Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) – Mike Krzyzewski celebrated with his players on the makeshift Lucas Oil Stadium court after a game that looked lost until it wasn’t.
Duke’s fifth national championship came largely on the backs of two freshmen, just not the ones everyone expected.
First-year guards Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen scored 29 of Duke’s 37 points in the second half while Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow battled foul trouble, sparking the Blue Devils to a come-from-behind 68-63 win over Wisconsin on Monday night.
Okafor, projected to be one of the top picks in this year’s NBA Draft, picked up his first foul 1:49 into the first half and had four with more than nine minutes remaining in the game.
With Okafor and Winslow on the bench during long stretches, Jones and Allen took over, helping Duke climb out of a nine-point hole.
“They showed such grit,” Krzyzewski said. “Our bench was spectacular.”
Jones hit the 3-pointer that gave the Blue Devils the lead for good with 4:08 left but Okafor, who went more than 27 minutes without scoring, finally got back on the board with two big baskets.
Jones then hit another big shot, a 3 to make it an eight-point lead with 1:24 to play. He ended with a game-high 23 points, two more than senior Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky, and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
Allen added 16 points for Duke (35-4), Winslow scored 11 and Okafor had 10.
Kaminsky led Wisconsin (36-4) with 21 points and 12 rebounds and Nigel Hayes scored 13. Sam Dekker missed nine of his 15 shots and scored 12 points and Bronson Koenig added 10 points, most of them early in the second half as the Badgers started taking control after the teams were tied 31-31 at the break.
Wisconsin, after knocking off previously unbeaten Kentucky on Saturday night, was chasing its first national championship since winning the only one in program history in 1941.
Loose and confident throughout the tournament, the Badgers scored seven of the first nine points in the second half and got a further boost when Okafor was called for his third foul after just three minutes.
Koenig got nine of his 10 points in the first 5:46 of the half and Kaminsky’s layup gave the Badgers a 48-39 lead that looked insurmountable with Duke sitting two future NBA players on the bench.
“This is not the outcome we envisioned,” said senior Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser. “We knew we were going to win it and it just didn’t happen.”
All of Duke’s five national titles have come since 1991 under Krzyzewski, including three in Indianapolis. The Hall of Fame coach said the Blue Devils were “dead in the water” before Allen put them on his back.
He scored six points in a row with Okafor and Winslow out, trimming Duke’s deficit to three. Okafor wasn’t back in the game long before picking up foul No. 4 with 9:18 left as Kaminsky spun through the paint for a layup.
Kaminsky’s free throw gave Wisconsin a 54-50 lead but the Badgers went more than four minutes without scoring again and Allen gave Duke its first lead of the second half on a jumper to make it 56-54.
Okafor’s first basket since 10:36 of the first half came with 3:14 left and with Kaminsky hanging all over him. He missed the foul shot, but scored Duke’s next points before Jones’ 3 made it a 66-58 lead with 1:24 left.
“We were fabulous down the stretch,” said Krzyzewski. “I don’t know how you can be any better.”
Wisconsin was called for 13 fouls in the second half after committing just two in the first. Okafor and Winslow committed four of Duke’s seven fouls in the first half and finished with four apiece.
Because he sat for long spells, Okafor played just 22 minutes and had fresh legs down the stretch.
“Those two plays he made … he exerted his will and influence and got it done,” said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who was curt with some of his answers during the postgame news conference.
Jones’ 3 capped a 10-0 Duke run and was answered at the other end by Kaminsky, the consensus national player of the year, who drained a 3. Hayes dunked on the next Badgers possession to make it a three-point game, but the Big Ten champions didn’t score over the final 49 seconds.
Duke played its tightest game of the NCAA Tournament after running through the South Region with wins over Robert Morris, San Diego State, Utah and Gonzaga by an average of 17 points, then blowing out Michigan State 81-61 on Saturday.
It was the program’s first national title since beating Butler in 2010, also at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“It doesn’t feel real right now, to be honest,” said Allen. “To win my first year at Duke is amazing. This group had talked about this moment since the beginning of the year, but saying it and doing it are completely different things.”
Duke shot 47.1 percent in the game and made 16-of-20 foul shots … The Badgers shot 41 percent in the game, including 7-of-21 from beyond the arc … There were 16 lead changes and five ties in the game … Duke beat Wisconsin 80-70 in Madison on Dec. 3, after which Krzyzewski called the Badgers “one of the two or three best teams in the country” … Duke is 5-6 in NCAA finals … Krzyzewski’s other two titles were won in Minneapolis … Wisconsin had an 11- game winning streak snapped, losing for the first time since falling to Maryland on Feb. 24.