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By: Selena Robinson, Freelance Journalist for WorldNewsVine
No one expected the game to be this close. But, the Duke Blue Devils outlasted the Butler Bulldogs to win the NCAA championship title by a score of 61 to 59. This is the first title for the Blue Devils since 1991.
For the Bulldogs, making it to the championship game was already a big deal. But, playing in their hometown and winning would be a really big deal. Butler came into the game with two players that were dealing with health issues: Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, the second and third highest scoring players on the team, respectively.
Coming off of a recent concussion, Howard showed a willingness to get to the basket, but was unable to connect early, missing three shots near the rim. Obviously he wasn’t feeling quite up to par as he showed by missing two free throws and picking up a quick offensive foul later before sitting early in the first half.
Before the game, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski , expressed his concerns about Butler’s defensive ability. But it was the Blue Devils that got off to a strong defensive start, with both Scheyer and Singler blocking shots in the first six minutes. Meanwhile, Butler showed its prowess on the offensive boards, grabbing rebounds and scoring second-chance points to counter Duke’s defense.
Duke stayed out in front of the Bulldogs until bench player Hahn hit a three pointer to give Butler its first lead of the game at 12 to 11 around the 13 minute mark in the first half. At the half, Butler trailed the Blue Devils by one point with a score of 33 to 32. In the second period, Duke continued its defensive stance, contesting shots in the paint. Butler tried to keep up, but started missing crucial shots after the Blue Devils regained the lead. With a little under seven minutes left in the game, Duke led by a score of 56 to 51.
After an awkward foul by Lance Thomas, Butler’s leading scorer, Gordon Hayward, hit two critical free throws to bring the Bulldogs within one with a little more than 5 minutes remaining. But, Duke answered with a quick three-pointer from Singler. The game came right down to the wire. Howard had an important rebound to keep the ball alive for the Bulldogs and Mack dished the ball back to Howard who scored at the goal to bring the Bulldogs back within one with one minute left. At the other end of the court, Butler pressured Duke into turning over the ball with 33 seconds remaining.
Hayward was forced to call a timeout for Butler with 13 seconds left after struggling to inbound the ball. After the timeout, Hayward got a chance to win the game but missed under the defensive pressure of Duke center Zoubek, who then made a free throw to extend the lead to two. Hayward got the ball across the court in time to throw up a last second three attempt, but the ball bounced in and out, giving Duke the win. This is coach Krzyzewski’s fourth NCAA title in his thirty seasons at Duke.