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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Duke steals fairy tale ending from Bulldogs

The Blue Devils followed up their win over West Virginia in the national semifinal (pictured) by beating Butler for the championship.[/media-credit]

INDIANAPOLIS — As Butler’s sophomore forward Gordon Hayward walked away from the scene behind him, Duke players diving on top of each other in a pile just feet from where he’d missed a last-second shot, he knew his team’s historic Final Four run was over.

Of course, a 61-59 loss for his Bulldogs was not the way he wanted it to end.

“I hate losing,” Hayward said. “It’s one of the worst feelings that I have — losing. When I look back on it, I think it’s going to motivate me.”


The pace of the game was frantic. The defense, at times, was sparse. Hayward, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, posted only four points in the first half, while senior forward Avery Jukes exceeded his season high for points in that period alone with 10.

Butler struggled to maintain that breakneck speed, firing off 3-pointers and scrambling for offensive rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Blue Devils fought for consistency, with senior center Brian Zoubek slowly backing down his defender in the paint and purposeful ball movement from the entire squad.

But for every slow, steady, consistent shot Duke made, the Bulldogs found a way to nip back at the heels of their opponents.

“We wanted it to be a toughness battle, and a fight to the finish, and that’s what we got,” Butler guard Zach Hahn said.

The trend continued in the second half. Every open look the Blue Devils hit was countered with a hard-fought basket. And as the lead swayed back and forth, the Bulldogs looked more and more like the team Butler coach Brad Stevens expected to see that night.

“It was obviously a physical game,” Hayward said. “I feel like we pretty much left it all out there.”

But just as the game seemed to turn, it stopped. The pace slowed. The scoring died down. And, in the end, the committed and selfless game Butler had wanted to play from the beginning, its earnest effort to win “The Butler Way,” caused the Bulldogs to lose what had kept them close against Duke — raw emotion.

The Bulldogs started to falter, failing to fire back at the Blue Devils. They didn’t make a shot from the floor from the 9:30 mark until the final minute of the game, fighting to stay in the game by way of foul shots. Somehow, at the end of their scoring drought, they were only down by three.

A minute remained. Bulldog forward Matt Howard battled down low, getting position on Zoubek for an easy lay-in. And, all of a sudden, the field goal percentage didn’t matter. The underdog moniker didn’t matter. All that mattered was the 33.7 seconds left on the clock.

It was Butler’s ball. They were down one.

The Bulldogs passed the ball around the perimeter, looking for a chance to penetrate the lane and put themselves ahead for the first time since the 13:35 mark.

Zoubek tipped a pass out of bounds, and Stevens called a timeout. On the first attempt at the inbounds play, nothing was open. Hayward took another timeout for his team.

Less than 14 seconds remained.

Hawyard got the ball off of the inbounds play. He drove to his right, fighting toward the center of the court. He backed down his defender, then stepped off.

The fadeaway shot went up. Hayward watched it go. And he watched it as it hit the rim, bounced off and fell into the hands of Zoubek. As Stevens said, “It looked good all the way.”

“They played good defense and forced me into a tough shot,” Hayward said. “I thought it was a good shot for us — I just missed it long.

“It felt good. Looked good. It just wasn’t there.”

A few seconds later, after Hayward missed a last-second effort that bounced off the backboard and clanked off the rim, it was over.

“There’s not much to say from our end,” Stevens said. “We just came up one possession short in a game with about 140 possessions. It’s hard to stomach when you’re on the wrong end of that.”

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