Duke’s freshmen accounted for 60 of 68 team points as the Blue Devils (35-4) earned Coach K a fifth national title with a 68-63 win over Wisconsin on Monday.
This is a major shift for a team so long dependent on seniors and more experienced players as opposed to one-and-done guys. But freshmen Tyus Jones (23 points), Justise Winslow (11 points, 9 rebounds) and Jahlil Okafor (10 points)—all of whom will most likely be in the NBA after this year—showed Duke too can adapt to the changing landscape of college basketball.
The game was tied 31-all at half. Neither team got settled offensively in the first half, which featured 13 lead changes
Wisconsin (36-4) shot poorly (39 percent) from the field, but its 11 second-chance points helped keep things close.
After the first seven minutes of the second half, the Badgers had gone ahead by a margin of 48-39. The Blue Devils quickly overcame this biggest deficit of the night by going on an 11-3 run that brought Duke to within one (51-50). Freshman Grayson Allen, who had 16 points for Duke, scored 8 straight points after the 9-point Wisconsin lead.
Wisconsin forward and the team’s first ever Naismith Award winner Frank Kaminsky had 21 points and 12 rebounds, but the big man’s effort was not enough to stifle Duke. Two Okafor layups in between two long threes from Jones put the Devils up 66-58 and ensured the title.
Duke shot 47.1 percent from the field and was 80 percent at the line with Jones hitting 7/7 free throws.
With the win Coach K has made himself second all-time in national championships behind only John Wooden, who won 10 at UCLA.
Other than the first four minutes of the game, Duke looked like the best team in the nation in its 81-61 Final Four rout against seventh seed Michigan State (27-12).
The Spartans jumped out 14-6 after going 4-for-4 from three in the opening minutes. But the Blue Devils started forcing junior guard Denzel Valentine (22 points, 11 rebounds) and the other Michigan State players into bad shots. Duke went on a 22-6 run and would go into halftime ahead 36-25.
Duke continued to pile on to its lead in the second half, as Winslow (19 points, nine rebounds and 9-11 free throws) and Okafor (18 points) led the Blue Devils to their Final Four win and eventual national title.
Kaminsky dropped 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Badgers’ Final Four 71-64 win over Kentucky (38-1). The loss makes the Wildcats the first team since the ’91 UNLV squad that has been undefeated and lost in the Final Four.
Everyone knew how to beat Kentucky—outshoot, outrebound and make the three ball—but Wisconsin was the only team that succeeded in all three facets of the game. The Badgers were 47.9 percent from the field, which is 13 points higher than the Wildcats had allowed all season. Wisconsin was also 10-for-20 from three and outrebounded Kentucky 34-22 (12-6 offensive).
Seven-foot junior Willie Cauley-Stein had only two points and five boards in the loss. Freshman forward Karl-Anthony Townes led with 16 points and missed a key free throw down three with 12 seconds left. Kentucky simply needed more points from their big men that it did not get.
The game went into halftime tied at 36, but Wisconsin built up an eight-point lead early in the second half after back-to-back threes that capped a 9-0 run. Kentucky later went on an 8-0 run that put them ahead by four. For six minutes Wisconsin did not score a point, and this offered plenty of opportunity for the underdogs to fold.
But the Badgers answered with an 8-0 run of their own, and junior forward Sam Dekker (16 points) sank a three and took a charge in the closing minutes that cinched the win.
Dekker was virtually silent in the second half of the title game though, and this made a difference in the outcome of the game. Dekker scored only four points in the second half, which allowed Duke to focus on locking down Kaminsky.