Duke uses Michigan State floor slap as motivation in Final Four rout of Spartans

INDIANAPOLIS—When it comes to things sacred to Duke basketball, the floor slap is about as high up on the list as one can get. The Spartans learned that the hard way Saturday.

Multiple teams throughout the course of the season have thrown the floor slap back at the Blue Devils, but an opponent had yet to do so in the NCAA tournament. So when a pair of Michigan State players abused the hardwood after its first score in the Final Four, the Blue Devils took notice.

“Yeah, we saw it,” freshman Grayson Allen said. “They were doing it to pump their guys up and that being more of a Duke tradition, that definitely pumped us up more.”

Guard Denzel Valentine came around a screen from center Gavin Schilling to hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc—his first of three triples in the opening four minutes—to draw first blood, he and point guard Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn II dropped down and slapped the floor with 19:04 remaining.

But the Spartans were not done there.

Valentine would lead Michigan State down in transition and nail his third triple with 16:09 left in the half. The boost from the first slap was in full effect, as the Spartans had now jumped out to a 14-6 lead. But then Brendan Dawson got in on the action. With 16:01 left, Dawson, guarding Justise Winslow, slapped the floor.

That is when things turned sour for the Spartans. From that point on, Duke went on a 30-11 run and Michigan State never brought the lead back down to single digits.

And the Blue Devils made sure to have their revenge in the second half.

Tyus Jones found Winslow on the baseline for an easy two-hand slam with 15:56 remaining to push the Duke lead to 17 just moments after the Spartans had chipped it down to 13. With 15:48 left before the Blue Devils' date with Wisconsin was officially wrapped up, Winslow and Jones pulled out a revenge floor slap—behind only the Steve Wojciechowski slap and team slap as the third-most sacred floor slap in Duke's arsenal.

"We noticed it, bringing the ball down the floor and we see them slap the floor," Jones said. "But you can’t get caught up in that stuff or focus on that kind of stuff. We’ve seen that before this year from some different teams. It’s all right. We keep it in the back of our minds but we don’t retaliate."


Wojciechowski is the most famous Blue Devil for the floor slap and perfected the art during his career in Durham from 1994-1998. Arguably the most iconic rendition of the floor slap came during Wojciechowski's last Duke-North Carolina game at Cameron Indoor Stadium in 1998. The NABC Defensive Player of the Year during that season slapped the floor with less than three minutes left in a thrilling Blue Devil comeback shortly before his famous embrace with head coach MIke Krzyzewski after the win. Earlier this season, Wojciechowski—now a head coach—slapped the floor to inspire his Marquette players during a Thanksgiving tournament

Ever since Wojciechowski's set the trend in the 1990's, Duke's players have been slapping the floor to get up for key defensive stops in games. But one of the most famous slaps in recently came Jan. 23, 2013, when then-No. 25 Miami dominated the then-No. 1 Blue Devils 90-63 in Coral Gables, Fla. Many other Duke opponents have taken to slapping the court against the Blue Devils when they have momentum, but it didn't work out as well for Michigan State as it did for the Hurricanes more than two years ago.

The Badgers might want to take note for Monday's national title game—one floor slap is fine, but two could get you blown out.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Chronicle.