As March Madness is almost here, we take a trip down memory lane and look back at some of the best viral moments in NCAA tournament history. Here is From The Rumble Seat’s take on the iconic ‘Holy Mackerel’ call:
It was nearly 30 years ago.
The weather was below freezing outside in Milwaukee, but college basketball fans and journalists were packing the gym for the second round of the NCAA tournament. Milwaukee was playing host to a loaded section of the bracket, featuring hall of fame coaches and a handful of future NBA players.
But no one could have predicted what would happen that night when the Jackets took on the Trojans.
“He’s gotta throw under the basket, under the basket...OHHHHHHH! Holy Mackerel! Holy Mackerel! Holy Mackerel!”
At that very moment, when Al McGuire muttered that legendary call, the Yellow Jackets were cemented into March Madness history.
The Trojans, who entered the NCAA tournament with a top 10 ranking in the AP poll, were led by two star players; Harold Miner, nicknamed “Baby Jordan” since high school and Duane Cooper.
In that 1991-1992 season, Miner averaged over 26 points per game, winning the Pac-10 player of the year, consensus First-team All-American, and Sports Illustrated magazine’s college basketball player of the year.
On that fateful night in Milwaukee, Miner was held to just 5-17 shooting by the Yellow Jackets. The game would end up being Miner’s final time suiting up for the Trojans, declaring for the NBA draft after the season, where he was selected with the 12th overall pick.
The Yellow Jackets entered the game on the heels of a narrow five point victory over Houston in the first round while the Trojans had picked up a dominant 30 point victory over 15-seed Northeast Illinois.
At halftime, USC held a one point lead in a close back and forth contest. Things would not change in the second half and with 53 seconds to go, the Yellow Jackets tied the score up at 76 a piece.
At that point in time, college basketball was played with a 45 second shot clock. With now less than a minute to go, the Trojans held the ball for as long as they could. The clock ticked down and the entire arena was on their feet.
USC’s Rodney Chatman drove to the baseline and drained a go ahead jumper. By the time Georgia Tech called a timeout, there were just 2.2 seconds remaining on the clock. With such little time remaining, it looked like the Trojans would be the ones celebrating a close victory that night and moving on to the Sweet 16. Chatman later said “I think we did too much celebrating.” The Jackets advanced the ball to midcourt, calling another timeout with 0.8 seconds left on the clock.
On the ensuing inbounds… madness.
The buzzer beater came from James Forrest, the unlikeliest of heroes for the Yellow Jackets. Not because he could not score the basketball. In fact, Forrest averaged over 13 points per game during that freshman season and over 17 points per game for his career. He is known as one of the best players in Georgia Tech history.
However, Forrest was never known for his three point shooting. While seemingly unbelievable, that awkward turnaround three was his only made three pointer of the season, and one of just three in his entire Yellow Jacket career.
After the game, Forrest said “It was an unbelievable shot. I just caught it and turned around and just threw it, hoping it would go in. Then I looked and I saw it and it was like…it took me a couple of seconds before I realized what had just happened. I made one three-pointer all year, but it’s the one that counted and it’s the one that’s going to send us to the Sweet 16.”
Even USC coach George Raveling could not believe what had happened after the game, saying Forrest was “probably the last guy in the world that you thought would make that shot.”
As someone who was not yet born in 1992, the Miracle in Milwaukee is such a vivid game for me, as it is one of the standout memories in Georgia Tech history. It is a game which every Tech fan knows about and it encompasses everything we love about college basketball. The legendary TV call from Al McGuire, the unlikely man who sank the game winning shot, the upset over a heavily favored USC team, and the ‘Miracle in Milwaukee’ moniker. The James Forrest buzzer beater will definitely continue to be on highlight reels for years to come.