“Heard the roar of the crowd, he could picture the scene; Put his ear to the wall, then like a distant scream…”

Blue Morning, Blue Day:  It Feels Like The First Time for Urgent Krzyzewski, who’d been a Foreigner to success for 9 years until Hot-Blooded Butler went Cold As Ice to lose the Trophy to the Long, Long Way From Home Blue Devils, 61-59

One of the first things that Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game was that Butler didn’t LOSE the game — Duke WON it.  Mike was trying to be classy, giving credit to Butler for making the game a lot tougher for Duke than most people expected.  And you MIGHT agree with him, based on Duke’s Defense making a 2nd Half adjustment (for which Coach K took credit during the same Press Conference) that not only completely shut off Butler’s Offense, but also turned around the Rebound battle dramatically in Duke’s favor.  It would be hard to argue with that perspective.

But Krzyzewski was also being pre-emptive, because for all the Duke-haters out there (they aren’t all out THERE), there is another way to look at it.  Butler gave an inspired effort, outrebounding the Blue Devils by 7 in the 1st Half, forcing Duke’s Big 3 to work hard for everything they got, stealing and defelecting passes repeatedly, and taking the lead 6 1/2 minutes into the 2nd Half.  They were in great position to pull off the monumental upset.  But then the Bulldogs — America’s Heroes — went stone cold.  They went over 7 1/2 minutes without a Field Goal, just like they did against Michigan State in the Semi’s.  And like I said then, they couldn’t afford to do that against Duke.

So you COULD say that the Bulldogs LOST the game, because they forgot how to shoot, OR you could give credit to the Blue Devils’ Defense that blocked SEVEN shots, and made all the right adjustments.  But the Bulldogs hurt themselves in other areas too.  They came out ultra-tight, shooting 1-for-8 from the field as Duke built a quick early lead.  And their Center Matt Howard, who was coming off a mild concussion, played like he was still concussed.  He missed 3 close-in shots and 3 Free Throws in the first 6 minutes, then picked up 2 fouls and a Turnover in the next 6.  His foul trouble was his own doing (not the refs), and his rusty touch makes you wonder if he was ready to play, concussion-wise.  Don’t get me wrong:  His heart and effort were unquestionable, as he and his teammates hustled and played tough and scrappy all night.  But his missed opportunities killed the Bulldogs.  Howard’s Star teammate Gordon Hayward also had a forgettable performance in the most memorable game of his life, going 2-11 from the field, and missing Butler’s last two shots of the game.

Hayward had a chance to give Butler the lead with 5 seconds left in the game, because Duke’s Tournament MVP Kyle Singler BADLY missed a short jumper with 38 seconds left.  [Once again, it’s hard to agree that Duke truly WON the game (as opposed to Butler LOSING it), when no one on Duke made a single bucket in the last 4:45 of the game.]  But Hayward forced up a very difficult FALLAWAY jumper which rimmed out.  Then, with 3 seconds left, Duke’s Brian Zoubek made one Free Throw, and because Butler was out of Time Outs, intentionally missed the second one.  Hayward grabbed the Rebound, dribbled quickly to halfcourt, and launched up a desperation shot as time expired.  The shot was straight and true, hit the backboard, and banked onto the rim, but did not fall into the hoop.

And Hayward would not have had a chance to win the game, if not for the four consecutive clutch Free Throws that he and Howard made, as well as the two lay-ups that Howard made in the last 1:42, the first one breaking the long drought.  So Howard redeemed himself for his earlier troubles, but it wasn’t enough to get Butler the win.

While Howard and Hayward had less-than-average games, the other Star, as well as Howard’s back-up, both had decent performances.  Guard Shelvin Mack and Forward Avery Jukes each hit 2 Three’s, as Duke never led by more than 6.  But Butler’s only Senior Starter, Willie Veasley, performed like a Freshman.  Veasley went 1-for-9 from the floor, including 0-for-5 from behind the arc.  Credit Duke Defense if you want, or blame a guy who missed some makeable shots, in the biggest game of his life.

I admit to being wrong about Butler’s supposedly wafer-thin chance to win this game.  But I DID mention that a team like Duke COULD go cold from outside on any given night, and that THAT might cost them.  Duke ended up only 5-for-17 from Downtown, with Stars Jon Scheyer and Nolen Smith EACH going a weak 1-for-5.  Singler was the best of the three, with 19 and 9, BUT… he scored only 2 Points in the crucial last TEN minutes of the game, and he totally choked on the most important shot of the game, that should have given Duke a 3-point lead with 38 seconds left.  Singler won Final Four MVP, but I’d hardly describe his crunchtime performance as heroic.

Once again, I ask that you don’t get me wrong:  Duke deserved to win the game.  The Refs made only about 2 or 3 glaringly bad calls during the game, but one of them, late in the game, was NOT in Duke’s favor.  So the Refs didn’t give the game to Duke, and neither did Butler — not really.  Butler played a hell of a game, against 5 players with more talent (Duke’s bench didn’t score).  It’s just that Butler could have played better, and came THIS close to winning anyway.  Duke did NOT step up and take the game… at least not Offensively.  Unfortunately, the Bulldogs couldn’t step up and take it either.


Below are a Baker’s dozen of UCLA Cheer Photos, as the Countdown to the Spirt Fan Reception continues:  Now there are only 5 days left until Sunday’s soiree.  Please use this link for details and to RSVP (it isn’t free, but it’s tax-deductible).


One big box score discrepancy;  Duke had 7 Blocked Shots, Butler had ZERO.

 For the entire game. Butler amassed only SEVEN Assists.  (Duke had 12).

Duke’s Brian Zoubek got 6 Offensive Rebounds, twice as many as any other player in the game.

Believe it or not, Butler actually attempted and made more Free Throws than Duke.

At least Duke fans who “gave the points” lost their money.

Only 6 Title games in History have ended closer.

Duke won its 4th Title, still, of course, SEVEN behind UCLA.

How come Jim Nantz prematurely revealed his “Do you believe in sequels” Hoosiers reference?  It would have sounded pretty cool after a Hayward last-second swish.

At 61-59, it proved that a Howland-style of Defense and Rebounding first CAN win a Title.

If they played again tomorrow, I’d still take Duke, figuring that Butler might shoot better, but so would Duke.

All I know is both UCLA and the National Champ Duke EACH played Butler to within one hoop.

Hopefully, Duke 2011 will equal North Carolina 2010.

Last one for today — Still lots more coming before the 4/11 Reception.


One response to “DUKE BLOCKS HEROES”

  1. SVCATOSCMO Avatar

    The one good thing about Duke winning is that Coach K passed the chair thrower in number of championships won. However, concerning the talk about Coach K being the best of all time – since when has 10 been “less than” 4?