I had the pleasure of watching this game with my father.
My father loves to root for the underdogs, so as you can imagine, not only did he root for Butler, but he despises Duke (and the New York Yankees and all teams of the sort).
He also gets very exciting when the team he is rooting for makes a shot, but gets extremely pessimistic when the opponent makes a shot, muttering things such as, "Oh no, I don't believe [the Bulldogs] are falling apart," after a Kyle Singler jumper gave Duke a slim four-point lead with more than 10 minutes left.
And of course, a game like last night's championship game led to a lot of up and downs for my father and me.
Now, time for some recapping and analysis.
Butler surprised a lot of fans and college basketball experts by not only playing close with Duke, but also by putting up with Duke's size advantage and doing a very good job on the boards.
Butler struggled to score early, and their first field goal came more than three minutes into the game. Every time it looked like Duke was going to run away, Butler made the big shots that made this game one of the all-time greatest.
Duke opened up the game with a 6-1 lead, and all of the sudden the thoughts of a blowout in the championship game in the second straight game made an appearance.
But Butler fought back to take a 20-18 lead on a Willie Veasley tip-in, which would end up being Butler's largest lead for the entire game.
Then, Duke's 8-0 run gave the Blue Devils a 26-20 lead, and all of the momentum shifted. And that was when senior forward Avery Jukes stepped up in a huge situation.
Jukes sparked a quick 7-0 Butler run with a two-point jumper. A minute later, Jukes hit an open three-pointer to put the Bulldogs back on top, 27-26. Jukes then made two jump shots in the final two minutes to cut the Duke lead to 33-32 at halftime.
Jukes scored 10 of Butler's 12 points in the final five minutes of the first half.
And then came the vicious, nail-biting, back-and-forth second half. Butler would not lead after the 19:24 mark, and Duke never lead by more then five in the second half.
Just like Duke's 8-0 run in the first half, the Blue Devils took all the momentum with a 5-0 spurt to take a 47-43 lead with 12:26 left. But Butler stayed within one point entering the final five minutes.
Four straight points from Duke put the Blue Devils up 60-55 entering the final two minutes. When needed most, Matt Howard stepped up and made a layup to end a long field goal-less streak, cutting the lead to three points.
After Nolan Smith missed a layup on the other end, Shelvin Mack found Howard for an open layup. and, just like that, the score was 60-59 in favor of Duke.
On the next Duke possession, Kyle Singler got a great look on a jump shot, but fell way short. A fight for a loose ball ended with the basketball out of bounds after hitting the foot of Brian Zoubek. Butler controlled the ball with 33.7 seconds left.
With 13 seconds left, Brad Stevens took a timeout to set up a play. Gordon Hayward found nothing and was forced to call another timeout, leaving Butler with none.
On the second inbounds attempt, Howard inbounded to Hayward. Hayward drove and then took a jumpshot from the right wing with Zoubek's hand in his face. The jumper hit off the rim, and Zoubek grabbed the rebound and was immediately fouled by Shelvin Mack.
Zoubek drained the first free throw and Duke had a 61-59 lead. On purpose, Zoubek then missed the second free throw. Hayward grabbed the rebound and dribbled up to halfcourt. He then released a shot and then the buzzer sounded.
The shot hit off the backboard, then the rim, and then fell down to the floor—and Duke was allowed to exhale.
The confetti came down and Duke was crowned national champions.
Brian Zoubek Killed Butler With His Size
Zoubek had two blocks and 10 rebounds. However, the most important thing that Zoubek's size brought to the game did not show up in the box score.
Zoubek guarded the inbounds pass with 13.6 seconds left.
If Butler had been able to inbound the ball, it still would have had one timeout left for the rest of the game. But Hayward could not find anyone to inbound the ball to because of Zoubek's big body. So, Butler had to burn its last timeout.
Then, when Butler managed to inbound the ball after the second timeout, Zoubek got a hand in Hayward's face as he shot.
You never know if Hayward would have made the shot if Zoubek was not there, but it definitely made it harder for him to bury a game-winner.
Kyle Singler Killed Butler With His Sweet Shooting Stroke
Kyle Singler was undoubtedly the player of the game.
Singler had 19 points and nine rebounds while shooting 7-of-13 from the field. Until that last shot in the final minute, Singler did not let Butler get away with giving him any room to shoot.
Duke Matched Butler On Defense
Butler did an amazing job containing Duke's powerful offense.
Nearly nobody thought that Duke would be held to 61 points on Monday night. But Duke's defense matched Butler's.
Although Butler is not known for offense, the Blue Devils still held Butler to 20-of-58 shooting from the field (34.5 percent).
More importantly, Hayward and Mack were held to only 12 points apiece, and Howard did not start scoring until later in the game. Mack and Hayward combined for 7-of-25 shooting from the field (28 percent).
Matt Howard's Early Jitters Hurt In The Long Run
Matt Howard struggled early in the game.
Howard only made one of his first four free throws. In addition, Howard got some very good looks in the paint, but he could not convert.
Point-Blank Misses For Butler
Howard was not the only player that missed some shots that definitely could have been made.
Many players on Butler continued to miss shots that could have easily been converted for buckets. I am not trying to play a "what if" game, but if Butler just made one of those shots, it is a different ball game.
And unfortunately for me, it was so much more heartbreaking that Hayward's last-second shot did not fall because I predicted the final score of Monday's game would be 62-61 in favor of Butler.
So, I fell one unlucky bounce short of looking like a genius, even though I picked Butler to win because I could not find a place in my heart to pick Duke I chose a random final score that seemed doable.
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