Duke has needed to answer in tight spots before, but no pressure situation this season was quite like this.
The answer was, again, the same. Let Tyus Jones take over. In a rare Duke year ruled by freshmen, the rookies led the way for the Blue Devils’ 68-63 national championship victory.
Duke trailed by as many as nine in the second half and didn’t take a second-half lead until the final 5:32. In a game contested between veterans and young players, Duke's freshman stars — some expected and unexpected — carried the load, scoring 60 of 68 points against Wisconsin for Mike Krzyzewski's fifth national championship.
MVP: Tyus Jones
With Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow in and out of the game with foul trouble, Jones came up with the big shots like he did in some of Duke's biggest games this season. Jones finished with 23 points, including the dagger with 1:24 to go. Jones had 19 points in the second half alone, including 2-of-3 from 3 and 7-of-7 from the free throw line.
Duke led merely 61-58 at the 3:22 mark, notable in part because Jahlil Okafor was on the bench for meaningful stretches due to foul trouble. Duke put Okafor back into the game at this point and he responded with two field goals and an offensive rebound.
Unsung Hero: Amile Jefferson
Jefferson had only two points, but his defense on Wisconsin’s frontcourt was key. Frank Kaminsky had 21 points, but he went 5-of-12 from 2-point range.
Key Stat: 16-6
Duke’s scoring margin from the free throw line. Fouls caught Wisconsin by surprise on both ends of the court. Wisconsin gave up an average of 11 free throws per game entering Monday night. Duke went to the line 20 times. Conversely, Wisconsin averaged 19.4 free throws per game and went 6-of-10 against Duke.
Needed More From:
Sam Dekker had a rough night from the field. He got the putbacks off Wisconsin’s offensive rebounds, but his hot shooting cooled. Dekker went 0-of-6 from the 3-point line.
Already excited for 2015-16:
Duke is certain to lose several players to the NBA Draft — Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones potentially among them — plus Quinn Cook. Guard Grayson Allen gave the Blue Devils a flash of the future as he scored 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He averaged fewer than nine minutes per game entering Monday, but he’s hardly a flash in the pan. Allen was a McDonald’s All-American as a recruit and will take on a major role next season.