This proved to be Duke’s finest moment as the Blue Devils rallied to claim Mike Krzyzewski’s fifth national title with a 68-63 win over fellow No. 1 seed Wisconsin at Lucas Oil Stadium.
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While stars Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor played a part in the comeback, it was two other freshmen who carried Duke down the stretch.
Twenty-three of the combined 39 points Duke guards Grayson Allen and Tyus Jones scored Monday night came during those final 13 minutes.
“We were dead in the water,” Krzyzewski said. “We were nine points down, and Grayson put us on his back. And once he got us in striking distance, we just said, ‘Tyus, run high ball screen, and be you.’ That’s great coaching, I guess.”
Allen, the phenomenally talented guard who had spent most of the season on the edge of the rotation, delivered a spark when Duke needed it most, scoring the first eight points of his team’s rally to get the Blue Devils back in striking distance.
“You know, to be in the position where you’re coming off the bench, and these guys still support me and put confidence in me, I knew I was capable of doing it just because of what they’ve been telling me all year,” Allen said.
Jones, the steady point guard who has come through in big moments all season, delivered a go-ahead top-of-the-key 3-pointer with 4:08 to go and a game-clinching three that stretched Duke’s lead to eight a few minutes later.
“There’s never been a moment when they doubted me,” Jones said of his teammates and the coaching staff. “They trusted me to make a play and that’s the biggest thing about this team is we never let one another down.”
It was fitting that freshmen played such a huge role in Duke’s first title since 2010 because it was two of them that put the Blue Devils on a path to this championship four years ago. Jones and Okafor returned home from a two-week stint as USA Basketball teammates convinced teaming up would be their best chance to win a national championship in college because of how well they worked together on the floor and how quickly they bonded off it.