Horvath Joins Super Team
The 1999-2000 Duke basketball team was exceptional. Top players included Shane Battier, Chris Carrawell, Carlos Boozer, Nate James, Mike Dunleavy, and Jason Williams. The team ended up with a very respectable 29-5 season.
Joining this group were several freshmen, including 6’11” 250 lb. Nick Horvath. He had led his high school team to the Minnesota State Championship in 1999 and was named Mr. Basketball in Minnesota. He was expected to eventually contribute significantly to the success of Duke basketball.
Dog Fight Against DePaul
Though Duke started the season losing two close games to Stanford and UConn respectively, they then won the following four games handily. At this point they faced the DePaul Blue Demons who boasted a very good team that year. It was obvious from tip-off that the teams were evenly matched. At the end of the first half, the Blue Demons were leading, 38-36. Then in the second half Duke scored 37 to DePaul’s 35 to tie the game at the buzzer and send it into overtime.
Sick Freshman Given Crucial Minutes
Horvath was probably not sure why he dressed out for the game that day. He was so sick, he states he could barely even stand. Whenever he breathed in deeply he’d begin to cough uncontrollably. Coach K had sent Horvath into the game earlier for two minutes and he’d picked up two quick personal fouls.
Then Nate James fouled out near the end of the game and Coach turned again to Horvath during the last two minutes of overtime. It seems slightly questionable that Coach K would tell a green freshman this, but Horvath claims when Coach sent him in he said, “If you get the ball, shoot it.”
It’s a Win
Duke brought the ball downcourt with less than a minute in the overtime. DePaul was ahead 83-81. Dunleavy passed the ball to Horvath who was behind the three-point stripe. Seven-footer, Steven Hunter, lunged at Horvath and the freshman leaped, releasing the ball as high as possible to avoid Hunter’s long reach. Hunter made contact with Horvath’s hand but the refs didn’t see it. The ball was also thrown too hard. It struck high on the backboard. However it was close enough to the rim that it banked against the rim and straight through the hoop.
With 14.6 seconds remaining in the overtime, DePaul gave it to their star, Quentin Richardson, but Chris Carrawell played him so tight that he couldn’t get a decent shot. Duke had won on an unlikely 3-pointer by a freshman as weak as a sick puppy.