Krzyzewski had them practice it during simulated game situations in hopes that they would be able to execute when it mattered.
“Part of the huddle was just Coach K understanding where we were with our frame of mind, and recapturing our emotion and putting us back in the moment of the game,” Hurley said. “There was a lot on the line for us. We were trying to defend as a national champion again. Another Final Four and everything that we had been there that year. You kind of felt it slipping away. He was able to get us in the huddle to believe.”
Now a coach himself, Hurley understands the importance of practicing game situations from first-hand experience.
“It’s something that as a player I thought was interesting and it helped me think about the game in a different way,” Hurley said. “You have to be prepared for all those things so we try and go over them during the course of our practices.”
Hurley’s 6-2 Sun Devils head to Kentucky coming off a 67-54 win over Texas A&M on Saturday. As they look to pull off another SEC upset over the No. 5 Wildcats, Hurley knows the Kentucky fans haven’t forgotten “The Shot.”
“When I was at Buffalo we played there last season, and we were introed and they announced our starting lineups and then they said ‘head coach Buffalo, Bobby Hurley’ and then a simultaneous 2-3 second boo from 23,000 people,” Hurley said.
But this year, he’s prepared for it.
“Coach Calipari did yell at his crowd after the game for doing that to me so maybe they won’t be as bad this time,” Hurley joked.
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