INDIANAPOLIS—The clock read 3.6 seconds. Duke led by one, and the Blue Devils' worst free throw shooter was on the line.
Brad Stevens and Mike Krzyzewski frantically set their teams up for the final ticks of the clock that would decide one of the closest NCAA Tournament Championship games ever.
Duke had a plan, and Butler knew it.
Brian Zoubek said Coach K told him to try to make the first and definitely miss the second. Butler didn't have any timeouts and couldn't call timeout when securing the rebound. That forced Butler to go the length of the court in 3.6 seconds.
"I thought there was no doubt they were going to try to miss," Butler guard Ronald Nored said. "Time automatically runs off the clock. We have to scramble. They might tip or get the offensive rebound. If he makes it, we get to set up a play."
The missed free throw scenario almost didn't happen. If it weren't for 70,000 screaming fans, we would be talking about a completely different, unforgettable 3.6 seconds.
"It was so hectic because coach said to first miss it, but then I think he tried to get him to not to," Duke guard Jon Scheyer said. "It was so loud in here...We didn't know what coach wanted to do at the end because it was so confusing."
Zoubek never got that message, and that meant the deliberate miss was on.
The Blue Devil center almost got his own rebound, but Gordon Hayward caught the ball and made the frantic dash up the court with his teammates clearing the way.
"I was just standing in the way, so I figured I would be useful," Butler forward Matt Howard said. The Bulldog big man stopped his tracks near half-court to set a vicious screen on Kyle Singler.
With the defenders out of the way and the clock about to hit zero, it was up to Gordon Hayward to put the ball in the air from the time-line.
"Anytime you have a player of Gordon's caliber and he's got the ball in his hands and he lets it fly on the last attempt, you feel like you got a chance to win," Brad Stevens said.
The Butler players and the 55,000 people rooting on Butler tried to will it in.
"I thought the ball was going in," Nored said. "I really did."
"Felt good. Looked good. Just wasn't there...Just didn't go in," Hayward said.
The way Duke players reacted suggests they also thought the long bomb had a chance to drop, sealing Butler's place in history.
"It seemed like the shot was in the air for a long time," Scheyer said. "When I saw it in the air, my heart dropped. It's the difference between being a national title winner or not."
"I glanced at it, and then I turned around," Nolan Smith said. "I was right there next to him; I ran past him. I knew it was a good look. I waited for the crowd's reaction."
"Once I saw he missed it, I fell to the ground, and Jon tackled me," Lance Thomas said.
That final shot will be etched in the memories of millions as the defining moment of the tournament.
"This moment will stand out the most," Hayward said. "I hate losing. I just hate it so much. Losing is the worst. There are so many good things and it was an honor to be in that game."
That moment was also made for the big screen. A media member said to Scheyer, "In the movies, that goes in."
Scheyer laughed, then responded, "Good thing this wasn't the movies then."
It wasn't cinema now, but someday down the road it will be.
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