It is finally that time, folks. College basketball season. And even better, Duke vs. Michigan State at Madison Square Garden. This is our first televised Duke game in New York this season and, regardless of my couch bleacher seats, I could not be more excited. I just started on a six-pack of Magner’s and I am watching the very end of warm-ups. It is sort of weird, because there are just so many…strangers. (And so many Plumlees. Jesus Christ, I was fine with having just two of them constantly miss free throws). Be forewarned. I have been (overly) obsessed with baseball and Penn State lately, so I have not properly done my pre-game research. I feel lost without Nolan or Kyle. I already know that I can’t spell one of the freshmen’s name. I do not even know what the freshmen look like. Is this instilling confidence in you for the following recap/retroliveblog? I understand your trepidation, but let’s do this anyway. After all, I am pretty certain that the short man with obviously dyed black hair is still our coach, his name is Mike K., and he may or may not be the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history by the end of tonight. Does anything else really matter? Let’s go Duke.
Pre-game: Whoa, Miles Plumlee got kind of hot. I think it is his spiffy haircut. (I am a hair-person). At the moment, having two classic-looking uniforms to choose from tonight, I am wondering who the Score Whisperer would go with; I would selfishly expect her to opt for Duke blue, but I think she would be quite attracted to the hunter green as well. Strangely, even though I just established that I am a hair-person, which I am, I would still have sex with Jay Bilas. Maybe it is his classy gray suit and black tie. Snarky combined with smart is sexy, what can I say? Such a combination apparently trumps the need for hair. Holy crap, but what is that insane pink tie that Digger is sporting? For the record, I would not have sex with him, hair or not.
It hasn’t even started and I already regret not going to the game. I should totally be in the midst of this intense craziness. That said, I would not be able to hear Bob Knight provide color commentary, as he is doing at the moment. I hope he throws out an f-bomb tonight or at the very least, a chair. Wait a second. This is the winner of America’s Got Talent?! I mean, really. This is the best we could do, America? He has a really adorable smile, even if his Star Spangled Banner sort of sucks. Also? I love Tom Izzo. Okay, here we go!
19:49: Brandon Wood hits a jumper in the first 10 seconds. But Seth Curry gets it right back, and Bob Knight stutters “Shot fake, shot fake, shot fake.” Dawson hits another easy shot for MSU, but in his first flash of brilliance, Austin Rivers drives hard to the hoop and is fouled. I am excited to watch him this season. He hits both shots. Lil Dre Dawkins follows with a sweet steal and an easy bucket. Maybe he will break out and fill Nolan’s shoes, but they are admittedly huge shoes to fill. 6-4, Duke.
16:38: After some sloppy back-and-forth-turnover-missed-shot craziness, the Spartans finally get a put-back. Bob Knight informs us that he is just as good at officiating as coaching; I love him much like I love Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsey, both of whom are somewhat evil and hilarious geniuses. “Siiiilky smooth jumper from Andre Dawkins,” croons Jay Bilas. But the Spartans draw a foul, sending us to our first official timeout. 9-6, Duke.
15:46: I like that during commercials ESPN has different coaches giving anecdotes and thoughts about Coach K. Duke steals only to throw it away, leading to a wide-open three by a freshman named Trice or Thrice or something 3-sounding. We seem to be pushing the ball, which is great, because MSU is struggling to cover. Nix makes a nice move for two. Now the officials are reviewing a pathetic push by Mason Plumlee. Pathetic in that there was no contact made and it was harmless; think a sweep of the hand towards the player’s chest. Coach K is shaking his head. This has now been like a 45-minute board meeting. They are calling Mason for a two-shot technical foul. I guess he deserved it? If anything, he deserved it because it was so dumb. MSU hits both, gets the ball back, and draws another foul. They are on a 7-0 run. Finally Ryan Kelly nails a much-needed three. 13-12, MSU.
13:34: Christ, the Spartans come right back and hit a three. And now everyone is just…missing. Like a penis, some shots are long, some are short, some are so crooked they don’t hit anything at all. I do not think I have ever started a sentence “like a penis,” but I should probably do so more often. After a billion misses, blocks are exchanged and we head to a timeout. I need to drink more. 16-12, MSU.
11:41: The refs seem whistle-happy, which is infuriating. We have two great clubs here, please just let them play ball. Sigh. But not if Michigan State keeps scoring, which they just did with an easy floater. Curry is fouled hard by Appling, who was caught in the air. His name is two letters short of appalling, which is unfortunate for him. Seth hits both shots, giving us points for the first time in like an hour. Following another MSU miss, Rivers – who has heinous facial hair going on – gets fouled and hits one. A missed alley-oop by MSU, a missed shot by Duke, a turnover by MSU, a missed lay-up by Duke, a turnover by MSU. Can you tell it is still early in the season? 18-15, MSU.
8:44: Finally, Dawkins hits a three from the corner, which ties this bitch up. Wow, Miles Plumlee got a rebound and, with no one else around him except one player, is stripped of the ball for an easy bucket by Nix. Sigh, new haircut or not, it is nice to see that some things never change. But Middle Plumlee returns the favor with a sweet running hook shot. We are all tied up again in NYC. 20-20.
7:42: After a pair of free throws by Wood, a turnover by Duke, and a dunk by Green, we are down four again. But Dawkins gets two back. We just received a response from the Score Whisperer: “Hunter green does show up mighty fine against those pine beam floors!” And then Dawkins drains a three! (The Score Whisperer really is magic). He has three three-pointers already and we retake the lead. This is a great game so far, in terms of the back-and-forth scoring – I just wish there was more scoring. Austin Rivers drives and is fouled again. It is interesting that he keeps driving; I expected more jump shots. Not that I am complaining. It has been effective so far. I just think we are playing too much one-on-one ball and we need to pass more. Especially when he misses the front-end of a one-and-one. Spartans score to recapture the lead…again. 26-25, MSU.
4:48: With one second on the shot clock, Mason Plumlee makes a stupid move about 18-feet from the basket and a jump ball is called. Duke has to go for a tip-in or a catch-and-shoot…and it fails miserably. Shot clock violation. MSU has a lob for Dawson, a pretty bucket. But Dawkins follows with his fourth three! Dawkins and Dawson are talking shit to one another, which is amusing. And the ref is now reprimanding both of them for their antics. We are tied again. Green tries a four-footer, but Kelly rejects it hard! Dawkins finally misses a three-pointer, and Green makes us pay – the bucket and the foul. 30-28, MSU.
3:12: After Green hits free throw, Trice flips over Seth Curry, quite literally, landing hard on the floor and fouling Seth in the process. Speaking of which, I am starving and in the process of making chicken nuggets and onion rings. Because I am apparently about 8-years-old. Seth hits both and then MSU turns over the ball for the tenth time. We generously give it right back. It is now tied and Tom Izzo, who reminds me of a little leprechaun, calls a timeout. 31-31.
1:24: MSU promptly misses a three, before Curry knocks one down on the other end. After a miss, the Spartans stupidly foul under their own basket with 14.7 seconds left. Coach K, soon to be the GOAT, calls timeout. Aaaand we repay him with an offensive foul by Austin Rivers. With all of these turnovers, it is like Sharing is Caring Night at the Garden. Sigh. Brandon Wood hits a floater at the buzzer, making this a one-point game. 34-33, Duke.
19:37: Thank god for Andre Dawkins, where would we be without his 14 first-half points? And because of him, Coach K is 20 minutes away from history. These onion rings are crunchy and delicious. MSU immediately takes the lead, but we get it right back. Austin Rivers banks it high off the backboard. Another MSU turnover, this time with an offensive foul. Kelly kicks it out, gets the offensive rebound, and then Rivers bricks a three. He proceeds to foul Green, which is his third. He hits one, but Dawkins hits another three. MSU misses and we get it back. I would really like some breathing room here, fellas. This is much too close for comfort. 39-38, Duke.
17:01: Kelly drives, which looked like a sure-thing slam dunk, only to be fouled and miss the bucket. But he hits both free throws. He has pretty eyes. Don’t get me wrong. They are buried in an oddly triangular and strange-looking face. Dawkins hits another three! This is getting crazy. I am super impressed. MSU misses and then Kelly fakes a three, only to have the defender not even step closer to defend him. So Kelly steps back and drains it. God, that was such a nice fuck-you sort of play. He is all pumped up and yelling things. So is Tom Izzo. Everyone is yelling. This is getting fun. MSU ball when we get back from the break. Finally, a tiny cushion. 47-40, Duke.
15:52: Wow, Nix keeps missing easy buckets under the rim. It is rather embarrassing for him. Curry knocks down a three, falling afterwards in a dramatic display of flair. But no foul is called. Another MSU turnover. We are now 10 for 18 from behind the arc. Other stuff happens while I eat a frozen Kit Kat, and Dawkins drives, hits a leaner, and scores two more points. He now has 22 points, Duke is on a 14-2 run, but there is still a ton of time left. Michigan State comes back with a lob that bricks off the backboard. Some turnovers happen and then a stupid technical by Miles Plumlee. Hopefully Marshall will get one, too. How many times have three brothers, all from the same team, received three technicals in one game? Maybe we will make history tonight in multiple ways. 53-40, Duke.
11:28: Grant Hill looks as fabulous as ever. In fact, I think he has gotten better looking with age. Even with the technical, MSU only scores one point. And then we come right back and score two. Not bad. WTF?! Nix just landed on Tyler Thornton’s head. He looked like he was purposely trying to fall and knee him in the face. How is that not a technical? Jay Bilas agrees with me. Behind the back, sweet pass by Mason Plumlee to Ryan Kelly, who may or may not have been intentionally fouled. This MSU team is dirty. Or, they are simply out of control. And now they are reviewing a play by Nix to see if he threw an elbow on the free-throw box-out. He did. Which is his fourth. We hit both, making this an 18-1 run. I smell the winningest coach in history. And he smells fantastic. 59-41, Duke.
10:12: More misses by Michigan State and more points for Duke. This has turned into a blowout. MSU hits their first points in over seven minutes. I mean, thanks for coming to the party. Green gets his fourth foul, with just under eight minutes left. We hit both and then Austin Rivers, who has been sort of useless tonight, commits another foul, sending us to a TV timeout. 62-43, Duke.
6:55: MSU hits back-to-back-to-back buckets, the last one including a foul. We have played sloppy for the past few minutes, allowing MSU to go on a 7-1 run. As I type that, they steal the inbounds pass and get the ball back. Whew, to (almost) airball a three. We immediately take a terrible shot, which is so dumb. We need to kill the clock here, not give the ball right back. Frustrating. It is now 63-50. Beautiful block from behind by Mason Plumlee. Thornton just got bumped and apparently injured. He did have his shoulder/face landed on earlier by Nix, who just got fouled out. He contributed a whopping two points. But after a few Duke misses, MSU drains a three. It is now an 11-point game. Curry hits a much-needed lay-up and we are in our final TV timeout, three minutes from history. 67-54, Duke.
3:04: ESPN is speaking with Shane Battier, who is dressed identically to Grant Hill, like they coordinated. They are both wearing blue collared shirts with blue v-neck sweaters and look terrific. Rivers is blocked on the drive, as Appling then hits a lay-up. Rivers looks like he is pressing, trying to create one-on-one situations for himself. It is great that he is confident and trying to take control, but it isn’t working tonight. He needs to start dishing it more. Oh fuck. Tyler Thornton slipped on the State Farm decal-sticker-thingy at mid-court and Coach K is livid. This is the same problem that Izzo complained about the other night. I do not blame them. When college sports have become so obsessed with money/big business, to the point that players are becoming injured from advertising purposes, it is ridiculous. 67-56, Duke.
1:48: The cameras just flashed to Chris Duhon and John Perna, former roommates, both of whom taught me how to play beer pong when I was a lowly freshman Blue Devil. Whenever there was one cup left on the table, Chris would take a shot while simultaneously calling “Game!” and then immediately turn his back to the table. When the ball went in, it was amazing and everyone oohed and aahhed. John is hilarious, a sarcastic New Yorker, who used to date Wynter Whitley, a former Duke women’s basketball player. I spent more time in John’s apartment, playing pong and ordering pizza until 4am, than probably anywhere else during my junior year. Holy crap, MSU just scored, cutting our lead to single digits. Now Middle Plumblefuck is on the line and unshockingly misses the free throws. And then MSU steals the ball, but luckily, it goes out of bounds. ARGH. 69-60, Duke.
1:00: We are playing sloppy, throwing it around carelessly and turning over the ball. Do not buckle under pressure now, guys. The Spartans drain a three! A six point game! How the hell did this happen?! MSU fouls Kelly immediately, but at least we are inbounding to someone who can actually make free throws. He hits both. MSU gets a quick two and then fouls Seth Curry. He hits only one, and then Appling runs down the court to get another two points for MSU. Now it is a five-point game! We call a time-out. And then come out of it only to get a five-second call. You have got to be kidding me. Green tries for the three and good god, thankfully, it misses. Precious seconds ticking. My heart is pounding harder than I expected or wanted. But Tom Izzo tells his team to stop fouling. And that is it! Duke wins! And Coach K gets #903, surpassing Bob Knight for the all-time record in Division I wins! Final Score: 74-69, Duke.
Coach K immediately goes over to the table to hug Bob Knight. They share a moment, surrounded by about 521 cameras and reporters. Andy Katz is now with Coach K, who told Bob Knight that he “wouldn’t be in this position without him.” He says that “the number of wins has never been the goal. But it’s astounding we’ve won this much.” Now that #903 is in the books, Coach K is “glad that we can move on and develop our team.” He finishes with something along the lines of, “We are very lucky as coaches when we are in great places.” Swoon. And we are very lucky, as students and fans and alums and people, to have such a great coach in our lives. 79 NCAA tourney wins, 13 ACC Championships, 12 National Coach of the Year awards, 11 Final Fours appearances, 4 National Championships. And now 903 wins.
You can’t spell Duke without the one and only K.