For the 106th time in a row, a non-conference opponent went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and lost to Duke. But there haven't been many games during that span that were much closer than Sunday night's contest.
Duke wins by 1, has now won 106 straight home non-conference games— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 25, 2013
And on the other side of the court wasn't Kansas or Kentucky or Michigan State or some other national powerhouse that tends to call the Final Four its home.
It was the unranked Vermont Catamounts, who were coming off losses to Bryant, Providence and Wagner. It was the same school that entered the day 323rd in America in scoring. It was one of the biggest underdogs you'll see all season, per WagerMinds on Twitter:
College Hoops: Vermont was +9000 to beat Duke outright. They lose by 1 as they fail to get game-winner off before the buzzer.— WagerMinds (@WagerMinds) November 25, 2013
As they say, though, that's why they play the games.
Vermont battled the Blue Devils to a wild back-and-forth finish but when they were unable to get off a shot in the final seconds, Duke escaped with the 91-90 victory.
I know what you're thinking, but March Madness legend Taylor Coppenrath didn't walk through the doors and suit up for Catamounts. Instead, it was a gritty team effort from John Becker's squad, which had four players in double figures and led by two with as little as three-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Hector Harold led the way with 24 points, while Clancy Rugg poured in 20 and Sandro Carissimo chipped in 16 of his own. But it wasn't enough as all-world freshman Jabari Parker wasn't about to let his team lose the shocker.
After Candon Rusin scored on a back-door cut to put the Catamounts ahead 81-79, Parker scored two buckets in a row—one off an unbelievable catch on an alley-oop and another on an offensive rebound and tip-in.
Parker finished with 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting to go with nine rebounds (five offensive), continuing his historic start, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Jabari Parker: 1st freshman to score 20+ pts in team's first 6 games since Eric Gordon, 2007-08 Indiana pic.twitter.com/Qj3j2tak7N— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 25, 2013
The Catamounts continued to fight, but Duke seemed to have enough in the tank to pull away, as Quinn Cook knocked down a cold-blooded three and free throws from Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon put the Blue Devils ahead 90-86 with 20 seconds remaining.
Not so fast, though.
As Sulaimon slipped under him for the foul, Rusin calmly buried a three-pointer and went on to convert the four-point play to tie the game with eight seconds remaining.
Rodney Hood was able to draw the questionable foul call on an aggressive take to the hoop, however, and after he hit one of two free throws, Vermont was unable to get off a shot on its final possession.
That was not a foul on Brian Voelkel of Vermont. Hands were straight up and Hood initiated the contact. How does Vermont not get a shot off?— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) November 25, 2013
Hood finished with 22 while Andre Dawkins added 16 off the bench for Duke, which avoided going into the history books for all the wrong reasons. Still, the Devils didn't escape completely unscathed. As CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein pointed out, it was a game that amplified Duke's defensive problems:
Duke's defensive concerns are only magnified tonight. No rim protector. Extremely versatile team but can't stop anyone right now.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 25, 2013
Of course, it's still November, meaning there is a bevy of time for improvement—as well as more scintillating contests such as this one that emphasize the unpredictable nature of college basketball.