Finally, Four

Duke claimed its fourth national title — all of which have come under coach Mike Krzyzewski — with a thrilling 61–59 victory over Butler on Monday night. But it did not come as easily as many were predicting prior to tip-off in Indianapolis.

The David vs. Goliath match-up went down to the buzzer, with Gordon Hayward’s final halfcourt heave providing one last shot of miraculous hope as over 70,000 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium — and millions watching around the globe — held their breath before the ball hit backboard and front rim, bouncing back to the hardwood, followed quickly by confetti and cheers from the Blue Devil faithful.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be in eight national championship games, and this was a classic,” said Coach K, who also cut down the nets following national title wins in 1991, ’92 and 2001. “This was the toughest and the best one. My congratulations and empathy are with the Butler team, who played winning basketball. And, yeah, to me it was a game that we won, but they didn’t lose.”

Duke’s Kyle Singler was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, posting 19 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots in the final. Singler outplayed Hayward, who finished with 12 points on 2-of-11 shooting and eight rebounds. But Singler could only watch — and try to dodge screens — as Hayward missed his last two potential game-winning shots.

The first “last shot” was a driving fadeaway contested by Duke 7-foot giant Brian Zoubek — arguably the Devils’ heart and soul of the title game, with eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots, while playing with a controlled aggression with four fouls late. The shot from the baseline was on-line before hitting back rim and bouncing to Zoubek, who hit his first free throw and intentionally missed the second after being fouled with only 3.6 seconds remaining.

The second attempt was the last-chance halfcourt flip that ended Butler's 25-game winning streak and a memorable mid-major Cinderella run — if it’s fair to call a No. 5 seed that was ranked No. 8 overall in the final AP poll a “Cinderella” — in the Big Dance.

“I thought Gordon’s shot had a chance. The first one looked good the whole way. The last one had a chance. Anytime you have a player of Gordon’s caliber and he’s got the ball in his hands and he lets it fly on the last attempt, you feel like you got a chance to win,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens.

“You get pretty excited about an ending that comes down to when the ball is in the air. We had two shots to win the game. One was a highly, highly difficult shot from 45 feet or whatever the case may be.”

But after 15 lead changes and seven ties, Duke was the only team left standing — or, more accurately, piled on the floor celebrating as streamers fell and championship hats and shirts were being passed around before the trophy presentation.

“It’s still hard for me,” said Coach K, who with his fourth title moves past his mentor, Indiana’s Bob Knight, and into a tie with Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp for the second most championships in history, trailing only UCLA icon John Wooden's 10 titles.

“It hasn’t sunk in that we’re national champs. I love these guys.”

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