Nathan Bain scored on a breakaway layup with less than a second remaining in overtime Tuesday night as the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks registered an improbable 85-83 road victory over the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils.
After Bain hit the shot, he was mobbed by his teammates as players and staff charged off the visitors’ bench to celebrate the end of a 150-game Duke winning streak at home over non-conference opponents.
It was the first victory by a visiting non-conference team at Cameron Indoor Stadium since Feb. 26, 2000, when St. John’s won, 83-82.
The Lumberjacks are coached by Kyle Keller, a former UTSA assistant coach.
Keller has worked as an assistant at Texas A&M, Kansas, Oklahoma State, UTSA and Louisiana Tech. He worked at UTSA for one season in 1996-97 under former coach Tim Carter.
In an interview aired via radio broadcast on 94.7 Smoke, out of Charlotte, Keller said he feels blessed to win and fortunate that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski agreed to play the game.
‘Run Nate, run’
Asked what he was thinking when Bain raced up court in the final seconds with no time outs, Keller asked radio hosts if they had ever seen the movie, “Forrest Gump.”
“Run Nate run,” Keller said. “That’s what I was thinking.”
Krzyzewski told the Duke radio broadcast that the Lumberjacks deserved to win.
“They played like an old, veteran team,” Krzyzewski said. “They played harder than we did, and they were tougher … We were coming off winning a championship in New York. We were soft tonight.”
The Lumberjacks trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half. Matthew Hurt hit a shot off a feed from Vernon Carey, Jr., to make it 33-18 with 9:03 remaining.
From there, SFA rallied behind Kevon Harris, who had 20 of his team-high 26 points in the first half. He led a 22-12 streak as the Lumberjacks pulled to within 45-40 at halftime.
SFA kept grinding it out in the second half and forged a 75-72 lead with 3:30 remaining on Nathan Bain’s jumper.
The game was up for grabs in the final minute. First, the Lumberjacks tied it on Gavin Kensmil’s layup with 19 seconds left.
Next, Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley missed shots for Duke, sending it to overtime tied, 81-81.
Overtime evolved into a defensive struggle.
With the scored tied 83-83, Duke was working for the last shot when a pass to the baseline resulted in a loose ball and a pass to the perimeter, where Bain grabbed it and raced the distance to lay it in.
Duke radio reported that Bain’s shot fell through the net with “two or three-tenths” of a second remaining.
‘Prayed it would go in’
“I looked up at the clock and saw I had 2.6 seconds, just going as fast as I can to lay it up. Like a layup drill. Prayed it would go in,” Bain told reporters at the game site, as reported by the Associated Press. “I wasn’t sure if the guy was going to foul me or not. Get it on the rim to give us a chance.”
Keller said both teams were “gassed” in the second half and overtime.
“We had gone up and down,” he said. “It was such a fast-paced first half. Both teams were pressuring and playing old school pressure, denial, hit you in the mouth, force the turnovers and run up and down. Nobody had anything left by the time we got to the second half, to be honest with you.”
Former UTSA assistant Jeremy Cox is an assistant head coach with the Lumberjacks. Cox also worked for the Roadrunners in the 1990s … The Lumberjacks have played in NCAA tournaments in five of the past 11 seasons. Keller and Cox led the Lumberjacks to the tournament in 2017-18 … Former Spurs great James Silas, whose jersey No. 13 is retired in the rafters at the AT&T Center, played at SFA.
Keller said he was so proud of his players going into the overtime, he asked them what offensive sets they wanted to run. “For four minutes and 59 seconds we scored two points,” the coach pointed out. “That’ll be the last time I let them run offense.”
SFA: Kevon Harris had 26 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Cameron Johnson scored 16 off the bench. Gavin Kensmil produced 15 points and 7 rebounds. Nathan Bain had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals.
Duke: Vernon Carey Jr., had 20 points and 11 rebounds. Tre Jones had 17 points, 12 assists. Cassius Stanley, 15 points, 5 rebounds. Matthew Hurt, 15 points.
Duke lost the game at the free throw line. The Blue Devils were 24 of 40 at the line. The Lumberjacks were 11 of 17.