I feel like this game would be best introduced by Stefon from Saturday Night Live:
“This game had everything: Dunks, Buzzer Beaters, RASHEED WALLACE...”
For all the games that UNC and Duke have played against one another, all the #1 vs. #2 matchups, all the ACC Tournament titles, the massive upsets, the classic finishes, there has never been a better game between them than the one played on February 2nd, 1995 in Durham. This fact becomes that much more incredible when you consider the caliber of the two teams that played that night.
UNC in 1995 was one of the best teams in the nation. Led by Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace, the Tar Heels would tie for the ACC Regular Season title, make the ACC Tournament final, and reach the Final Four. Their starting five, rounded out by Donald Williams, Jeff McInnis, and Dante Calabria, was the best in the nation and, if it weren’t for a serious lack of bench, they’d have likely won it all. They were a high-octane, emotional, entertaining team and came into Durham 16-1 and ranked #2.
Duke, on the other hand, was a wasteland. Coach K had taken a leave of absence due to back surgery, leaving Pete Gaudet in command. However, even K couldn’t have saved this team: The Blue Devils had a dearth of talent and were led by Cherokee Parks, Jeff Capel, Ricky Price, Eric Meek, and Trajan Langdon. They were in the midst of a 13-18 season and entered the game 0-7 in the ACC. This was not expected to be a game, much less a classic.
The game started out much as everyone expected: UNC blitzed out of the gate, courtesy of sharpshooting from Donald Williams and an onslaught of dunks from Wallace, who let out his signature scream after every one. UNC hit their first nine shots to build a 26-9 lead over the outmatched Blue Devils by the under-12 timeout. The last of those shots you might’ve seen before...
But Stackhouse’s iconic dunk marked the end of Carolina’s opening onslaught: They scored only twice on their next fifteen possessions and Duke managed to crawl back into the game. Timely shooting from Parks and a second foul on Rasheed gave Duke a shot in the arm and by halftime it was 34-29 UNC. Tough defense from the Blue Devils got UNC out of their rhythm and we were set for a classic second half.
In the second half, the Blue Devils went supernova. A team that just couldn’t put it together throughout the year suddenly caught fire all at once, including the embattled Chris Collins, who was having a historically awful season shooting the ball. Collins, Parks, and particularly the freshman Trajan Langdon began nailing threes, sending Duke surging into the lead and nearly blowing the roof off of Cameron. Wallace, who had humiliated the Duke bigs in the first half, picked up an early third foul and was on the bench for much of the run. Without him, UNC could barely hang on.
With 9:58 remaining in the game, Ricky Price hit a fastbreak layup to make it 68-56 Duke, an absurd 29-point swing following UNC’s early blitz. With the Cameron Crazies caught somewhere between euphoria and disbelief and Duke nailing everything they threw at the hoop, it was easy to see this game slipping away. Then Wallace slammed home the ultimate STFU putback slam over Parks, Meek, and Price to silence the crowd.
Turn to 1:04 for the dunk. Or, better yet, watch all 8 dunks.
It was another turning point in a game of runs: UNC went on a 20-8 run over the next six minutes. Dante Calabria, who had had a rotten game up until that point, drilled his first three to make it 76 all with 3:46 left.
The two sides traded baskets for the next three minutes, before Wallace hit one of his patented baseline turnarounds to make it 81-79 UNC. He then blocked Cherokee Parks’ game-tying layup attempt, and was fouled by Duke on the rebound. He missed both free throws, but UNC rebounded the ball with 45 seconds remaining. McInnis ran down the clock before dropping it off to Stackhouse, who went for a game-sealing dunk with 25 seconds left.
Cherokee Parks got a hand on it and the ball bounced off the rim. Calabria got the rebound and, perhaps not realizing the shot clock had reset, inexplicably shot a floater in the lane rather than pulling the ball back out. Wallace, Parks, and Stackhouse all went for the rebound and Rasheed was whistled for a foul, his fifth, with 19 seconds left. Parks made both free throws and McInnis missed the final shot. UNC was headed to overtime and would do it without Wallace.
Despite their All-American big man being on the bench, UNC seized control, grabbing a 90-81 lead behind McInnis and Stackhouse. Duke began to foul and with 25 seconds left, UNC still held a 94-86 lead. Then it all started to go terribly wrong:
Langdon nailed a three with 16 seconds left to make it 94-89. McInnis hit one of two free throws to make it 95-89, with 12 seconds. Jeff Capel took it upcourt to try and get a quick two, but UNC’s Pierce Landry made a terrible decision, trying to draw a charge rather than simply let Capel go by. Capel made it, plus the foul. 95-92, five seconds left. Duke sold out on the pressure under the hoop, leaving UNC reserve Serge Zwikker open to receive the pass. He got it and was fouled with 4 seconds left. Before a wall of screaming Crazies, the sophomore big man saw both of his attempts rattle out and the second one wound up in the hands of Cherokee Parks, who flipped it to Capel. You know what happened next...
Capel’s buzzer-beater set off a raucous celebration in Cameron. At one point, a scuffle amongst fans behind the UNC bench broke out. But the game wasn’t over. Dick Vitale on the broadcast was declaring “I have nothing left. I’m emotionally, mentally, physically drained.” The same was true of the players, especially the Tar Heels, who were now relying on players like Ed Geth, Landry, and Zwikker to bring the game home without Wallace. But the Tar Heels showed their mettle once again in the 2nd OT.
Both teams missed shots to start the period, but a Donald Williams jumper with 55 seconds left to give UNC a 100-98 lead. The Jeff McInnis made the game-winning play: Following the make, Greg Newton went to inbound the pass to Steve Wojciechowski (in for the fouled-out Capel), but he didn’t keep an eye on McInnis, who abruptly wheeled around and intercepted the pass, laying it in to give UNC a 102-98 lead. It happened so quickly that the Duke scoreboard operator didn’t even see it. As Wojo brought the ball upcourt, McInnis frantically signaled to the sideline that he had scored. Not until Ricky Price nailed a jumper did the scoreboard finally read 102-100.
With the shot clock off, Duke had to foul and Gaudet and his staff signaled to their players...and none of them saw him. UNC ran the clock down until Calabria threw the ball away on a failed entry pass to Stackhouse with fifteen seconds left. Incredibly, Duke still had a chance to tie or win it. But Wojo missed a game-tying jumper and Newton’s putback fell short. As the horn sounded, players from both teams fell to their knees, utterly spent. UNC had won, 102-100.
Despite his foul trouble, Wallace finished with 25 points on 10-11 shooting. Stackhouse ended with 25 points and 11 rebounds and Donald Williams added 24. The three Tar Heel stars finished with a combined 74 of UNC’s 102 points. Parks had 25 and 13 to lead Duke and Langdon had 18 of his 20 points in the second half and overtimes, going five of six from three during Duke’s big run.
It wasn’t a title game. It wasn’t a battle of evenly matched teams. It didn’t matter. Nor did it matter that UNC fielded a team of future NBA stars while Duke wheeled out future college coaches and GMs. It was Carolina-Duke and that meant it was going to be a show. And, thanks to Carolina’s highlight reels dunks, Duke’s brilliant shooting, the huge runs, and the buzzer-beaters, it was the greatest show they’ve ever put on. And, of course, the Tar Heels won.