INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The party is sure to last far into the night back in North Carolina, where thousands of fans packed inside Cameron Indoor Stadium to watch Duke win the national championship.
In Indianapolis, too, where nobody wearing blue had left their seat. They watched in rapt attention as one by one the Blue Devils climbed up the aluminum stepladder to snip down the nets with a gold-plate pair of scissors, each one waving their piece of nylon at the crowd.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who wrapped assistant coach Jeff Capel in a big bear-hug at center court, was still wearing his 2010 title ring won in the same building. Krzyzewski had it on throughout the tournament as a reminder to his team of its ultimate goal.
Now, he’ll be able to give fans quite the glitzy high five: He has a ring for each finger.
The loss was devastating for a Wisconsin bunch that lost to Kentucky in last year’s Final Four, and then decided to come back together for one last run at it. The Badgers avenged that defeat in the semifinals, but Frank Kaminsky and Co. couldn’t finish the job.
Now, Kaminsky and fellow senior Josh Gasser are moving on. Junior forward Sam Dekker could also have played his final game with some expecting him to be a first-round draft pick.
Several of the Blue Devils will also be faced with decisions in the coming days. Jahlil Okafor is expected to be a lottery pick, and fellow freshmen Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow are projected as first-round picks. Senior guard Quinn Cook will also be moving on.
Those decisions are for the future, though. There’s a lot of celebrating to do first.
Duke certainly knows how to celebrate championships.
Especially in Indianapolis, where the Blue Devils have won three of their five titles.
When the clock struck zero, the kids from Durham stormed off their bench and onto the raised floor inside Lucas Oil Stadium. Players started donning black and blue T-shirts that read “National Champions,” and standout freshman Jahlil Okafor slipped on a black and gold championship hat — turned backward — as he clambered onto the stage and hugged his best friend, Tyus Jones.
Jones, who dominated Wisconsin when the teams met in December, spoiled the Badgers’ night again. He finished with 23 points and was voted Final Four most outstanding player.
“My teammates and the coaching staff, they’ve given me confidence,” Jones said as sprays of confetti covered the stage. “They believed in me and trusted in me all year. There wasn’t a moment they doubted me.”
Wisconsin players filed quietly off the floor and headed to the locker room, the goofballs from Madison having taken the Badgers’ fan base on quite a ride.
The package deal has delivered Duke another national championship.
Tyus Jones scored 23 points, his good buddy and freshman teammate Jahlil Okafor added a couple of key baskets in the closing minutes, and the Blue Devils beat Wisconsin 68-63 on Monday night to give coach Mike Krzyzewski his fifth national championship.
The Blue Devils took the lead for the first time since it was 29-28 on a 3-pointer by Grayson Allen, who came off the bench to score 16 points. After the Badgers regained the lead on back-to-back baskets by Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, the Blue Devils stormed away.
Jones started it with a basket, and Okafor — mired in foul trouble all game — returned to the floor to score the next two hoops. By the time Jones knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:10 to go, the Blue Devils had pushed their lead to 66-58 and the celebration was starting in the stands.
Wisconsin tried to foul its way back into the game in the final minute, but Jones added two more free throws with 34.9 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Jones and Okafor have known each other since playing for USA Basketball, and decided together to attend Duke. Their goal was to win a national championship — and now they have it.
Kaminsky, the AP player of the year, finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Badgers, seeking their first title since 1941. Dekker added 12 points and eight boards.
The tension that has been building for the last 2 hours inside Lucas Oil Stadium is reaching a crescendo as Duke leads Wisconsin 59-58 with about 3 minutes to go.
The crowd of 71,149, the fourth-largest in title game history, was certainly being treated to a thriller: The two teams have swapped the lead 16 times, Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky has lived up to his billing and Duke’s Grayson Allen has come out of nowhere to provide a spark.
For what it’s worth, there has not been an overtime title game since 2008, when Kansas knocked off Memphis in San Antonio. There has only been one championship that has gone more than one OT — North Carolina beat the Jayhawks in triple overtime in 1957.
Frank Kaminsky has put Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor back on the bench with four fouls.
Okafor had to take a seat with three early in the second half, and he wasn’t on the floor for very long when he returned. The Badgers’ senior star unleashed a wicked spin move on the way to the basket, not only giving Okafor his fourth foul but scoring in the process.
While Okafor watched from the bench, Kaminsky calmly finished the three-point play.
So far, Kaminsky has proven why he beat out Okafor for the AP player of the year award. He has 16 points, nine rebounds and even a couple of assists, all without a single foul. Okafor has just six points on 3-for-7 shooting — a non-factor on the offensive end.
Grayson Allen leads the Blue Devils with 14 points. They trail 54-52 with 7:29 to go.
Here’s a sight that no Duke fan likes: Star freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow sitting next to each other on the bench.
Both of them picked up their third foul early in the second half Monday night, forcing coach Mike Krzyzewski to give them a seat. The Badgers were leading 48-39 at that point.
Good thing the Blue Devils had another, far less-heralded freshman to bail them out.
Grayson Allen, who averages just four points per game, knocked down a big 3-pointer right in front of his own bench. Then he stripped the Badgers’ Traevon Jackson of the ball at the other end, and added a three-point play moments later. Allen has 12 points in the title game. He had 12 in his previous three games.
The Badgers marching band has launched into “Jump Around” in Lucas Oil Stadium, but it will be Allen standing on the foul line for two more free throws when play resumes.
The Badgers are clinging to a 51-45 lead with less than 12 minutes to go.
The Badgers tried to deliver a knockout blow out of halftime Monday night, but Duke freshman Tyus Jones wasn’t having any of it.
After Bronson Koenig knocked down a 3-pointer, his first field goal of the game, and Sam Dekker followed a bucket by Frank Kaminsky with a layup of his own, Wisconsin led 38-33.
Jones has scored the last six points for the Blue Devils, though, keeping them within 42-39 with less than 16 minutes left in the national title game.
Maybe even more important for Duke, Jahlil Okafor picked up his third foul with 16:50 left trying to guard Kaminsky. Looked as if Okafor got a lot of ball.
Lucas Oil Stadium is packed to the rafters, but there’s at least one empty seat.
In Section 40, Row A, seat No. 13 has been left empty. The ticket next to the son of Indiana coach Tom Crean was purchased by North Carolina coach Roy Williams and donated in memory of Butch Ryan, the late father of Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.
Butch Ryan, who helped teach his son the game, passed away in August 2013.
The halftime entertainment at Lucas Oil Stadium was David Garibaldi, known for his “rhythm and hue” act in which he speed paints portraits while accompanied by dance music.
In about 5 frenetic minutes, the fourth-place finisher on the seventh season of “America’s Got Talent” had painted portraits of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Wisconsin boss Bo Ryan.
No word on where the massive canvasses, each about 6 feet tall, will end up.
Twenty minutes left to decide a champion — at least.
The way Duke and Wisconsin are going at it, we may need a couple of overtimes too. There were 13 lead changes in the first half.
The Blue Devils’ Quinn Cook rimmed out a 3-point try and the Badgers’ Sam Dekker was off on his fall-away 3 as time expired, leaving the two teams tied 31-all at the break.
Dekker and Nigel Hayes have eight points apiece to lead the Badgers, while Frank Kaminsky has seven points and seven rebounds while outplaying Duke counterpart Jahlil Okafor.
Justise Winslow has seven points to lead the Blue Devils, while Okafor has six, despite sitting the final few minutes of the first half with two fouls.
Count tennis star Caroline Wozniacki among the Wisconsin supporters. She is sitting next to Texans star and former Wisconsin football player JJ Watt.
Back and forth we go in the national championship game.
The Blue Devils gained some early separation, but freshman guard Tyus Jones began settling for outside jumpers — just like the Harrison brothers did when Kentucky wilted late.
The Badgers stuck to their game plan and clawed back into the lead.
Jahlil Okafor continues to sit on the Duke bench after picking up his second foul with 4:47 left in the first half. Justise Winslow is also in trouble with two early fouls.
Wisconsin has two fouls total.
The Blue Devils are shooting 50 percent from the field early on, but they’re getting pounded on the glass. Wisconsin has 17 rebounds, including eight offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points, with about 3 minutes left in the half.
Wisconsin surged back and the crowd got really loud for a 7-0 run capped by Frank Kaminsky’s three-point play to give the Badgers a 24-23 lead. The most important part of that play? The foul was the second on Jahlil Okafor, forcing the Duke big man to take a seat.
Duke has been winning the hustle points in the first half.
On one play, backup forward Amile Jefferson swooped in to block a shot by the Badgers’ Josh Gasser, and then Blue Devils teammate Tyus Jones nearly slid off the elevated floor and onto the deck while chasing the ball out of bounds. Jones popped to his feet and was OK.
The Blue Devils are also doing a better job of getting into transition, using their superior speed at guard to get easy buckets before Wisconsin can get back on defense.
Badgers coach Bo Ryan wants his team to start attacking the rim, rather than settle for outside jumpers. He threw his arms up in victory when Bronson Koenig did just that and drew a foul. Koenig, an excellent foul shooter, made both of his attempts.
Duke still leads 21-17, though, with just under 8 minutes left in the first half.
The Blue Devils have been arguably been the best defensive team in the NCAA Tournament, holding opponents to just 55 points per game. Wisconsin has been the most efficient on offense.
Not surprisingly, they are playing to a stalemate early.
Duke’s frenzied man-to-man defense has been able to force three early turnovers, one that turned into an easy run-out and layup by Grayson Allen. But the Badgers are doing a nice job of moving the ball to free up shooters, hitting three of their first five 3-point tries.
Among those in the crowd rooting on the Badgers: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, an adopted Wisconsinite, and former Wisconsin star J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans.
Duke has pulled ahead 13-12 at the under-12 media timeout.
The sexy matchup of the night is Frank Kaminsky, the Badgers’ AP player of the year, against Jahlil Okafor, who many think will be the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft.
As expected, the two centers dueled each other early on.
Kaminsky struck first when he popped to the top of the key to hit a 3-pointer, then drew a charge on Okafor at the other end. The Blue Devils’ freshman star answered a minute later with an easy basket in the paint, his first of the night.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan had to go to his bench first when senior guard Josh Gasser appeared to lose a contact lens in the opening minutes. Traevon Jackson took his place.
Duke led 6-5 at the first media timeout. The stoppage came after a ball was tipped out of bounds, not far from where former news anchor Tom Brokaw was sitting.
Wisconsin was introduced first as the fourth of the No. 1 seeds, running to the floor through a wall of smoke amid rockets and fireworks. The Badgers are in their road red uniforms for Monday night’s game.
Duke followed in its home white uniforms, and coach Mike Krzyzewski earned a roar from the Blue Devils fans when he strode to the floor moments later.
Badgers fans outnumber Duke fans by about 4 to 1.
The national anthem was performed by a military band while a 25-year-old bald eagle — named Challenger after the space shuttle crew killed in the 1986 explosion — soared over the length of the floor. The eagle was blown from a nest and raised by the American Eagle Foundation.
Next up: Introductions, then the final tipoff of the season.
Both teams are sticking with their Final Four starting lineups.
That means the Badgers will send out seniors Frank Kaminsky and Josh Gasser along with junior guard Sam Dekker and sophomores Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig.
The Blue Devils will counter with their trio of heralded freshman — Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow — along with sophomore guard Matt Jones and senior guard Quinn Cook.
The starting lineups are one thing, but this game could come down to bench play. The Badgers have a bit more depth than the Blue Devils with Traevon Jackson and Duje Dukan capable of providing a big lift.
Amile Jefferson and Grayson Allen are among the key reserves for Duke.
Hundreds of teams. Thousands of games. It all comes down to this.
No. 1 seeds Duke and Wisconsin are meeting at packed Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to determine this year’s national champion. Tip-off is less than an hour away. And in about 3 hours, one of those teams will be cutting down the nets to the tune of “One Shining Moment.”
Both teams have already been out on the court to get some shots up. The Badgers were the first to retreat to their locker room, while the Blue Devils spent a few extra minutes on the raised floor of the indoor football stadium.
Jahlil Okafor, the Blue Devils’ star freshman, put up a bunch of extra free throws. Good idea, because a game between such evenly matched teams could come down to the foul line.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is trying for his fifth national championship, and his third in Indianapolis. Wisconsin counterpart Bo Ryan is also trying for his fifth title, though the first four came while coaching in the Division III ranks at Wisconsin-Platteville.
Judging by the crowd already in the arena, most of Madison made its way to the game. There are plenty of blue-clad Blue Devils fans, too.
The students are close to the floor, but not necessarily in great seats. The court is raised up enough that those standing toward the back of the student section have to spend much of the game staring up at the video board to see the game. Especially, if the action is at the other end of the floor.
The Badgers’ section is located around the CBS set with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Clark Kellogg. A few fans were trying to get Barkley’s attention, and the analysts were giving their phones a check before going on the air.
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