Maybe no one believed them at the time, but the Patriot League champions proved they were serious.
C.J. McCollum scored 30 points and Lehigh upset Duke 75-70 to become the second No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 during a wild Friday in the NCAA Tournament.
“It means a lot as a team, a family and as the Patriot League in general,” McCollum said. “We wanted to come out here and protect this team and this family, get the win and we did that tonight.”
Lehigh forward John Adams said it was a matter of believing in each other.
“We saw on the selection show we had Duke and we thought we could match up very well against them,” Adams said. “We all believed it and we showed it on the floor. Everybody bought into that idea that we could beat them. The rest is history.”
The Mountain Hawks (27-7) are the sixth 15 seed overall to pull off the trick. Norfolk State edged Missouri 86-84 in the West Regional earlier in the day, and No. 13 seed Ohio knocked off Michigan to add to the madness.
Duke dropped its first tournament game for only the second time in the past 16 years, and this one occurred just 55 miles from its campus. The Blue Devils also lost their opener against 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth in 2007.
The Blue Devils had no answer for the speedy McCollum, the two-time Patriot League player of the year and the nation’s fifth-leading scorer.
“They had the best player on the court tonight in McCollum,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s been their player of the year, and he’s really one of the outstanding players in the country. You could see why tonight.”
It didn’t help that the Blue Devils hit just 6 of 26 shots from 3-point range.
Mason Plumlee and Austin Rivers had 19 points apiece for Duke (27-7), which was playing without injured forward Ryan Kelly.