The chances of a full-court pass hitting its targeted man through two defenders wasn’t imaginable. Sean Woods, like his coach Rick Pitino, didn’t feel the need to put a defender on the in-bounds pass Grant Hill winded up to make.
Hill hit Christian Laettner on a seam at the opposite free throw line with two seconds to back into two defenders, turn and shoot “the shot.” Duke downed Kentucky a moment after Woods had hit a running layup over Laettner, who he came to consider the greatest college basketball player he faced even as a SEC player who faced Shaquille O’Neal twice every season.
“You can get Shaquille O’Neal rattled,” Woods said. “You cannot get Christian Laettner rattled, especially in big games and he’s proven that.”
Woods and Bobby Hurley, now coaching Southern and Arizona St. respectively, dove into one of college basketball’s great games they played on either side of. Bob Ryan covered it, hosting a retrospective alongside Jeff Goodman on their podcast this week.
Kentucky became something that night, Woods remembered, just as Duke launched to the top of the college basketball blue bloods winning back-to-back national championship.
Pitino built something in the 1990s that a young John Calipari, driving Massachusetts to the Final Four during later that decade, would view as his eventual dream job. For Woods, following a devastating two-year postseason ban, that gave his efforts in a career-ending loss solace.
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