Youth prevails in Duke's 68-63 win over Wisconsin in NCAA title game

Blue Devils get 60 of their 68 points from freshmen as they hold off the Badgers in the NCAA title game

So much for crafty veterans, experience and upperclassmen better handling pressure in crunch time.

Duke's diaper dandy array of freshmen outplayed longer-toothed Wisconsin on Monday night to earn a 68-63 win and the school's fifth NCAA championship.

Whoever said youth was wasted on the young should have been among the crowd of 71,149 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Every single one of Duke's 37 second-half points were scored by freshmen. That's right, teenagers. They scored 60 of Duke's 68 points.

“They're amazing,” said senior guard Quinn Cook. “They came in so humble, it was all about the team.”

The kids were up to the challenge and oblivious to the magnitude of the stage.

Freshman guard Tyus Jones led the team with 23 points, including the knockout three-pointer in the final 90 seconds.

Freshman guard Grayson Allen, who entered the game averaging four points a game, came off the bench to save his team from what seemed its darkest hour.

Freshman Justice Winslow scored 11 points in 32 minutes and freshman Jahlil Okafor added 10.

Duke's kids were able to stare down a nine-point deficit with 13:17 left and deliver a magnanimous comeback for Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

It might have seemed like pooling together a gift for grandpa if not for the fact the 68-year-old Krzyzewski coached a magnificent game.

Duke probably wishes every title game were played in Indianapolis. This was the school's third NCAA title in the city.

Krzyzewski keeps eclipsing milestones as he chases the ghosts of basketball past. His fifth title pushes him past Kentucky's Adolph Rupp for solo second on the all-time list.

Krzyzewski is now halfway to John Wooden's hallowed record of 10 championships. Wooden was well into retirement at Krzyzewski's age, but Duke's venerable coach shows few signs of slowing down.

He said he should not be compared with Wooden.

“He should be separate from everybody,” Krzyzewski said.

He doesn't like to rank his titles, but says of the most recent one, “you can feel it the best.”

Wisconsin, for years, will scratch its whiskers and wonder how it happened.

The Badgers had a nine-point lead after Frank Kaminsky scored off an in-bounds pass with 13:17 left.

It seemed improbable that a veteran team led by seniors Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson, Duje Dukan and junior Sam Dekker would allow victory to slip away.

Wisconsin had every thing working in its favor to earn its first NCAA title win since 1941.

Duke's two best inside players, Okafor and Winslow, were saddled with foul trouble.

When Kaminsky put Wisconsin up by nine, though, Krzyzewski immediately called time out to stem the momentum.

He turned first to freshman backup guard Allen, a seemingly unlikely player to pull his team out of a rut.

Allen, though, scored Duke's next eight points to keep the Blue Devils in the game.

“Grayson put us on his back,” Krzyzewski said. “We went to him exclusively because of his ability to drive and penetrate.”

Allen said playing against his talented teammates allowed him to step up in an important moment.

“They've been supporting me all year,” he said.

Allen delivered a burst of energy to Duke's lineup and quickly started beating Wisconsin's guards off the dribble.

“I saw some openings to drive,” he said.

Krzyzewski said, with two stars on the bench, he just kept throwing lineups out on the court.

“I got some gritty guys in there, in combinations,” he said.

Duke bought time and got foul-plagued Okafor and Winslow back in the game for the closing minutes.

Okafor scored two key baskets late to bump a one-point lead to five, at 63-58, with 2:10 left.

Jones then hit a three-pointer with 1:22 left that seemed to put the game out of reach.

Wisconsin rallied in the final minute but couldn't complete the mission. The Badgers missed five of their last 19 shots.

Dekker, who has been Wisconsin's hottest-shooting player in the tournament, had one of those nights. He finished with 12 points but missed all six of his three-point attempts.

Dekker was still a factor inside, contributing three putback baskets in the first half. One was a beautiful reverse layup off a teammate's missed shot.

“I'm disappointed in myself for my performance tonight,” Dekker said. “I've never been closer to a group of guys, and this one hurts.”

The magic of last week's West Regional win in Los Angeles, and Saturday's win over Kentucky, went missing. Also missing was some of the swagger.

Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan said afterward he never felt comfortable Monday night, even with a nine-point lead.

“Teams make runs, it happens all the time,” he said.

It seemed for a while that sophomore guard Bronson Koenig, one of Wisconsin's unsung players, might end up the king of Madison's county.

Koenig, who did not have a first-half field goal, opened the second half with a corner three and then hit two more baskets to help push Wisconsin's lead to nine.

It was Allen of Duke, though, who pushed Koenig off the front page.

Kaminsky had 21 points to lead Wisconsin, which finished the year 36-4. The Badgers wanted so badly for it to be 37-3.

In the end, though, last year's experience in the Final Four meant nothing. Duke's stars of Monday night watched as high school students.

What could a senior say?

“They were tough,” Wisconsin's Jackson said. “They played great.”

It might not seem fair that four Duke freshman could come together so quickly.

“I've never had a group that's had this chemistry,” Krzyzewski said.

It helped, of course, to have a good chemistry teacher.

Follow Chris Dufresne on Twitter @DufresneLATimes

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