In what will likely go down as one of the biggest upsets of the 2019-20 college basketball season, unranked Stephen F. Austin upended No. 1 Duke 85-83 Tuesday night in an overtime affair, handing the Blue Devils their first loss of the season.
Duke was a 28-point favorite before folding to the Lumberjacks in the final second of the game. It was 81-all after regulation and knotted up at 83 as time was winding down before Duke turned the ball over with six seconds left, leading to a Stephen F. Austin breakaway layup just before the buzzer that served as the dagger.
Tuesday night's loss to the Lumberjacks is the first time Duke has lost a nonconference home game since 2000, and the first time in 13,473 days (1983!) since it has lost to an unranked mid-major team.
While the upset is noteworthy -- and on its face, a No. 1 falling is a rarity -- in this case it's merely par for the course this season. Duke is already the third No. 1 team in the AP Poll this season to lose a game, with preseason No. 1 Michigan State and previous No. 1 Kentucky falling within the opening two weeks of the season after the voters placed them at the top.
"We've been battling the flu," said Stephen F. Austin coach Kyle Keller after the game, making the unlikely upset all the more impressive. "We actually practiced pretty terrible this week. I told my wife today, I said 'I hope we continue to fight.'"
Duke's shooting woes aided Stephen F. Austin's upset, as the Blue Devils shot just 5 of 15 from 3-point range. While as a team it shot 50 percent from the floor, Duke got off 54 shot attempts from the area to Stephen F. Austin's 74. And that's where the largest disparity lies. Stephen F. Austin scored 64 of its 85 total points -- including the game-winner -- from inside the paint. Leading that effort was senior guard Kevon Harris, who attacked the basket all night and finished with a game-high 26 points.
"They played harder than we did and were tougher," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "They had 64 points in the paint and forced 22 turnovers. They just played a lot tougher and better and deserved to win."
The win for Stephen F. Austin could prove to be a difference-maker come March when NCAA Tournament seeding and selection is on the line. After an 12-point loss to Rutgers less than a week ago, this victory will be the crown jewel of what could wind up being a stellar resume. The team was picked in the preseason to finish fourth in the Southland Conference, but it's hard to envision any Southland Conference program getting a win as momentous as the one the Lumberjacks just chopped down.
As for Duke, a quick rebound is in order before another big test. It gets Winthrop at home on Friday in a likely bounce-back spot before a pivotal Dec. 3 showdown with preseason No. 1 Michigan State.