In a season where the talk in college basketball centered around “One and done ” players, a most unlikely cast of characters rallied to give Duke University yet another NCAA Basketball Tournament crown, turning back a resilient Wisconsin team by a score of 68-63. In the process, they gave their Hall of Fame coach a new perspective on just what a group of talented underclassmen can do on the big stage.
“Our kids were just phenomenal” said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski afterwards, as he laid claim to his fifth National Championship. “They really showed some grit when we needed it, and I am so proud of them for what they have accomplished.”
The game was tied at the half, but when Wisconsin flexed their collective muscles to build a nine point lead with just over thirteen minutes to play, it appeared the Badgers were in the driver’s seat. Enter Freshman Grayson Allen who sparked the Blue Devils with six points and a key steal, placing the momentum back to their side of the ledger. Duke would continue to peck away at the Wisconsin lead and would tie the game at the 7:04 mark courtesy of a Tyus Jones jumper. When he found the bottom of the net again with just over four minutes to go in the contest, Duke took a lead they would never relinquish and proceeded to smother the Badgers defensively down the stretch.
Notes: Duke’s four freshmen combined to tally 60 of their 68 points. The Tournament’s Most Valuable Player Tyus Jones, led the way with 23 points, and had plenty of support from Grayson Allen who dropped in 16. Justice Wilson had 11 and Jahill Okafor added 10.
Okafor, who had a difficult night due to foul trouble, is clearly destined to be the number one pick in the NBA draft.
Wisconsin was led in scoring by their ultra talented center, Frank Kaminsky, who hit for 21 points and a game high 12 rebounds. Nigel Hayes added 13 for the Badgers, while Sam Decker chipped in with 12. Bronson Koening rounded out the double figure scorers with 10.
Each team committed just five turnovers which is remarkable considering the defensive intensity of the game. They also both registered the identical number of points in the paint and the rebounding war was nearly even as well.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has now won five National Championships, with three of them coming in Indianapolis. The total attendance for all three games exceeded 143,000. The sad part is most of the seats offered views that were too far from the court to enjoy the game.
Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan offered praise to Duke afterwards, but was clearly upset with the officiating. Ryan had every right to be in my humble opinion, as calls were either missed or blown, and the style of play allowed in some cases was indeed too physical.