Duke Blue Devils claim national title with 61-59 win over Butler Bulldogs

Duke claims its fourth national championship in men's basketball with a 61-59 victory over Butler in a classic in Indianapolis.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS -- All night, Duke had to fend off the storybook that an entire nation seemingly wanted to read. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Blue Devils had written their own conclusion, one that met their own standards and objectives.

Butler, the diminutive hometown team, fought Duke with the inspiring spunk for which the Bulldogs have become known. Duke's poise never fully materialized, but its talent eventually won out. With a 61-59 victory Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Blue Devils cemented their fourth national championship under Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Duke's success has bred mass contempt among many college basketball fans, but the Blue Devils didn't seem to mind that they were perceived as the bad guys before or during the contest. And they especially didn't mind afterward as they were cutting down the nets.

With just more than five minutes remaining in the game, Duke forward Lance Thomas fouled Butler forward Gordon Hayward hard on a breakaway. Hayward tumbled into the stanchion, and the officials reviewed the play to determine if Thomas's action was intentional. They ruled it was not, and boos rained down from the crowd. Hayward made both free throws to pull the Bulldogs to within a point of the lead.

"There was never an easy possession in this game," Krzyzewski said. "There was just never an easy possession. It was not a game that anybody lost. Both teams were such winners, and we were fortunate to win."

Duke never led by more than five points in the second half. With 1 minute 13 seconds left in the game and the Blue Devils clinging to a three-point lead, Butler forward Matt Howard maneuvered around Duke's 7-foot-1 center Brian Zoubek to grab an offensive rebound off a missed three-pointer by teammate Shelvin Mack. Eventually the ball made it back to Howard, who tallied an uncontested lay-in to again close Butler's deficit to one.

On the ensuing Duke possession, Kyle Singler - who tallied a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds - missed a jump shot. Butler guard Ronald Nored lunged past Zoubek for the defensive rebound.

With 13.6 seconds left, Butler called consecutive timeouts to prepare one final inbounds play. Hayward's fadeaway baseline jumper missed, and this time it was Zoubek who snagged the rebound - his 10th and final board of the night.

"There were two plays right before I got that defensive rebound at the end where I could have gotten an offensive rebound and a defensive rebound," Zoubek said. "Those were two plays that I saw that really could have affected the game, and I knew that me getting the rebound would be a huge play."

After being out-hustled by the Bulldogs on the boards in the first half, Duke attacked the glass more aggressively after the break. The Blue Devils owned a 20-11 rebounding edge in the second half.

Fouled after grabbing that last rebound, Zoubek made his first free throw and then intentionally missed the second. With three seconds on the clock, Hayward jolted downcourt and launched a desperation heave one step beyond the midcourt line.

Singler, on the floor after being laid out by a Butler pick, said he had a "great view" of Hayward's final shot, which hit the backboard and the front of the rim before falling away.

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