LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Duke's self-inflicted demise began with a missed layup and ended with a four-second flurry that will be long debated.
But there is no debating this: The Blue Devils' reign as national champions ended Thursday night in a 74-73 defeat to Indiana in an NCAA South Regional semifinal at Rupp Arena.
"We messed up a lot of brackets," Indiana coach Mike Davis said. "Tear 'em up, throw 'em away."
Indeed. Top-seeded Duke was an overwhelming favorite to advance to the Final Four, and with a 17-point first-half lead against the Hoosiers, there was no reason to think otherwise.
It was during this trying stretch that Davis whispered to an NCAA official sitting at the scorer's table, "We're gonna shock the world. We're going to win this basketball game."
Admitted Davis: "Deep down inside you don't really believe it. But if you say it enough, you start to believe it."
Who knows when the fifth-seeded Hoosiers really began to believe? But the crowd sensed the reversal midway through the second half.
With the Devils leading 59-47, Duke All-American Jason Williams swiped a Donald Perry pass and streaked to the other end for an uncontested layup. Inexplicably, he missed.
Jared Jeffries, the game's dominant presence, then scored on a tip, and A.J. Moye made two free throws to bring Indiana within 59-51, the first time the Hoosiers had been within single digits since 20-11.
Two more Moye free throws trimmed the margin to six, and his backdoor layup made it 63-59. Duke led, but was reeling.
After a Jeffries stickback made it 63-62, Moye struck again, this time on defense.
Moye stands 6-feet-3 and weighs 215 pounds. Carlos Boozer is 6-9, 280 pounds.
But when Boozer rose to the rim for a dunk, Moye blocked it cleanly. Jump ball, possession arrow to Indiana.
"It kind of amazed me," Moye said. "I thought I'd just foul him, but then I saw I was up higher than him, so I figured I might as well block it."
The Hoosiers, if they didn't already, had to believe.
Less than five minutes after Moye's block, Tom Coverdale, Indiana's No. 2 scorer this season, made his first bucket of the game to break a 70-all tie. Less than one minute remained, and Indiana led for the first time.
Moye, a 79.4-percent foul shooter, went 2-for-2 at the line with 11.1 seconds remaining to make it 74-70 and set up the closing sequence.
It began with Williams hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key and drawing a foul from Dane Fife, Indiana's best defender. The clock read 4.4 seconds. Williams, only a 68-percent foul shooter, went to the line for the first time in the game.
He missed, just as he did in the closing moments of losses to Florida State and Virginia. But Boozer snatched the rebound and burrowed inside for the potential game-winner.
"I grabbed him," Jeffries conceded, "and I got a piece of the ball."
No whistle. Boozer's shot rolled off, and the horn sounded.
Duke reserve Matt Christensen charged referee Bruce Benedict and had to be restrained by an athletic department official. Boozer pleaded for a foul.
Their season was over, their quest for consecutive national titles denied.
"I didn't have vision to see it," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "You know what? That's the way it goes, whether he got fouled or not. I would never, ever blame a loss on one play, on an official, a player. The game's too great to reduce it to excuses."
Krzyzewski's absolutely right. Duke had every chance to win. But the Hoosiers, led by Jeffries' 24 points and 15 rebounds, hammered the Blue Devils inside, outrebounding them 47-32.
"They won the ballgame through their toughness," Krzyzewski said.
That toughness allowed Indiana to overcome a season-high 23 turnovers, 16 in their ragged first half.
"We're not better than that team," Davis said. "There's no way we're better than that team. But down the stretch tonight ..."
Down the stretch, Indiana was better -- stronger, more confident, more poised.
"I told our guys, "They lost a big lead against Virginia. Keep on fighting,' '' Davis said.
Fight they did. Until the champion was no more.
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.