It’s that time of (new) year again, when we take out a moment to look back at the year gone by. And what a year it was for the Duke Blue Devils, featuring countless exciting finishes, outstanding individual efforts, milestones, awards, and yes, two national championships. In four installments over the next four days, the Chronicle Sports Blog picks the best ten of these to celebrate a memorable year in Duke sports. Without further adieu, the first three moments:
10. October 30: Ryan Finley scores a hat trick against Virginia Tech to tie the Duke record with 17 goals. The hat trick was his third of the season, and he added two more two-goal games en route to his ACC-leading scoring total. The sophomore’s 17 scores were tied for fifth in the nation, but because everyone above him played in at least 20 games (compared to Finley’s 18), Finley led the nation with 0.94 goals per game. He added three assists for 37 total points, to place him second in the country in points per game with 2.05. He was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year and a third-team All-American, one of just four sophomores named to any of the three All-American teams. Unfortunately, he has been suspended indefinitely from the team and his future with the program remains in doubt. (For the record, it would be remiss to mention Finley’s accomplishments without giving at least a hat tip to fellow sophomore defenseman Andrew Wenger, who was named a first-team All-American.)
9. November 6: Sean Renfree leads the Blue Devils to a fantastic finish against Virginia. This moment makes the list for sheer excitement value alone. The game had been a back-and-forth shootout for the first 54 minutes, but Duke held a 47-35 advantage with six minutes to play. Then all hell broke loose. Virginia took just seven plays and ninety seconds to get another touchdown of their own, and then they got the ball back at Duke’s 28-yard line when Desmond Scott fumbled on Duke’s second play of the ensuing possession. Punishing Cavalier running back Keith Payne would cover that distance and reach the end zone with two minutes left on the clock, putting his team up 48-47. Sean Renfree and his offense got the ball back on their own 9-yard line and advanced it to the 31 before getting stopped dead. Renfree took two sacks and threw an incompletion to put Duke at 4th-and-19. But Renfree completed a miraculous pass over the middle to Donovan Varner for 31 yards to give the team new life. Two plays later, Desmond Scott waltzed 35 yards into the end zone and put the Blue Devils up 55-48, and that score would stand. The win was the last of the team’s three wins, and they’ll need to keep this moment in mind as the young team heads into 2011 hoping to improve on that win total.
8. December 29: Mike Krzyzewski wins his 880th game as Duke demolishes UNC-Greensboro. The win moved Krzyzewski into sole possession of second place all-time in wins as he surpassed long-time rival Dean Smith’s career total of 879. Krzyzewski was emotional in his postgame interview with ESPN as he gave credit to Smith and thanked his players, staff and family for years of support. His march up the wins list is perhaps the biggest feather in a cap that also includes 4 national championships, 11 Final Four appearances, 12 ACC championships, 12 ACC regular-season titles, an Olympic gold medal and a gold medal at the FIBA World Championships. An NCAA-record 77 of K’s wins have come in the NCAA tournament. Count on seeing Krzyzewski higher than eighth on this list next year for his 903rd win, which will put him ahead of Bob Knight, alone at last atop the career wins list. With 18 more games to play this season, plus the postseason, he could see the 22 more wins he needs this season, but he will certainly pass Knight next season if he doesn’t by March. It’s not inconceivable Krzyzewski could finish his career with more than 1000 wins.
Check back the rest of the week for seven more unforgettable memories from 2010!