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A look back at memorable NCAA tourney buzzer beaters through the eyes of the defenders

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

Whether it's Christian Laettner, Bryce Drew or Keith Smart, everyone knows about the guys who sank some of the NCAA tournament's most famous shots.

It's easy to forget, however, that the lives of the players at the wrong end of those buzzer beaters also were forever altered.

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Earlier today, I wrote about the impact those iconic March moments had on the guys who defended them. Below those same players share their memories of trying in vain to keep some of the NCAA tournament's most famous shots from happening:

What happened: Duke's Christian Laettner caught a three-quarters court pass at the free throw line, turned and hit the most famous turnaround jump shot in college basketball history over Kentucky's Deron Feldhaus. The shot won the 1992 East Regional title game for Duke and completed a perfect shooting night for Laettner, who had 31 points on 10 of 10 from the field and the foul line.
Where Feldhaus is now: Works at the golf course in Maysville, Ky., that he co-owns with his father and stepmother

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The Laettner shot in Feldhaus' words: "We had an idea it was coming to Laettner. We should have been more aggressive trying to steal the pass. Everyone wants to talk about whether Coach Pitino should have put someone on the ball, but I would never second-guess Coach Pitino at all. He's one of the best coaches ever. I think what he regrets more than anything is telling everyone not to foul. That's probably the biggest reason we played a little bit timid and we weren't as aggressive as we should have been. We didn't want to put him on the line because you knew he was going to make them. ... We could've easily come out on the other side. Somebody had to lose, but it wasn't lack of effort so I can live with myself. It was a great game to be part of. I have nothing to be ashamed of being part of that game, that's for sure. ... To this day, I still have a lot of people come up and say you guys were my favorite Kentucky team. We had three guys who grew up in Kentucky and knew what Kentucky basketball was all about. I'm not saying it meant more to us, but we knew the tradition of Kentucky basketball and we did lay it on the line.

What happened: With UCLA trailing Missouri by one and 4.8 seconds remaining in a second-round game in 1995, Tyus Edney blew by Tigers defender Jason Sutherland and went coast-to-coast for a game-winning layup. The shot propelled the top-seeded Bruins to the 1995 national title.
Where Sutherland is now: Runs a landscaping business in Missouri and lives with his wife and daughter

[Memorable Moments: Tyus Edney's dash launches UCLA toward NCAA title (video)]

The Edney shot in Sutherland's words: "We were playing the best we'd played all year. At that point, we didn't think anyone could really beat us. I think we had them on the ropes most of the game. I think they were a little shocked at the way we were playing. ... The plan was to double team Tyus Edney so he had to give up the ball but he never got double teamed. We felt like if he made one pass, they wouldn't have time to get down the court. But he took off, we didn't get a double team on him and he threw a shot up. It was a great shot. I don't know how many he'd hit out of 10 of those, but it doesn't matter. ... We were all in shock from the time it went in until we got on the plane. It was hard, but that's what makes March Madness so special. Unfortunately it happened to us."

What happened: Tate George caught a length-of-the-floor pass from Scott Burrell sank a fallaway baseline jump shot at the buzzer over Sean Tyson to propel UConn past Clemson and into the 1990 regional finals against Duke. Clemson had come back from 19 points down to take a late lead, but Tyson missed missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1.6 seconds to go that could have helped ice the victory.
Where Tyson is now: Trains young Canadian prospects in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and serves as director of player development for the Super Six League

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The George shot in Tyson's words: "When I was at the free throw line [before George's shot], I remember taking a glance up in the stands at the Meadowlands and being like, 'This is what it feels like to play in the NBA.' I'll never forget that. The atmosphere. The situation. Coach Calhoun on the other side. Just for that one brief moment, I realized this was a big stage. ... To the untrained eye, I blew the game. We know as coaches now that there are a lot of plays during a game that have an impact, but I still remember those emotions after that game. ... I should have known instinctively to try to challenge that shot, but I didn't. I was afraid of what the result would be had I fouled him. Now, as a coach, I know that's a call they would never have made. Even if I'd bumped him a little bit, it was too late in the game. ... Every time the shot gets replayed, it keeps the reality of the fact that I did actually play at a high level. So I'm happy in that regard, but at the same time, I always tell players to seize their moment. I show my guys this situation and I tell them, had I blocked that shot, we'd have won that game and it would have put me on a bigger stage against a team we beat earlier in the season. Had I gotten to the Final Four and I'm one of the starters in the Final Four, the destination point of my career could have been catapulted."

What happened: Keith Smart shot a go-ahead baseline jumper over Syracuse's Howard Triche with five seconds left to deliver Indiana the 1987 national championship. Steve Alford had been held to two points in the second half thanks to a box-and-one employed by Jim Boeheim, but Smart kept the Hoosiers in it with 17 second-half points.
Where Triche is now: Works for Anheuser Busch in Syracuse and follows his nephew Brandon's college career at Syracuse
The Smart shot in Triche's words: "Our game plan was to stop Steve Alford, and that's where we focused most our attention. [Keith] Smart wasn't known as a shooter, so for the most part we played off him. ... My job on the last play was double down to help. They threw the ball back out, I looked to contain because I didn't think Smart would shoot. When he made his cut to the left, all I could do was just wave at it. Obviously, in retrospect, I'd have ran out at him and forced him to drive if I had known he was going to make it, but that was the game plan and I think I played it the best I could. ... We were all in shock after the shot. If we'd called timeout, we'd have had a few more seconds. We'd have had more of an opportunity to score I guess. ... The shock of the shot stayed with us a long time. It was a great game and a great opportunity. I just wish it turned out differently."

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What happened: Even though UConn had already missed two shots and an attempted tip-in on its final possession in the 1998 Sweet 16 against Washington, Rip Hamilton made sure the Huskies did not waste their final chance. Hamilton corralled another offensive rebound and sank a short jump shot at the buzzer, sending the Huskies to the Elite Eight and negating a go-ahead 3-pointer from Washington's Donald Watts Jr. on the previous possession.
Where Watts is now: Living in Seattle and running basketball camps and clinics for young players in the city
The Hamilton shot in Watts' words: "The thing I remember on my 3-point attempt was the ball was supposed to come to me, [Patrick] Femerling was going to set a cross screen for [Todd] Macculloch and I was supposed to hit Macculloch. But when [coach Bob Bender] said the ball was going to be in my hands, I pretty much knew what I was going to do with it. I was going to try to get us out of there with a win. If I missed, I felt like he would have an advantage trying to get the rebound just because of the screen action. I wasn't going to try to tie it up. We were a long ways from home. So I said, man, I'm going to go for this. ... The 17 seconds on UConn's last possession was probably the longest 17 seconds I've ever had in my life, especially the last four. I got pinned underneath the basket, and I couldn't get back to Hamilton. Obviously you want to win the game and it hurts every time you see it, but it was also an honor to be part of such a great moment in NCAA history, even on the bad end of it. ... One of the hard parts for me was that I think we could have beaten North Carolina in the next round. I was looking at their heights and I was like, 'Whoah, their heights are inflated.' We struggled against teams that knew they were too small for us and didn't even let Todd get to the blocks, but teams that were big and played behind, we had a good time with."

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