INDIANAPOLIS – For Butler, games and ultimately championships are won a single possession at a time. And it was by one possession that BU was edged by Duke, 61-59, in Monday's national championship game. With the whole nation watching, the lighter shade of blue took home the title.
The Bulldogs finish their historic season 33-5 and as national runner-up. Butler had won 25 straight games entering the championship game.
Hayward, who was named to the all-tournament team along with Mack, had two shots rim out that could have won Butler the national championship. Butler had the ball coming out of a timeout trailing 60-59 with 13 seconds left in the game. Hayward drove left, dribbled behind his back to the right and fired a baseline jumper that looked good but rimmed out. Duke's Brian Zoubek grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Zoubek made the first and missed the second, with Hayward rebounding. The 6-9 Hayward dribbled to half court and fired what would have been the greatest shot in college basketball history, but it hit the backboard and rimmed out.
"I thought Gordon's shot had a chance," head coach Brad Stevens said. "Anytime you have a player of Gordon's caliber and he's got the ball in his hands and he lets it fly on the last attempt, you feel like you have a chance to win."
Down 60-55 with 2 minutes to go, the Bulldogs made three huge plays to set up the final sequence. A lay-up by Howard with 1:42 remaining cut Duke's lead to 60-57. The Dawgs got a stop and Mack missed a 3-pointer but Howard got the rebound and would score with 54 seconds left to make it a 60-59 game.
In the end, Duke (35-5) would win each half by exactly one point. Stevens was forced to call timeout after a Scheyer 3 and a bucket by Kyle Singler gave Duke a 26-20 lead with 5:12 to go in the first half. Butler answered with a 7-0 run – keyed by five points by Jukes – to take a 27-26 lead. Butler was trailing 30-29 when a Scheyer steal led to a 3-pointer by Nolan Smith. Jukes answered with a trey and the Bulldogs got a stop to trail 33-32 at halftime.
Singler finished with 19 points and nine rebounds and was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Scheyer scored 15 points and Nolan Smith had 13.
Butler outscored Duke 8-5 in the first 3:59 of the second half, and a 3-pointer by Nored gave the Dawgs a 43-42 advantage with 13:35 remaining. It would be Butler's last lead of its magical season.
"I'm proud of our guys. We came up one possession short in a game with about 145 possessions," Stevens said. "It's hard to stomach when you're on the wrong end of that. But, like I told them in the locker room, when you coach these guys with their effort, focus and determination, you're at peace with whatever result happens on the scoreboard because you've got a group that's given every single thing they have. These guys did that."