For Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, it doesn't seem as if 15 years have passed since his remarkable, buzzer-beating shot became one of the signature moments in the Duke-North Carolina rivalry.
Capel, a former Duke point guard, said thinking about it makes him feel old. But the passing of time also has validated the historical significance of the shot he made 15 years ago, on Feb. 2, 1995, in a captivating, 102-100 North Carolina win in double overtime.
Now considered a rising star in the coaching profession, Capel is proud of his moment in Duke-UNC lore and doesn't try to hide it. Just participating in the rivalry was special for Capel, who played for South View High in Hope Mills.
But making an unforgettable shot?
"Some people think that may be the biggest rivalry or one of the best games in sports, period," Capel said. "And for a guy that grew up in that state and when I was younger dreamed of going to North Carolina - and then when I was older chose to go to Duke over North Carolina - to have a moment in that game that people remember is pretty neat."
The shot was the highlight of one of just three games in the 227 in the series to go past a first overtime. And it provides a lesson for this season as the Blue Devils fight forfirst place in the ACC while the Tar Heels struggle.
Duke's 1994-95 season was a disaster.
After falling to Arkansas in the NCAA championship game in 1994, the Blue Devils entered the season ranked No. 8 in the nation.
But when exhaustion and back surgery took coach Mike Krzyzewski away from the team after 12 games, the Devils went into a tailspin. Under the leadership of interim coach Pete Gaudet, Duke entered the North Carolina game with seven losses in eight games.
North Carolina, meanwhile, had a roster loaded with players who would go on to long NBA careers. Led by senior Donald Williams and sophomores Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Jeff McInnis, the Tar Heels were headed for the Final Four, where they would ultimately lose to Arkansas in the NCAA semifinals.
On Feb. 2, North Carolina was 16-1 and ranked No. 2 in the nation. But the Tar Heels weren't overconfident, even though Duke was 0-7 in the ACC.
"They were having a really bad year that year, and the fans thought we should just go in and blow them out," McInnis said. "And as players, we knew better."
The blowout fans had anticipated seemed well on its way after Stackhouse swooped from right to left across the floor for an incredible, one-handed reverse dunk over Duke big men Cherokee Parks and Eric Meek.
"I'd never seen Stackhouse strut after he had a dunk," North Carolina radio play-by-play man Woody Durham said. "But he took it underneath, and gave a reverse dunk, and I was really surprised to see - we had a monitor there - and I was surprised to see him [bobbing his head]."
Stackhouse made a free throw to complete the three-point play, giving the Tar Heels a 26-9 lead. But the Cameron Crazies didn't let the Blue Devils give up. Trajan Langdon started hitting 3-pointers, and Duke bounced back to lead 68-56.
Some clutch baskets by Wallace in the closing minutes of regulation helped North Carolina rebound. The game went to overtime and headed toward perhaps the most memorable shot in the history of the rivalry.
Shot of a lifetime
North Carolina led by nine early in overtime, and was ahead 95-92 when the Tar Heels' Serge Zwikker stepped to the free-throw line with four seconds remaining in overtime.
Of course, Capel and the Duke fans in the arena and those watching at home were hoping Zwikker would miss both shots. Just one free throw would have given the Tar Heels an insurmountable lead.
Capel also was concerned that North Carolina coach Dean Smith would elect to foul him to prevent him from attempting a 3-point shot. But when Zwikker was on the foul line, Smithpulled back his players to the defensive end of the floor rather than placing them in rebounding position.
That meant that when Zwikker missed both free throws, Capel got a free run toward the North Carolina basket. He had practiced situations like this his whole life, so he knew howmany dribbles he'd be able to take before the buzzer sounded.
He also was confident.
"If you go back and watch that game, I almost made one [desperation shot] at halftime, going into halftime," Capel said. "It rimmed out."
After Zwikker's second missed free throw, Parks rebounded and quickly passed to Capel. He rushed up the court with two dribbles, jumped off his left foot and launched a 35-footer.
"It felt good," Capel said. "You never know, but it felt good."
Stunned but confident
McInnis was watching from the bench, having been removed from the game because Smith wanted a taller player in the game at the end.
Capel, McInnis and Stackhouse all had been teammates on a Charlotte Sonics summer club team dubbed the "Dream Team" because of its marquee talent.
As McInnis watched Capel race up the court, he knew what his former teammate was capable of. As Capel released the ball, McInnis had a sick feeling that the shot was going in.
"You cannot allow the man to have that shot," analyst Billy Packer told the TV audience as the sweaty fans in Cameron erupted with excitement.
As the crowd roared, Smith huddled his players. They were tired, nearly overwhelmed by the noise and the heat.
They were facing another five minutes of basketball without Wallace, their standout big man who had fouled out with 19 seconds remaining in regulation.
But they were also determined.
"Coach Smith, he put that in you," McInnis said. "He'd make you confident. If you play for North Carolina, you're going to be confident. You're going to be a player. You're not going to be scared of any situation."
As it turned out, though, McInnis made the biggest play of the game by ignoring one of Smith's defensive principles. Smith thought McInnis reached in too much and gambled too often on defense in an attempt to steal the ball.
Whenever McInnis reached in and didn't get a steal, Smith would make him write "Reaching is a weapon" 50 times on a postcard. But McInnis was tempted in this game, because he had noticed that Duke had been a bit careless with its inbounds passes.
After Williams broke a 98-98 tie with a jumper with a little more than a minute left in the second overtime, McInnis gambled. He stole the inbounds pass and laid the ball in thebasket.
It happened so fast that McInnis said his mother, watching from the stands, didn't even know he'd scored.
"It was crazy," McInnis said. "At that point, I felt we had the game in control. ... It was one of those games where you never thought it was going to end."
Down by four with less than a minute to play, Duke couldn't come up with another miracle. The Blue Devils cut the lead to two points and got the ball back.
But Steve Wojciechowski missed on a driving shot, and Greg Newton came up short on a 6-foot jumper at the buzzer.
Capel said learned a lot from that game, that season and his entire career at Duke that helped him become successful as a coach and as a man. He looks back now at the things that went wrong that season and knows how a team that looks good on paper can fall into chaos.
He said an offseason trip to Australia that could have helped the team had to be canceled because he and other members of the team didn't take care of academic work that had to be done.
The team lost its leader in Krzyzewski, and Capel said the players lacked chemistry and togetherness.
"It's something I never want to go through again," Capel said. "It made me appreciate winning more. It made me appreciate and understand why you win."
And because of the divergent paths of the two teams that season, the game reminds everyone that nothing should be taken for granted in this rivalry.
Duke (19-4, 7-2 ACC), which is in first place in the ACC, has been much more successful this season than North Carolina (13-9, 2-5). But the difference in the current teams' fortunes isn't nearly as large as the margin between the teams in 1995.
And that meeting in Cameron 15 years ago turned out to be one of the best games in the history of the series.
"Regardless of who plays for Duke and Carolina, it's going to be a good game," McInnis said. "Regardless of whether they've got five All-Americans and five walk-ons, it's going to be a good game."
Staff writer Robbi Pickeral contributed to this report.