Last night, the Duke Blue Devils defeated the Wisconsin Badgers, 68-63, to win their fifth NCAA championship in school history. All five titles were won under the leadership of head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Going into the game, Duke and Wisconsin were the top-ranked teams in their conferences. In the South Region, the Blue Devils had a record of 34-4. Throughout their playoff run, they defeated Robert Morris, San Diego State, Utah, Gonzaga and Michigan State in their Final Four matchup.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, had a record of 36-3. The Badgers took down Coastal Carolina, Oregon, North Carolina and Arizona to win the West Region. Wisconsin also upset an undefeated Kentucky squad to earn their first championship game berth since 1941.
In a hard-fought battle, Duke and Wisconsin were tied at 31 going into halftime. The Badgers held a nine-point lead at the midway point of the second half. However, Duke came back and pulled away from Wisconsin.
One of the game’s key turning points aided Duke. In the second half, Wisconsin Forward Frank Kaminsky wrapped his arm around Jahlil Okafor as he was driving to the hoop. This did not prevent Okafor from making the bucket.
During that same play, the officials missed a crucial call. As Justise Winslow made the pass to the 6’11”, 270-pound guard, he stepped on the baseline with the ball still in his grasp. This mistake was only the beginning of a series of frustrating events for Wisconsin.
The Badgers committed just two fouls in the first half. However, the second half was a different story. Wisconsin committed 13 penalties while Duke committed six. The fouls also propelled the Blue Devils in making 80 percent of their free throws.
Freshman Guard Tyus Jones led the way for the Blue Devils. Jones registered 23 points while grabbing five rebounds and one assist. He was also instrumental in the final minutes of the game, draining a pair of important three-pointers.
Jones’ counterpart, Grayson Allen, made numerous contributions as well. Allen had a hard time getting onto the court all season long, but he played 21 minutes against the Badgers. The freshman guard also made 10 of his 16 points in the second half.
In his final game at Wisconsin, Kaminsky led the Badgers with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Forwards Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker also contributed in the Wisconsin scoring column. Hayes registered 13 points while Dekker tallied 12.
When the 2015 season begins, Duke will make a run at a second straight title. However, they will lose some key players on their roster, including Jones, Okafor and Winslow. As for Bo Ryan and his Wisconsin team, redemption will be on their minds throughout the offseason.