A late 10-0 run in the second half sparked by 19 of guard Tyus Jones’ 23 points led Duke to a 68-63 victory over Wisconsin to lay claim to the school’s fifth national championship. It is also the fifth national title for legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, who now moves into second place behind only former UCLA head coach John Wooden.
A 3-pointer by Jones put a dagger into Wisconsin (36-4) with 1:24 to play giving the Blue Devils a commanding 66-58 lead. But, Naismith Player of the Year award winner Frank Kaminsky proved why he was worthy responding with a 3-pointer. Nigel Hayes scored on a dunk with just 50 seconds to go to cut the lead to 66-63, but it was Jones once again converting two free throws with 35 seconds left to ice the game.
Kaminsky’s performance was what college basketball fans would expect from the national player of the year. The 7-foot senior finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds. He showed why he will be one of the top picks in this year’s NBA Draft about midway through the second half.
Kaminsky would take the ball at the top of the key with just over nine minutes to play, put the ball on the floor, and execute a beautiful spin move to convert against Duke big man Jahlil Okafor. The 6-11 Okafor would commit his fourth foul on the play and was quickly removed from the game by Krzyzewski. Kaminsky calmly hit his free throw to complete the three-point play and give the Badgers a four-point lead, 54-50, with 9:18 to play.
The loss of Okafor did not have the effect that Wisconsin fans would have liked. He returned after that fourth foul to beat Kaminsky for two easy buckets and help Duke recover from an earlier second half deficit. Okafor, who was nominated for the Naismith Award, would score just 10 points and grab just three rebounds, but the rest of his freshman classmates picked up the slack.
Jones, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, hit 7-of-13 shots from the floor including 2-of-3 from 3-point range and finished with a game high 23 points. Fellow freshman Justise Winslow, who has enjoyed a solid tournament, added 11 points and nine rebounds.
It was the play of another Duke freshman that really helped the Blue Devils to their third national title won in Indianapolis. Grayson Allen, a 6-4 native of Jacksonville, Fla., came off the bench for Krzyzewski and scored 16 points after averaging just 4.0 per game all season. Ten of Allen’s points came in the second half.
The championship victory was Duke’s first since 2010, which was also won in Indianapolis. The Blue Devils also won in Indy back in 1991 when they were led by Christian Laettner and Grant Hill.
Down by nine with 13 minutes to play, Duke’s freshman outplayed and outscored Wisconsin by 14 points over the final two-thirds of the game. Wisconsin uncharacteristically missed 11-of-14 shots late in the second half. While the Badgers couldn’t convert possessions into points, the Duke freshmen, led by Jones, continued to score. The group scored 60 of Duke’s 68 points including every single point of the second half.
Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker, who was averaging over 20 points per game in the tournament, scored a very silent 12 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and had two assists. Dekker, who came up with several clutch baskets against Kentucky, shot 6-of-15 from the floor, but missed all six of his 3-point attempts (two were ugly looking air balls).
Hayes hit 3-of-4 from 3-point range and finished with 13 points while guard Bronson Koenig added 10 for the Badgers. Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, who has four NCAA Division III national championsips to his credit, failed in his first NCAA Division I final. The Badgers last won a national title in 1941.
Krzyzewski, the first NCAA Division I coach to reach 1,000 career wins, has now coached in nine NCAA finals. He won back-to-back titles in 1991 and ’92, won in 2001, and then again in 2010 and this year. The Basketball Hall of Fame member will now have a serious recruiting job to do. While he has one of the nation’s best, if not the best, high school recruiting classes coming to Durham next season, he may also have to work on keeping Jones and Winslow from jumping to the NBA.
Okafor will most likely head to the league and is projected as the first pick in the draft. Winslow is a 6-6 slasher who shoots well enough and can play defense and rebound. Jones performance in the final speaks to what the 6-1 guard can accomplish at the next level. If Krzyzewski can keep Winslow and Jones, he will also have Allen (winner of last year’s dunk contest at the McDonald’s High School All-America game) plus that high school recruiting class coming in the fall of 2016.