Austin Rivers only spent one season in a Duke uniform, but it was a year that many Blue Devil fans would like to forget because of how it ended.
In the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Rivers and Duke were stunned by 15th-seeded Lehigh, losing 75-70 to the C.J. McCollum-led Mountain Hawks. To this day, it is one of only eight times that a No. 15 seed has beaten a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance.
In the latest episode of his “Go Off” podcast, Rivers caught up with one of his Duke teammates, Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry. Among the topics the pair covered was that brutal first round loss from eight years ago.
Rivers detailed how the Blue Devils, who had multiple future pros, were overconfident coming in and failed to play with a sense of urgency at the outset. As a result, they suffered a loss that he called “a stain” on the program.
“If we would have jumped on them from the jump, that game would have been dead,” Rivers said. “The Lehigh moment I think is a stain on everybody at Duke at that time’s reputation. I remember going back to school that next week. I remember everybody was embarrassed. I don’t think I went to class that entire week when we lost to Lehigh.”
In some ways, Duke’s upset loss to Mercer two years later–when they were a No. 3 seed and the Bears were a 14–may have been worse. At least Lehigh had the best player on the floor in McCollum, a future lottery pick and NBA Most Improved Player.
However, Rivers is right that the defeat left an indelible mark on the Blue Devils. Duke had lost in the NCAA Tournament plenty of times under Mike Krzyzewski, including multiple occasions as the higher-seeded team.
But it was this loss that was the most humbling and marked the first time Coach K’s Goliath was truly slain by David.