'Bama emerges as winner after nearly three-hour game

Updated: March 1, 2006, 1:23 AM ET
By Beth Mowins | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: As the NCAA celebrates its 25th season of women's basketball, ESPN and ESPN.com count down the top 25 moments of NCAA Tournament history. Here, we continue the countdown with memorable NCAA moment No. 17, a quadruple-overtime game between Duke and Alabama in the second round of the 1995 tournament.

"It's a shame that someone had to lose. I think it was one of the greatest basketball games ever played."

No. 17 NCAA moment of past 25 years

Duke coach Gail Goestenkors spoke those words 11 years ago after an epic NCAA Tournament showdown.

Of course, someone did have to lose and someone did have to win to advance in the postseason. But Goestenkors' words still ring true today. The four-overtime Duke vs. Alabama second-round game in the 1995 NCAA Tournament still ranks as one of the best games of all time.

The Crimson Tide finally prevailed against the Blue Devils in a game that lasted 2 hours, 46 minutes. It included four extra periods, meaning the teams played essentially a game and a half to determine the outcome.

The marathon established 10 NCAA Tournament records and set the two programs on courses that took them in two different directions over the next decade.

Ironically, the team that lost rebounded from the defeat to reach the upper echelon of the college game. Goestenkors has Duke competing for a national title, while Rick Moody retired last season with Alabama never again achieving success similar to his 1994 team that went to the Final Four.

Back on March 18, 1995, Alabama was the No. 4 seed with the home-court advantage in Coleman Coliseum. Duke arrived as the No. 5 seed, with the winner moving on to face top-seeded UConn. The 1,966 people who showed up for the contest could never have imagined what was about to take place.

Alabama senior All-American Niesa Johnson would be the star of the night. Twice she saved the Tide with clutch shots, and ultimately Johnson nailed the game-winning free throws in the fourth overtime to seal the deal. Johnson ended up with a triple-double on the night -- and, remarkably, she did so by playing nearly 30 minutes with four personal fouls. She never picked up her fifth.

Johnson's heroics began late in regulation with the Blue Devils leading 81-78. A charging foul on Duke's Kira Orr gave 'Bama the ball with 19 seconds to play and a chance to tie the score. After a timeout, Johnson hit an unbelievable, off-balance, 24-foot 3-pointer to send the game into its first overtime.

Duke held a late two-point lead in the first extra period when Johnson struck again. Orr was called for a controversial foul trying to deny Johnson the ball with just 2 seconds on the clock. Johnson hit both free throws to tie the game and send it into a second overtime.

That extra session ended with Johnson missing a chance to win the game when her 15-foot jump shot was off the mark.

Neither side could finish the game in the third overtime, but there was still plenty of drama. Duke grabbed the advantage, going up by five, 102-97. Alabama battled back to tie the score at 106. In a scuffle for a loose ball, Duke's Kristina Meiman suffered a broken nose. The senior would not return and her career came to an end.

But the game didn't, and by the time the fourth overtime began, fatigue was setting in. A game that started at 7 p.m. was now pushing past 9:30, with the score tied at 108.

Alabama built a seven-point lead with less than a minute to go, but Duke made a comeback to make things close. Kira Orr nailed a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game with nine seconds to play. Then the Blue Devils quickly fouled Johnson to send the senior to the line.

Johnson knocked down both free throws to give Alabama a four-point lead. That was just enough as Ali Day drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer … leaving Duke one point short. The game ended at 9:46 p.m. The final score: Alabama 121, Duke 120.

Along with Johnson's triple-double, three other players each scored more than 30 points in the game. Duke's Day led all scorers with 37 points. Blue Devils guard Jennifer Scanlon played all 60 minutes, never leaving the court.

The two teams waged an all-out assault on the NCAA Tournament record book. The game established records for most overtimes, most points, most field-goal attempts (Alabama took 114 shots), most 3-point attempts (Alabama's 52) and most rebounds (Duke's 67). Alabama and Duke combined to score 79 points in the overtime periods alone. After the game, Alabama coach Rick Moody said, "My congratulations go out to Duke because they were obviously well-prepared and they played their hearts out. And I also want to congratulate our players for having the guts and the determination and the mentality to stick with it until it finally got done. It was an incredible experience."

Quotes taken from an article from March 20, 1985, in the Chronicle, which was provided by Duke assistant sports information director Lindy Brown of the Duke Media Relations Department.

Click here to see when the next memorable moment will air in our countdown.

Beth Mowins

Women's Basketball
Beth Mowins is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage.

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