NCAA tournament, Duke edges Butler, 61-59, claims fourth title
Duke's Brian Zoubek, left, and Jon Scheyer celebrate after defeating Butler, 61-59, in the NCAA tournament championship game in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Monday.
Duke players celebrate after defeating Butler.
Duke teammates celebrate after defeating Butler.
Duke's Miles Plumlee drives to the net agaist Butler's Matt Howard in the first half.
Duke celebrates after defeating Butler.
Duke's Kyle Singler blocks a shot by Butler's Shelvin Mack in the second half.
Duke's Lance Thomas reaches for a rebound aginst Butler's Avery Jukes in the first half.
Butler's Matt Howard drives to the net against Duke's Brian Zoubek in the first half.
Butler's Matt Howard goes for a rebound against Duke's Mason Plumlee in the first half.
Butler's Willie Veasley drives to the net against Duke's Brian Zoubek in the first half.
Butler's Ronald Nored tries to get around Duke's Brian Zoubek in the first half.
Duke's Kyle Singler drives to the net against Butler's Ronald Nored in the first half.
Duke's Brian Zoubek celebrates after defeating Butler.
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2010 NCAA tournament has been billed as the year of the little guy because of a number of upsets as well as Butler's magical run to the Final Four.
But in the end, there was one major conference team that wouldn't cooperate with that particular storyline and it is no surprise because it has been the most decorated program in college basketball the past 25 years.
Duke used its size advantage as well as the scoring ability of its "big three" -- Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith -- to fight off the feisty Bulldogs, 61-59, Monday night in the NCAA tournament championship game before a crowd of 70,930 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
And the Blue Devils, who in recent years had been knocked out of the NCAA tournament by more physical teams, beat the tough and defensive-minded Bulldogs at their own game.
However, the matter wasn't settled until Butler standout Gordon Hayward, who scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds and was one of four Bulldogs to score in double figures, missed a short jumper from the wing with 3.6 seconds to play and then a running desperation 3-pointer as time expired.
"I've been fortunate to be in eight national championship games and this was a classic," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "This was the toughest and best one we've been in. My congratulations and empathy is with Butler, they played winning basketball.
"We won this game, but they didn't lose. I thought we won because of our defense and rebounding in the second half. We played better defense and rebounded better."
Duke (35-5) outrebounded the Bulldogs, 37-35 -- including 20-11 in the second half and held them to 34.5 percent from the field (20 of 58) and only 33 percent from 3-point line (6 for 18) and the Blue Devils blocked seven shots.
Also, the Blue Devils got 47 of 61 points from their big three, including a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds from Singler, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
"It wasn't about me hitting shots, it was about the team," Singler said. "And we needed everyone to contribute in order to win this game. When I saw that final shot bounce off the rim and our team came together to celebrate, it was a special moment."
It was the Blue Devils' fourth national title and all four have come since 1991 and all have come under the watch of Krzyzewski. It was their first national title since 2001 and they improved to 17-11 all time in Final Four games.
The Blue Devils, in winning their fourth national title, join UCLA (11), Kentucky (7), Indiana (5) and North Carolina (5) as the only teams with four or more national championships.
Meanwhile, Butler (33-5) failed in its attempt to become the first team from outside the power six conferences to win a championship since UNLV in 1990.
The Bulldogs are the third team from outside the power conferences since the Running Rebels to advance to the title game (Memphis in 2008; Utah in 1998) but also became the third such team in a row to lose once it got there.
Duke led, 33-32, at the half and could have led by more but Smith missed the front end of a one-and-one, got his own rebound then missed a jumper at the buzzer. The score remained tight in the second half as it was tied at 36-36 then again at 38-38 and 40-40 and Butler took a 43-42 lead on a 3-pointer by Ronald Nored with 13:35 to play.
Duke was able to grab a five-point lead at 54-49 on a layup and free throw by Jon Scheyer with 7:58 to play but the Bulldogs pulled back to within three points on the next possession on two free throws by Matt Howard.
Hayward hit two free throws with 5:07 to play to pull the Bulldogs to within 56-55, but Singler responded with a jumper to push the lead back to three points at 58-55.
Duke stretched its lead to 60-55 on two free throws by Nolan Smith but the Bulldogs pulled to within 60-59 with 49.4 seconds to play on the second of consecutive layups by Howard. But Zoubek grabbed the rebound of Hayward's first miss and was fouled and hit a free throw to provide the final margin.
"I'm proud of my team," said Butler coach Brad Stevens. "Our guys are crushed in that locker room, they didn't come here thinking they were going to lose. It is really hard on them and we thought Gordon's shot at the end had a chance.
"Any time you have the ball in the hands of a player of his caliber and he lets it fly, you feel like you are going to have a chance to win."
First Published April 6, 2010 12:36 am