March Madness never disappoints. Prior to this weekend, many were saying that the Final Four game between Wisconsin and Kentucky was the real Championship game (including the CUI’s own Andrew Haubner), and that whichever team that faced the winner of that matchup was sure to go home empty-handed. But Duke certainly proved the haters wrong as they stole their fifth national title Monday night, 68-63.
After completing one of the most prolific runs to the title game of any team this year — beating North Carolina, Arizona, and undefeated Kentucky — Wisconsin perhaps deserved the 2015 NCAA Championship just for making it to the game.
But the Blue Devils, who had an all-around easier tournament run prior to Monday’s game, just wouldn’t have it. When Wisconsin led by as many as nine points midway through the second half, things were looking good for a Badgers team that had played an all-around better game up to that point.
No basketball fan could have asked for a better first half of college hoops than what they saw on Monday night. After 13 lead changes and three tie scores, it was clear that neither team was ready to go home empty handed that night. By halftime, both teams were tied at 31 points, a feat that has not been achieved since 1988.
But once the clock started up again in the second half, the game turned highly defensive as neither team shot more than 50 percent for the game. In the end, it was Duke’s defense that came out on top.
While both teams had four scorers in the double-digits, Duke freshman guard Tyus Jones stole the show with 23 points, followed by Wisconsin senior forward Frank Kaminsky’s 21. When the game came down to the wire, however, Duke’s inspiration came from an unlikely source.
With 13 minutes left, Duke freshman Grayson Allen made arguably the most clutch play of the game when he hit a monster three-point shot to turn the tides in the Blue Devils’ favor.
And though the MVP title would ultimately fall to Jones, Allen was perhaps the biggest game-changer (if not the least likely) for Duke. Instead of the four points a game that the freshman guard usually scores, he came off the bench to contribute an unexpected 16 points over a span of 21 minutes. Duke could not have won without him.
Allen’s trey sparked a 15-6 run for the Blue Devils, who tied up the game at 54 with seven minutes remaining. From there on out, it was a game of back and forth, but the momentum largely stayed with the Dukies and never swayed.
With 50 seconds left and the Badgers lagging behind by one possession, hearts all over the country were racing. But with 35 seconds left on the clock, Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes made the detrimental mistake of fouling the best free throw shooter on the team, Jones, who sunk two foul shots to seal their fate.
In the end, Allen’s three-point jumper and Wisconsin’s consistent turnovers and missed shots down the stretch were what ultimately gave the Blue Devils the push they needed to claim their fifth national title in program history. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski led his team to every single one of them, starting with the 1991 title made legendary by a single Christian Laettner shot.
And though Badger fan’s hearts all over the nation were breaking during those final free throws, there’s no doubt that Wisconsin and Duke had played one for the ages. Though it may not make its mark in history as Krzyzewski and Laettner’s 1991 team did, one thing is certain. It was by far the most exhilarating game of this year’s Big Dance.
Contact CU Independent Basketball Writer Alissa Noe at firstname.lastname@example.org.