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Duke Comes From Behind To Defeat Wisconsin In Men's NCAA Championship


Men's Division I college basketball has a new champion this morning, and it's a familiar one. Duke won its fifth title last night, beating Wisconsin in a riveting game. The 68-63 victory for the Blue Devils was fueled by their youngest players, including an unlikely hero. From Indianapolis, NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Kentucky is the team most associated with freshman power - young players who stay a year and then jump to the pros. But with the Wildcats vanquished and gone from Indianapolis, the spotlight was on Duke's kiddie-corps, especially the three freshmen who'd driven the team's success this season - center Jahlil Okafor, forward Justise Winslow, guard Tyus Jones. But last night, the tremendous three became a fantastic four.


MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Grayson put us on his back.

GOLDMAN: That's Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, talking about 6'4" freshman guard Grayson Allen. Allen has played sparingly his first year, but he's a big reason Coach K now trails only the great John Wooden in the men's national championship win column. With 13 minutes left in the game, Wisconsin had a 9-point lead and the Dukies were, in Krzyzewski's words, a little disjointed. Over the next minute and a half, this is how the stat sheet read - Grayson Allen - 3-point jumper, Grayson Allen - steal, Grayson Allen - layup and free throw, Grayson Allen - two more free throws. Lucas Oil Stadium turned electric.


GOLDMAN: With the 9-point lead gone, the teams battled back and forth until Duke's defense, which Krzyzewski called magnificent down the stretch, slowed and ultimately stopped Wisconsin. On the offensive side, Tyus Jones took the baton from Allen and hit several key shots. Turns out, the four freshmen scored every Duke point in the second half. But all anyone in Duke's victorious locker room could talk about was Allen, a shy, religious kid from Jacksonville, Fla., who answers reporter's questions with a yes, sir, no, sir, and who becomes someone vastly different in Duke's intense practice sessions. Here's Justise Winslow.


JUSTISE WINSLOW: He's cool off the court, but just when he's on the court, you know, he could be, you know, a better word's a pain in the butt, you know, to guard and to defend. And so he's just been a dog the whole year.

GOLDMAN: Allen, the person, stood in the locker room, newly famous and surrounded by reporters. He wore a championship baseball cap with a piece of keepsake basketball net sticking out the back and acknowledged the court is his release.


GRAYSON ALLEN: I just go out there and let it all out - scream, yell. You can't just walk around doing that in public, so I figure might as well take advantage of being on the court and do it.

GOLDMAN: While he and his teammates took full advantage of their moment in the finals, Wisconsin did not. A surprise to those who thought the Badgers' stirring win over mighty Kentucky in the semifinals nearly guaranteed a finals coronation. Wisconsin star forward Sam Dekker sat in his gutted locker room, eyes red from crying.


SAM DEKKER: You know, we thought this was the group that was going to do it all. You know, we've been saying it all year. We weren't afraid of the moment. We weren't afraid to state our beliefs. And we truly believed that we had a team that was going to win a national title, and it's pretty heartbreaking.

GOLDMAN: Dekker, a junior, may join his senior teammate Frank Kaminsky in the NBA draft. Certainly that was a question in the Duke locker room as the three freshmen stars are considered pro-material. Grayson Allen also was asked if he's a so-called one-and-done freshman. No, sir, he answered, which suddenly, after last night, is great news for Duke fans. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Indianapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.