By Lauren Brownlow, WRALSportsFan columnist/reporter
DURHAM, N.C. —The streak had become famous. And not in a good way.
It picked up steam when Duke junior Jack White missed all five of his 3-point attempts against North Carolina, taking his streak to 25 straight missed 3-pointers. National outlets had started to notice.
He didn’t play at all against Syracuse on the road and his head coach burned the redshirt of a freshman in part because he was looking for some outside shooting – shooting he wasn’t getting from White.
He got 16 minutes against Virginia Tech, and he hit both 2-point attempts he tried. But he missed all three of his 3-point attempts, taking his streak to an absurd 28 in a row.
The Houston Rockets had done it before, missing 27 straight 3-pointers in a Game 7 loss to the Golden State Warriors in spite of being a 35% 3-point shooting team during the season.
The chances were 1-in-118,757 to miss 26 in a row, per USA Today’s For the Win, and they missed 27.
White had shot 40% in Duke’s first nearly 15 games of the season before hitting just a ridiculously cold stretch that defied the odds.
When Zion Williamson was still playing, it wasn’t as much of a factor. Duke was rolling over most of the teams it faced, and White hit all but one 2-point attempt he took during that cold snap.
He was doing other things well. He defended well. He rebounded well.
He just wasn’t hitting shots, no matter how wide-open they were. And they usually were.
“I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so it was hard not to put pressure on myself. But I understood I couldn’t really do that. It would make things harder for me,” White said in his lilting Australian accent.
The crowd has wanted it. He has wanted it. Every miss he had against North Carolina, it felt like the roof might literally explode off of Cameron Indoor Stadium when a 3-pointer finally fell.
White had been putting in work with assistant coach Nate James over the previous two days, trying to get his shot right.
“He’s working hard. Nate [James] the last two days has really worked hard with him after practice. We tell our guys all the time, ‘Trust your work. If you’re working, doing the things you’re supposed to do, then when you get to a game, just trust what you’ve been working at.’ So he’s worked real hard at it,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
And when he got the ball in the corner in front of press row and across from the Miami bench, you could sense the collective intake of breath and feel the anticipation from the crowd. You could feel how badly they wanted it to fall.
“I just tried to shoot it with confidence. I just kind of trusted my work. I’d put in some good work the last couple of games with Coach James, just working on what I’d been doing,” White said.
It was different than the North Carolina game, where the crowd wants every shot to fall. Miami wasn’t a team that Duke had to make a ton of shots to beat. But the crowd knew that White needed it.
And so he rose up, in rhythm, and drained it.
It was the loudest Cameron Indoor Stadium had been all year as every Duke fan in attendance screamed in pure joy.
As he ran back down to the other end of the court, he fought off a smile as hard as he could, but his eyes betrayed him. He finally broke as the cheers refused to dissipate.
But even then, it wasn’t joy. It was something else.
“I was just kind of more relieved than the other emotion, to be honest,” White said. “I didn’t really know how to react. I kind of just felt like now that I’m back to myself, I shouldn’t have to smile after hitting a 3. This is what I do. But in hindsight now looking back, it was pretty nice. For them to react in that way and to feel their support and my teammates’ support, it was just great for me.”
White probably didn’t want to be associated for the loudest moment of the season in Cameron for the reason that he was.
But he’ll take it.
“He doesn’t want to be identified as somebody who hasn’t hit and now he’s hit,” Krzyzewski said. “He wants to be identified as a really good player, which he is. And today he was.”
Duke doesn’t have to have Jack White play amazing basketball, or even drain a ton of 3-pointers, to have a special season. But it doesn’t hurt, and at least the streak is over for him.
He’d make another two 3-pointers in the second half, and maybe the lid is finally off the basket for him. Maybe it isn’t. But at least the ridiculous, odds-defying streak is no more.
“I’m just glad that it’s over, to be honest,” White said.