Basketball Short Story
The #1 North Carolina Tar Heels hosted their archrival, the Duke Blue Devils, on February 9, 1957.
  • Dukeled most of the game, but in the last ten minutes the Tar Heels, the nation's only major undefeated team, took the lead and began to pull away.
  • Led by Lennie Rosenbluth's 35 points, UNC held what appeared to be a comfortable 73-65 advantage with two minutes to play.
  • But four Blue DevilFTs cut it to 73-69 with 45 seconds play.
  • That's when Duke's Bobby Joe Harris began his thievery. He twice stole the ball from Tommy Kearns and fed fellow G Bob Vernon for layups to tie the score with 24 seconds to play.

And then Harris went from hero to goat.

  • The hand-operated scoreboard at Woollen Gym (built in 1937) didn't immediately record the last Duke basket. Harris looked at the scoreboard and saw that Duke was trailing by two.
  • Even if there had been a shot clock in those days, there was too little time left to wait for UNC to shoot. So Harris fouled Kearns while trying to steal the ball in order to stop the clock.
  • As Kearns headed for the foul line, Harris glanced again and saw the adjusted score. "What have I done?" Bobby Joe muttered.
  • Kearns sank both shots with 16 seconds left. Duke had time to tie but couldn't make a basket.
  • Years later, Harris admitted: "It still bothers me. What a terrible way to lose a game."

Bobby Joe got a measure of revenge the next time the Devils visited Chapel Hill.

  • #13 Duke upset Frank McGuire's defending national champions, 91-75.
  • Trailing 36-35 at halftime, the Blue Devils played an almost perfect second half to outscore the #7 Tar Heels 56-39.
  • Harris called a timeout with a few seconds left with the game well in hand. Coach Howard Bradley demanded to know what he was doing. Bobby Joe replied: "Well, Coach, I just wanted to give them time to get the score right. They've rubbed our noses in it long enough."
  • The team sat quietly on the bench and waited out the timeout without Bradley saying another word.

Reference: Tales from the Duke Blue Devils Hardwood, Jim Sumner (2005)

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Lennie Rosenbluth

Bobby Joe Harris

Tommy Kearns