The big-time basketball power stands tall against the upstart, upset-bound small school, 61-59. The win gives Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski his fourth national championship — and spoils a dream scenario for Butler, playing in front of 70,000 hometown fans in Indianapolis.
By the slimmest of margins, the Duke Blue Devils held off the gritty challenge of Butler's underdog Bulldogs Monday night to give Coach Mike Krzyzewski another men's national basketball championship.
Two last-second shots by Butler star Gordon Hayward just missed the mark as Duke pulled out a 61-59 win in front of 70,000 fans in Indianapolis, Butler's home town.
Duke's "big three" of Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith did much of the work by themselves, but they got some timely help from the biggest man on the floor, massive 7-foot-1 inch Blue Devil center Brian Zoubek.
Zoubek got a hand in Hayward's face to stop a jump shot with 3.6 seconds left in the game and corralled the rebound. He sank the first of two fouls shots and deliberately missed the second to deny Butler any chance at setting up a final play. Then he and his Duke teammates celebrated as Hayward's desperate half-court shot grazed the rim but didn't go in.
It was just that close for Butler, the small school from the obscure Horizon League that clawed its way to national attention by knocking off powerful Syracuse, talented Kansas State and perennial power Michigan State en route to the title game.
The Bulldogs seemed to be playing out a college version of the "let's win it for all the small schools who never got the chance" dream chronicled in the film Hoosiers — shot in Butler's own historic Hinkle Field House.
But unlike the movies, that last shot just didn't go in.
Although Duke is a regular presence at the top of the college basketball polls, this is the North Carolina school's first national title since 2001. It's the fourth in Coach K's sensational 30-year career, tying him with Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp for second on the all-time list behind UCLA icon John Wooden's 10.
The team Krzyzewski has now guided to two straight Atlantic Coast Conference titles got typical production from Singler, with 19 points, Scheyer with 15 and Smith with 13.
But the run to the national championship has also depended on the late development of the hulking Zoubek, who wasn't even a starter on this Duke team until mid-season. He has been a steady presence throughout the tournament.
Butler will have to settle for what might have been — at least for this year. The program has made steady progress under third-year coach Brad Stevens and this performance in the national spotlight can only help with recruiting. At 33, Stevens seems bound for coaching glory.
Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.