Two decades ago Woods, as a college point guard at Kentucky, was part of the greatest college basketball game ever played when Duke beat his upstart Wildcats 104-103 in the 1992 East Regional Final.
In that game, Woods had made what appeared to be the game-winning, Final Four clinching jumper off the window in overtime. The “Unforgettables,” as they were called back then, were going to knock of mighty Duke.
That was before all-world forward Christian Laettner caught a near full court in-bound pass from Grant Hill, turned and tickled the twine just as the buzzer sounded to rip the heart right out of Woods and his Kentucky teammates. It was known as “The Shot.”
“I can’t watch the game,” Woods said in a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, who admitted to crying uncontrollably at the time after having his one shining moment taken away from him.
“Just boo-hooing,” Woods said. “Couldn’t believe it was over.”
It is safe to say Woods will have a hard time reliving Mississippi Valley State’s 59-58 loss Tuesday. This game might go down in March Madness lore as “The Collapse.”
Western Kentucky played the role of Christian Laettner. University of Dayton Arena might not have been the old Spectrum in Philadelphia, but Woods probably couldn’t tell the difference now.
The Hilltoppers, who crumbled under the up tempo relentless pressure of MVSU for the first 35 minutes of the game, overcame a 16-point lead to secure the schools 18th NCAA victory, while denying the small school from rural Mississippi its first.
With President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron in attendance, it appeared WKU didn’t even belong on the floor with Mississippi Valley.
Feisty guard Kevin Burwell scored 11 straight Delta Devils points from the end of the first half through the first few possessions of the second, including a three-pointer to beat the shot clock that resulted in him gesturing to the Commander-in-Chief who had front-row seats underneath the basket.
MVSU forced 28 turnovers and didn’t allow Western Kentucky to score a basket on 15 of 16 offensive possessions to build what seem like an insurmountable 53-38 lead with 4:51 to go.
The anatomy of the comeback began when interim head coach Ray Harper utilized the full-court pressing strategy against the Delta Devils leading to empty trips down the floor and multiple turnovers. The Hilltoppers went on mini 8-0 run to cut into the lead.
After a flurry of turnovers by MVSU converted into transition points and free throw opportunities for WKU, the momentum and lead was slipping away.
The multiple timeouts called by Woods would not stop the inevitable. Timeouts only stop the game clock. Not confidence on one bench and doubt on the other.
Western Kentucky continued to attack as Mississippi Valley folded. The comeback was completed on T.J. Price’s three-point play with 33 seconds remaining to give the Hilltoppers their first lead since three minutes into the first half. It was a 21-2 run when it was over.
A last second three by Burwell failed. A Cor-J Cox putback at the buzzer didn’t matter.
“I thought it was just our guys got rattled, got excited, and got a little bit beside themselves,” Woods said. “Normally in a situation like that, maybe it’s one guy or two. But when it’s all five, it was like a snowball effect.”