This Day in March Madness History: Lehigh Stuns Duke

It’s yet another day without sports. I can’t really count them, they’re such sad days. So to pass the time, I am recounting some of the most classic games in March Madness history. I will also include a YouTube link to watch the game I have referenced for your enjoyment. We’re all in this together, trying to get through the sports shutdown, so here are my efforts. 

March 16. 2012
15. Lehigh def. 2. Duke 75-70

  • The Set-Up
    Lehigh came in as the automatic qualifier for the Patriot League, and they were rewarded with a match-up with Duke, one of the nation’s powerhouses. Duke was two years removed from winning a national championship, and at 27-6, they figured to challenge for another title in 2012. Having lost in the first round only once since the 1996 season, the game versus Lehigh seemed like a mere stepping stone in their path to the championship, or at the very least a potential Elite Eight showdown with Kentucky.
    For Lehigh, being a 15th-seed was actually an improvement on the 16th-seed they’d been given in their four previous tournament appearances. They had never gone dancing and come away with as much as a single victory, so there seemed to be little reason to hope. 
  • How it went down
    Duke vastly underrated Lehigh and future NBA star CJ McCollum who scored 30 points in the first-round contest. The Blue Devils trailed much of the first half, but they surged into the break to take a 30-28 lead. The Mountain Hawks felt good about their position, given they had shot just 38% from the field and trailed by two points.
    The two squads tussled back and forth for the first twelve minutes of the second half, with neither team able to seize a commanding advantage. The longer the game remained in doubt, the more momentum Lehigh seemed to seize. With 8:21 remaining on the clock, Lehigh’s Mackey McKnight drilled a triple, pushing the Mountain Hawks ahead for good. They extended their lead up to 61-54 with two minutes to go, forcing Duke to start fouling. The Blue Devils closed within three twice, but McCollum came up big at the charity stripe, including in the final second, when, up three points, he drained two free throws to push Lehigh’s advantage to 75-70, which was the final score. 
  • The Aftermath
    Lehigh’s miracle run ended after one victory, as they lost to Xavier, the region’s 10th seed, in the Round of 32. The Mountain Hawks were the 6th team to pull off a 15th seed over 2-seed upset, but ironically, they weren’t even the first that day, as 15. Norfolk State had stunned 2. Missouri that afternoon. Lehigh has not made the NCAA Tournament sense.
    Duke was obviously eliminated, but they essentially saw history repeat itself two years later, as they lost to 14th-seed Mercer as the third-ranked team in their region. They won a national title in 2015, however, and have currently made the Elite Eight in their past two seasons.
  • Future NBA Notables
    Mason Plumlee
    Seth Curry
    Austin Rivers
    Quinn Cook

CJ McCollum


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