The Ghosts of College Basketball Past | Keith Smart Pulls Out Syracuse's Heart

Syracuse had spent the better part of the 1970s and early 1980s establishing itself as a basketball juggernaut and 1987 seemed as if it would be the culmination of an arduous 15-year climb to college basketball’s summit.  

With 28 seconds left in the national title game against Indiana, and the Orange leading 73-72, Syracuse star Derrick Coleman stepped to the foul line for a one-and-one. Coleman shot a steady 69 percent from the charity stripe on the season and nothing seemed to phase the freshman from Detroit, who had scored 8 points and collected 19 rebounds in his previous 37 minutes of game action against the Hoosiers. 

A magical ending for the Orange seemed well within reach. 

But Coleman short-armed his first attempt and Indiana corralled the rebound. The Hoosiers moved down the court and worked the ball around the Orange’s man-to-man defense – yes, Syracuse once played man to man – before Daryl Thomas flipped the ball to Keith Smart on the left wing. Smart took one dribble toward the baseline and elevated for The Shot.  

“I was sitting on the bench looking down to the other end of the court. When the ball went in, my heart sank,” Syracuse reserve Joe Kohm told 19nine about Smart’s shot.  

For a Syracuse program that had transformed itself from an also-ran Independent program into a credible basketball force, one that had survived the likes of Georgetown and St. John’s in the rough-and-tumble Big East and seemingly had a national title within its grasp, Smart’s game-winning shot pierced the soul of Syracuse fans who thought it was finally their time to shine.