With a breakaway layup at the overtime buzzer, Stephen F. Austin pulled off a shocker for the ages and did what no team outside the ACC had done in almost 20 years — topple mighty Duke at home.
The underdog Lumberjacks and their high-pressure defense took over at Cameron Indoor Stadium as No. 1 Duke lost its grip on everything: The ball, the game, its prized home-court winning streak and, ultimately, the nation’s top ranking.
Stephen F. Austin stunned the Blue Devils 85-83 in overtime Tuesday night, with Nathan Bain’s coast-to-coast layup just before time expired bringing a jarring end to Duke’s 150-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents.
“I told our players, ‘Banners can’t beat us tonight,’” SFA coach Kyle Keller said. “The players have to beat us.”
Representing the little-known Southland Conference, the Lumberjacks became the first non-Atlantic Coast Conference school to beat Duke at Cameron since St. John’s in February 2000, and the second unranked squad to upset a No. 1 team on its home floor in two weeks after Evansville went into Rupp Arena and knocked off Kentucky 67-64.
Duke had the ball late in overtime, but Tre Jones missed a jumper with about 15 seconds left and Wendell Moore rebounded it for the Blue Devils. Hounded by the Lumberjacks’ active defense, Jones threw a bounce pass toward the baseline that got broken up, and the ball kicked away from Matthew Hurt in a scramble with around three seconds to go.
Gavin Kensmil snatched it on the ground and passed from the seat of his pants to Bain, who split two Blue Devils players and went nearly the length of the floor for a buzzer-beating layup with Duke forward Jack White in futile pursuit.
“I looked up at the clock and saw I had 2.6 seconds, just going as fast as I can to lay it up. Like a layup drill. Prayed it would go in,” Bain said. “I wasn’t sure if the guy was going to foul me or not. Get it on the rim to give us a chance.”
Kevon Harris scored 26 points and Kensmil added 15 for the Lumberjacks (5-1).
“It means the world,” Harris said.
Vernon Carey had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Blue Devils (6-1), who committed 22 turnovers and shot just 11 of 24 from the free throw line in the second half.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski “told us at halftime about getting back” on defense, guard Cassius Stanley said. “It’s kind of what we deserved. We didn’t listen to him, and it hurt us eventually at the end.”
Jones had 17 points and 12 assists — but also eight turnovers against a Stephen F. Austin defense that is the nation’s best at generating takeaways. The Lumberjacks, who entered at No. 262 in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings, lead Division I by forcing 25.8 turnovers per game — a huge challenge, it turned out, for a young Duke team that started four freshmen and a sophomore and has had issues taking care of the ball.
“Deny the ball, pressure teams, turn them over,” Bain said. “People don’t like pressure. Everyone wants to be comfortable, be able to see the floor. It’s a winning formula — you deny passes, you pressure the ball, make people play 1-on-1, and that’s hard. You can’t do that for 40 minutes. You have to have some great lungs.”
There were two ties and a lead change in the final minute of regulation, with Kensmil tying it at 81 on his layup with 19 seconds remaining. That left Duke with the last shot before OT, but after Jones missed a turnaround jumper with about four seconds left, the rebound was batted around to Stanley, whose jumper off the glass went off the rim at the buzzer.
Stephen F. Austin: No question the Lumberjacks earned the biggest victory in program history. Bain, a fifth-year senior, was a freshman on the Thomas Walkup-led team that upset eighth-ranked West Virginia as a No. 14 seed in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
“It doesn’t get much bigger than this,” Bain said. “But getting a win inside the NCAA Tournament, that’s a different type of sweet. That’s a different type of taste you want to have. We didn’t get that last year.”
Duke: This Duke team didn’t have the feeling of invincibility that some of its predecessors had, in part because it committed at least 16 turnovers in three of its first six games. The Blue Devils’ offense was completely flummoxed at times by the Lumberjacks’ unrelenting pressure, and as a result, their run at No. 1 will end after two weeks. For the second straight season, they lost at home to an unranked opponent as the No. 1 team, with the Zion Williamson-led squad falling to Syracuse.
Duke became the third No. 1 team to lose this season — and Thanksgiving hasn’t even arrived yet. The defeat will surely cost the Blue Devils at least a few spots in the poll Monday.
Duke fell to 292-9 in non-conference home games under Krzyzewski, and this was the first such loss since an 83-82 setback against St. John’s on Feb. 26, 2000. The defeat means the nation’s longest such winning streak now belongs to Butler — which has 55 straight non-conference wins at Hinkle Fieldhouse.