Duke vs. UNC: How Austin Rivers' Game-Winner Harkens Back to Christian Laettner

Brandon BoyerContributor IIIFebruary 9, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 08:  Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils shoots the game-winning 3 pointer over Tyler Zeller #44 to defeat the North Carolina Tar Heels 85-84 during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 8, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

I have not been excited about a college basketball game since the days of Shane Battier and Jason Williams leading Duke to a national championship back in 2001, when I was much shorter and just started playing basketball.

They captured my imagination as they ran onto the finals and eventually a championship for the Durham-based side. 

With Duke though, there's little that compares to Christian Laettner's classic buzzer-beater against Kentucky back in 1992. Not only was it a major boost for the Blue Devils at the time, but it has become one of the staples of any highlight reel for anything college basketball or NCAA related. 

The irony of this comes back to earlier today, when I was discussing the Duke-Carolina game with one of my long-time friends, a diehard Cameron Crazy. She told me a short story of how when she had walked past the bookstore earlier today, she saw a book about Christian Laettner's shot and the importance of it for both college basketball and the Blue Devils program. 

In steps the dynamo that has been Austin Rivers. 

Rivers has been the catalyst behind the success that Duke has had this season, filling a huge void left by Kyrie Irving when he departed for the NBA. He has been a controversial figure in the game, his confidence offending some, inspiring others, but you cannot deny raw talent when you see it. 

I didn't realize at the time that we were talking about an event that would repeat itself tonight...

Our conversation foreshadowing the mind-blowing game-winner that Austin Rivers would reign down on the Tar Heels—a shot that beautifully arced over the monster that is Tyler Zeller to fall gracefully into the basket, as the buzzer shouted out, ending another amazing chapter in one of the most intense rivalries on the planet. 


The eerie thing about this very shot though is the fact that it is almost a month-and-a-half until the 20th anniversary of Laettner's winner against the Wildcats—another one of Duke's most memorable moments in their storied history. 

A Freshman All-American has sealed himself into one of the top five moments of this insane rivalry, potentially defining the rest of Duke's season based off this win against the fifth-ranked team in the nation, not to mention what this might do for his collegiate and future professional career, just based off this moment. 

Before the game, Rivers was quoted as saying he would make an impact in this game. 

And boy did he.