Less than two hours after Norfolk State pulled off an NCAA tournament rarity, Lehigh made some history of its own.
The Mountain Hawks stunned second-seeded Duke 75-70 Friday night, becoming the sixth 15 seed to win an NCAA tournament game. (The odds of both teams winning on the same day? 0.72 percent)
And, just like the Spartans did in their win against No. 2 Missouri, Lehigh (27-7) outplayed the Blue Devils from the opening tip, displaying more quickness and savvy, not to mention the game’s best player in junior C.J. McCollum.
The two-time Patriot League player of the year — and the nation’s fifth-leading scorer — dominated the game, leading all scorers with 30 points, not to mention grabbing seven rebounds and dishing six assists.
“They had the best player on the court tonight in McCollum,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s been their player of the year, and he’s really one of the outstanding players in the country. You could see why tonight.”
According to oddsmakers, it wasn’t a bigger upset than Norfolk State’s victory, but it might be a more notable win given Duke’s place in college basketball history: four NCAA tournament titles, 15 Final Fours and a coach in Krzyzewski who has more Big Dance wins than any other coach. It’s just the fourth time in 28 career appearances than his team has lost in the first round.
But none of those other losses were close to this.
Duke was playing in Greensboro, N.C., just 55 miles from its campus, yet looked out of sorts from the start. It couldn’t connect from beyond the arc (just 6 of 26 from deep) and trailed for most of the first half. It looked as though the Mountain Hawks would pull away at the end — they led 61-54 with two minutes left — but Duke managed to narrow the gap thanks to some free throws and two 3-pointers.
That wasn’t enough, at least for Duke.
For Lehigh, it was a March moment.
“We saw on the selection show we had Duke and we thought we could match up very well against them,” forward John Adams said. “We all believed it and we showed it on the floor. Everybody bought into that idea that we could beat them. The rest is history.”
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