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Coach K's Sweet 16: Second NCAA Championship in 1992

Coach K won his second national championship in 1992 to repeat for the first time since UCLA did so in the 1970s.
Coach K won his second national championship in 1992 to repeat for the first time since UCLA did so in the 1970s.

This article is the fifth of 16 in our "Coach K's Sweet 16" series, where we will walk back through the legendary head coach's career and recap his most iconic moments. For the full list, click here.

Coming off of a spectacular 1992 season that saw the Blue Devils cutting down the net for the first time in team history, Duke entered the season with high expectations with the trio of Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill. 

With the only two losses of the regular season occurring at North Carolina and Wake Forest, Duke kept its No. 1 ranking wire to wire, entering the ACC tournament as the No. 1-seed and capturing the ACC crown. After defeating Campbell, Iowa and Seton Hall in the NCAA tournament, Duke had a matchup against No. 2-seed Kentucky.

The Blue Devils led Kentucky 50-45 in the first half, but the fierceness of the game came during the second half, when Christian Laettner stepped on the chest of Kentucky freshman Aminu Timberlake after he was knocked down under the rim. Laettner was charged with a technical foul, but was not ejected. With 33.6 seconds left in regulation, Kentucky tied the game 93-93 and the last shot attempt during regulation by Hurley fell short to send the game to overtime.

Every second of overtime was crunch time, as the lead switched back and forth between Duke and Kentucky. While Laettner’s six straight points placed Duke at a 102-101 lead, Kentucky’s Sean Woods, with 2.1 seconds left in overtime, hit a wild contested shot to change the score to 103-102.

Duke called a timeout for a quick inbound play that required both precision and big-time performance under intense pressure, as the fate of the season would be determined by this single play. Grant Hill, standing on the other end of the court, completed a 79-foot full-court pass to Christian Laettner at the opposite free-throw line. 

Laettner dribbled the ball once, turned around, and made “the shot” at the buzzer, as Duke closed out the game with a 104-103 victory, advancing to its fifth straight Final Four since 1988, the longest Final Four streak in the modern tournament era. Laettner’s clutchness was at its peak throughout the game, where he put up 31 points and seven rebounds, shooting 10-10 from the field and 10-10 from the free-throw line.

As the Blue Devils advanced to the Final Four in Minneapolis, they faced Bobby Knight-led Indiana in a teacher-pupil matchup. Duke struggled initially with Laettner shooting 2-of-8 from the field, but was able to find its momentum late in the game despite its slow start. Hurley contributed 26 points throughout the game, making six of his nine 3-point attempts, and was crowned the Final Four Most Outstanding Player for his performance as Duke pulled away late with a 81-78 win. 

In the national championship game, Duke faced a familiar opponent—Michigan and its roster of freshmen Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Joward, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson.

The one-vs-six seed matchup started close, as Duke and Michigan swapped leads throughout the first half, with Michigan taking a 31-30 lead. 

But Duke rallied back with a dominant second half, closing the game at 71-51 thanks to the scoring efforts of Laettner, Grant Hill and Thomas Hill, as well as the team’s defense that held Michigan to just 20 points in the second half. 

As the announcer said after the game is over, “The Duke of destiny has done it. For the first time in two decades, college basketball has a repeat champion.” 

The 1992 championship is indeed the first successful repeat since the end of UCLA’s dynasty in the 1970s, and it further solidified Duke’s status as a contending powerhouse into the 1990s.


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