Bain, a senior forward, contributed 11 points to the win by Stephen F. Austin, which was led by senior Kevon Harris’s 26 on 11-for-19 shooting. Duke, which lost three players selected in the top 10 of this year’s NBA draft but reloaded with another crop of coveted recruits, was paced by freshman Vernon Carey Jr.'s 20 points and 11 rebounds, while fellow first-year players Cassius Stanley and Matthew Hurt contributed 15 apiece and sophomore Tre Jones had 17 points and 12 assists.
The Lumberjacks won despite the Blue Devils finishing with a major advantage in rebounds (40-34), blocks (14-2) and free throw attempts (40-17). However, the most startling numbers emerged from Duke’s prior dominance and the overall discrepancy between the two programs.
The Blue Devils (6-1), who took over the top spot last week after previously No. 1 Kentucky suffered its own major upset at home to Evansville, had never lost as an AP No. 1 team to an opponent from outside the major conferences (per ESPN). In addition, Duke had won 150 straight nonconference games at home, a streak that went back to 2000 and was easily the longest in Division I men’s college basketball.
The Lumberjacks (5-1), based in Nacogdoches, Tex., and representing the Southland Conference, had lost to Rutgers by 12 in their only previous road game this season. Whereas Duke came into Tuesday’s game ranked atop the kenpom.com ratings of all 353 Division I teams, SFA was 263rd.
At various sports books, Duke was between a 27.5- and 29-point favorite. That gave SFA the largest upset by a D-I team in the past 15 seasons (per ESPN).
“I saw my teammate grab [the ball], and I looked up at the clock; we had about 2.6 seconds,” Bain said (via ESPN) of the final sequence, which began with a Duke turnover in the frontcourt. “I was like, ‘I have to get on my horse.’ I went as fast as I can to try to lay it up. It’s like a layup drill. I could feel the dude on my back, and I just prayed it [would] go in.”
“We’ve been battling the flu,” Lumberjacks Coach Kyle Keller said. “We’ve actually practiced pretty terrible this week. I told my wife today, I said I hope we continue to fight. Just next man up, like they talk about in the NFL.”
The Lumberjacks didn’t need a barrage of three-pointers to topple their mighty foe; in fact, they hit just 2 of 10 from long range. However, they scored 64 points in the paint, the most Duke has allowed in a game in 10 seasons (per ESPN), and they had 13 steals to the Blue Devils’ eight.
“You go 11 of 24 from the foul line in the second half, it’s just a recipe to lose,” Duke Coach Mike Kzryzewski said of his squad, which made 24 of its 40 free throw attempts overall. “So we weren’t deserving of winning.
“That team was deserving of winning, and they won.”
Duke’s loss all but ensures a new No. 1 team, likely No. 2 Louisville (6-0), when the next AP poll is released Monday. According to ESPN, there had never before been more than one loss in November by teams ranked No. 1 in the AP poll, but it’s happened three times this month.
Preseason No. 1 Michigan State could be excused for quickly falling to Kentucky, which was ranked No. 2 at the time. However, the college basketball world was rocked by the Wildcats’ subsequent loss at home to unheralded Evansville, coached by former Kentucky star Walter McCarty, and by some measures SFA pulled off an even bigger upset.
The Lumberjacks, in fairness, have had a successful program in recent years, having won their conference and made trips to the NCAA tournament in four of the past six seasons, with two tournament wins in that span. However, they went 14-16 last season, missing their own conference tournament, and they were picked to finish fourth in the Southland this season in a preseason poll.
“We lost just about everything,” Bain said at the time. “We are still trying to stay positive because more important then the material things, everyone in our circle and immediate family and church family is safe.”
Just after helping defeat Duke, Bain said that his team “had my back” through his family’s difficulties, so he “just wanted to return the favor.” A GoFundMe page that had been set up to help Bain and his family was quickly ringing up contributions in the wake of the upset.