Duke wins 5th National Title 68-63 over Wisconsin

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INDIANAPOLIS—Over a matter of mere minutes, the youngsters at Duke grew into salty old pros.Call them freshmen. But please, do not call them kids.Led by Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, Duke’s talented group of potential one-and-doners played like veterans down the stretch, outscoring Wisconsin by 14 points over the final 13 minutes Monday night to grit out a 68-63 victory for the program’s fifth national title.

”It shows a lot about their confidence,” said Quinn Cook, Duke’s only senior starter.

Okafor, the likely first pick in the NBA draft if he decides to leave, got outplayed by Badgers senior center Frank Kaminsky most of the night but came through big when the pressure was highest.The 6-foot-11 freshman made two straight buckets over Kaminsky, sandwiched between a pair of 3-pointers from Jones, to help the Blue Devils (35-4) turn a one-time nine-point deficit into an eight-point lead with 1:22 left.A furious Wisconsin rally ensued, but it came up short. Then, it was Okafor on the bottom of a rowdy dog pile – a scene reminiscent of the last time the Final Four was Indianapolis, back in 2010 when Duke edged out Butler in another scintillating final. The Blue Devils also took one here in 1991 – the Grant Hill, Christian Laettner squad.

”It was heaven,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the stadium where he’s now 4-0 in Final Fours. ”It was really divine.”

Krzyzewski now has five titles, alone in second place on the all-time list, behind only John Wooden.Coach K did it with a collection of All-Americans – many of whom won’t be around too long.There’s Okafor, his buddy, Jones – who finished with 23 points and was named MVP – and another freshman, Justise Winslow. All might be playing at an NBA arena near you next season.Grayson Allen? He’ll be back.The most overlooked of Krzyzewski’s first-year players stepped up with Okafor on the bench for much of the second half in foul trouble. Allen, the slam-dunk champion at the high school McDonald’s All-American contest last year, scored 16 points – 12 above his average – including eight straight for Duke after Wisconsin (36-4) had gone up by nine.

”It was fun to watch my teammates do what they do,” Okafor said. ”They have my back the entire season, and it was no different tonight.”

This was a savvy, calm, collected comeback against the team that wrote the book on that all season. Wisconsin kept its cool two nights earlier in an upset over undefeated Kentucky and looked like it would close the deal when it turned a 31-all halftime tie into a 48-39 lead after Kaminsky made a layup with 13:23 left.Then, suddenly, Duke looked like veterans and Wisconsin looked like kids.The Blue Devils took the lead for good with 4:08 left when Jones made a 3, then fell hard to the ground while tangled up with Bronson Koenig. Dick Vitale’s call: ”You cannot be serious!”

On Duke’s next possession, Kaminsky tried to wrap an arm around Okafor in the paint, but the big fella powered his way through it for the bucket and the foul. He missed the free throw, but a different point was made: Kaminsky had 21 points and 12 rebounds to Okafor’s 10 and three, yet down the stretch, ”Frank the Tank” struggled to get a good look and Okafor helped win the game.

”He got in some foul trouble, but because of his positive attitude, he made some big plays down the stretch,” Jones said.

In the seconds leading to Okafor’s first basket, Winslow appeared to step on the baseline. But the whistle never blew and he delivered it to Okafor for the score.That, and the foul count, had the Wisconsin Twitterverse fuming about some calls. The Badgers got whistled for only two fouls in the first half, but the count in the second half was Badgers 13, Blue Devils 6. Duke shot 20 free throws to Wisconsin’s 10.

”There was more body contact in this game than any game we played all year, and I just feel sorry for my guys that all of the sudden a game was like that,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said.

Even though Kaminsky schooled Okafor to draw both his third and fourth fouls early in the second half, Wisconsin couldn’t pull away from an aggressive Duke defense that allowed only 55 points a game in the five contests leading to the final.Wisconsin shot 41 percent – 7 points under its season average.”Shots just weren’t falling, and they were getting to the line, and when the tide changes like that, it’s kind of hard to get back in the flow,” said Badgers forward Sam

Dekker.Nigel Hayes had 13 points and Dekker, the key guy down the stretch against Kentucky, had a very quiet 12 for the Badgers, who were trying to bring their first title back to Madison since 1941. Dekker used his shirt to dab away tears during postgame interviews – a much different scene than the loose, fun-loving media sessions the Badgers put on all tournament.For Duke, it was all smiles. The Blue Devils are taking another trophy home to the Cameron Crazies.

”All these guys have become students of the game, and they share knowledge,” Krzyzewski said.

This was not a dominant, wire-to-wire effort the likes of which some of the Duke title teams have enjoyed in seasons past.Kentucky and its quest for perfection stole the headlines this season. So, playing in relative shadows down on Tobacco Road was this group, which actually might have more one-and-dones than coach John Calipari does at Kentucky. Calipari was in the building, by the way – honored for his induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame. He got booed heavily.In the end, it was all confetti and cheers. And it’s not Calipari’s team, but Krzyzewski’s, that will end up in the history books.

Irving and Smith carry load, LeBron gets triple-double-Cavs beat Bulls.

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CLEVELAND—Kyrie Irving heard LeBron James scream to shoot, so he shot.Buzzer. Swish.His prayer was answered, and it wasn’t the only one for the Cavaliers on Sunday.Irving casually dropped a 52-foot 3-pointer, J.R. Smith made eight 3s – highlighted by a desperation one to end the first half – and James recorded his first triple-double with the Cavs in five years as Cleveland won its 18th straight at home, 99-94 over the Bulls.The Cavs made 16 3-pointers, three as time was draining from either the game or shot clock.

”I’ve been doing this a long time,” Cleveland coach David Blatt said, shaking his head. ”I’ve never seen three like that in one game.”

The Bulls haven’t either.

”The basketball gods were on their side today,” Joakim Noah said.

Irving scored 27 points, but it was his dramatic shot in the third quarter that helped the Cavs move closer to a Central Division title and securing the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.With the Cavs leading 70-60, Irving caught the inbounds pass thinking there were still 22 seconds left on the 24-shot clock. James, who was setting a screen, yelled to Irving and his long shot hit nothing but net.

”It was a crazy play,” he said. ”Luckily it went in. There was no skill there. I was just throwing it up at the rim and hopefully it goes in.”

Both Irving and James had similar reactions, shrugging and throwing their hands in the air. It was that kind of game for the Cavs, who attempted 37 3-pointers, three of them in nearly hopeless situations.

Blues score twice in second period, edge Hawks.

The St. Louis Blues are primed to grind out the regular season and head into the playoffs on a high note.Olli Jokinen and David Backes scored in the second period as the Blues beat the Blackhawks 2-1 on Sunday night for their third straight win to move into first place in the Central Division.The Blues improved to 105 points, one more than idle Nashville, with three games remaining for both teams.With top forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen out again with lower-body injuries, St. Louis used just enough offense and tight, physical play to hold off the Division-rival Blackhawks

”We’re missing our two leading scorers, but we’re finding ways,” Backes said. ”We like the fact we’re playing good hockey with three games left.”

Tarasenko, who missed his third game, leads the Blues with 36 goals and 71 points. Steen, who sat out his fourth, is tied for second on the team in points with 62.Both are out day-to-day, but are expected to be ready for the postseason and Steen could play this week. When Tarasenko and Steen return, they could boost a Blues team that’s already playing sound hockey.St. Louis’s Jake Allen finished with 38 saves, but not many of the Blackhawk chances were tough.

”I think our last three performances have been some of our best throughout the year,” Allen said. ”Guys just grinded tonight. Just kept plugging away, plugging away.”

Jokinen’s tiebreaking goal with 4:48 left in the second was his first score with the Blues since coming to St. Louis in a trade-deadline deal from Toronto last month. Once the Blues pulled ahead 2-1, they limited Blackhawk skating game and chances.

\”This is the way we’re going to have to win games,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. ”The part I liked best is when we got the lead, we managed the game. We didn’t sit back.If you’re going to win in the playoffs, you’re going to have to play long minutes with the lead, and put good quality minutes in.”

Kris Versteeg scored to end a 16-game drought without a goal, but the Blackhawks’ four-game winning streak ended and they remained two points behind Nashville in third place in the rugged Central.

”It was really physical,” said Marian Hossa, who set up Versteeg’s goal and rifled a shot of the post late in the second period. ”Not much room out there and lots of battles.”They played well tonight and I think we played a pretty strong game, but we just came up short.”

Corey Crawford stopped 31 shots for the Hawks in a game that had ample chippy moments.Both teams were coming off momentum-building victories.The Blackhawks won 4-3 at Buffalo on Friday when captain Jonathan Toews scored twice in the in the final 1:43 of the third period. The Blues scored four straight goals at Dallas to erase a two-goal deficit and beat the Stars 7-5.The Blackhawks led 1-0 after the first on Versteeg’s goal at with 5:48 left in the period. Hossa, closing in at full speed, picked off T.J. Oshie’s weak clearing attempt just inside the right point. The forward then cut across the slot, motored down the left side and flicked a perfect feed to Versteeg, who was alone at the right edge of the crease.Crawford had to be sharp – making close-in saves during several flurries – to keep the Blues off the board. He denied Jokinen three times in the first, including on a point-blank rebound attempt of Ty Rattie’s shot with just under 3 minutes left.Backes tied it 1-all when he swatted in a power-play goal from the right edge of the crease on the Blues 20th shot at 6:07 of the second. Backes pounced on a puck that was dished by Jaden Schwartz through a goalmouth scrum with Crawford down on the ice.Crawford stopped Paul Stastny’s initial shot shot and a rebound on Stastny’s breakaway just over 9 minutes into the second.Although the Blackhawks outshot the Blues 12-5 in the scoreless third, St. Louis limited Hawk chances.

Second period, they scored two big ones and then they were trying just to defend and keep it out of their end or prevent the rush game,” Joel Quenneville said. ”I thought we had stretches where it was okay, but at the end of the day it was a big four-point swing.”

NOTES—Blackhawks D Kimmo Timonen left the game in the first period after only three shifts with an upper-body after being hit by the Blues’ Ryan Reaves. … St. Louis D Robert Bortuzzo suffered an upper body injury in the first and didn’t return. … Injured Chicago star Patrick Kane, who suffered a broken collarbone against Florida on Feb. 24, and was not projected to return for 12 weeks following surgery, participated in the Blackhawks’ morning skate on Sunday.

BADGERS oust KENTUCKY 71-64, Duke ousts MSU.

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INDIANAPOLIS—DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD!!! ┬áBUCKY BEAT KENTUCKY, who is unbeaten no more.Wisconsin exacted revenge for last season’s Final Four loss by defeating the Wildcats 71-64 to end Kentucky’s run at a perfect season at 38-1.The Badgers used a late 15-4 rally following a four-point deficit with four minutes left to pick up the win.Sam Dekker is the guy who will be getting the headlines, as he dropped 16 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:44 left to give them the Badgers the lead they wouldn’t relinquish and huge taken charge with a little bit over a minute left to hand the Badgers the ball back to consolidate the lead. Frank Kaminsky led the way with 20 points, including seven during the first three minutes of the second half where Wisconsin dominated the Wildcats and stretched out a lead to eight points.But Kentucky came fighting back, only allowing one Wisconsin field goal from the 14:45 mark to the 4:45 mark when a Dekker jumper ended the drought. During that drought, Wisconsin stuck around only due to killer defensive play, including three consecutive Kentucky trips that ended in shot clock violations.Wisconsin’s 1.25 points-per-possession in this game were the most any team had scored against the Wildcats this season. The Badgers took advantage of Kentucky’s decision to switch every screen, continually exploiting mismatches on the block and in space to get easy looks at the rim. The Wildcats’ length was not nearly the factor it was against most teams this season, as the Badgers knocked down 7-17 attempts from 3 (41 percent) and made 48 percent of their shots overall. There was no amount of fear from the Badgers, who just simply played their game and took it to the Wildcats.The two teams lived up to their billings in the first half, as it was an up-and-down, terrific 20 minutes that saw Wisconsin lead by as many as nine after nearly scoring an absurd 1.3 points per possession and only allowing one Wildcat offensive rebound. However, Kentucky was equally as up to the task on the offensive end, matching them as Andrew Harrison relentlessly attacked Wisconsin’s defense and ended up with 11 points. He also dished out three assists, two of which led to easy dunks. The Wildcats closed the half on a 22-13 run to go into the half tied and set up a manic final 20.Wisconsin will now face Duke in a rematch of an early season game that saw the Blue Devils beat the Badgers in Madison 80-70.

Ramblers CBI Champs!

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MONROE—Devon Turk had 14 points and Loyola rallied to win the College Basketball Invitational title, 63-62 over Louisiana-Monroe on Wednesday night.Loyola was down four points with five minutes left, when Turk buried a 3-pointer from the wing to make a one-point game.Milton Doyle then hit a jumper and Jeff White’s steal led to two Doyle free throws to give the Ramblers a 61-58 lead with about 3 minutes left.With 3 seconds left and Loyola up 63-60, Louisiana-Monroe’s Jamaal Samuels missed the first foul shot of a one-and-one and his teammates grabbed the board to cut the lead to one. But the Warhawks ran out of time.Doyle finished with 13 points.The Ramblers’ Earl Peterson, who averaged 14 points per game in the championship series, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, according to Loyola’s website. He had 12 in this game, hitting 5 for 7 from the field.Majok Deng had 17 points for Louisiana-Monroe.The dramatic end of the game was fitting as the teams tussled and kept the score close.Early on, a three-point play from Majok Deng gave ULM an 11-7 lead, but five straight Loyola points gave the Ramblers a 14-12 lead. The Warhawks opened up a five-point lead before Loyola rallied again. Turk answered with a three, the 205th of his career to break the school record.The game stayed competitive throughout. Every time Loyola seemed to be taking control, ULM answered until the Ramblers late run sealed it.For the second straight game, Loyola shot over 50 percent from the field. It hit 54.5 percent against one of the nation’s top-10 field-goal percentage defenses.

Bucks beat sloppy Bulls at Bradley Center for first time since Feb 2011 since

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MILWAUKEE—If the Bucks and Bulls wind up meeting in the first round of the playoffs, Milwaukee just gave the Bulls something to think about.Michael Carter-Williams had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead Milwaukee to a rare 95-91 victory at home over the Bulls on Wednesday night.The Bucks (37-38), who lost their previous nine home games against the Bulls, also got 16 points from Ersan Ilyasova.Milwaukee won for only the third time in 11 games and maintained a 2 1/2-game lead over Miami and Brooklyn for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

”Any win, no matter at what point here or there, can help,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said.

The Bulls seven-game winning streak against Milwaukee ended despite 25 points and seven rebounds from Jimmy Butler.Pau Gasol added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls, who have lost seven of nine on the road. The Bulls dropped into a tie with Toronto for the No. 3 seed in the East.

”It doesn’t matter who we’ll see,” said Milwaukee big man John Henson, who scored six of his 11 points in the final quarter. ”We’ve just got to be ready. We’ve got to be ready for anything.”

Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich took a charge and injured his left knee with 4:35 left in the third quarter. He limped to the locker room and did not return.Tom Thibodeau said X-rays were negative and Hinrich will be re-evaluated Thursday.

”You’re always concerned,” Thibodeau said. ”You’re concerned about everything.”

The Bulls committed 13 of its 20 turnovers in the second half. The team shot 64.9 percent from the free throw line (24 for 37) and 19.2 percent from 3-point range (5 of 26) while giving up 20 offensive rebounds.

”We didn’t win. That’s all that matters,” Butler said. ”No matter how many times you turn the ball over – yada, yada, yada – you’ve got to win the game.”

Consecutive jumpers from Khris Middleton and O.J. Mayo gave Milwaukee a 92-88 lead with 2:56 to go.After a layup by E’Twaun Moore and a free throw by Gasol cut the deficit to 92-91, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo blocked a layup attempt by Moore with 1:25 to go.Milwaukee answered at the other end on a tip-in by Ilyasova for a 94-91 lead with 1:07 left.The Bulls missed a trio of 3-pointers on their next two possessions before Antetokounmpo sank a free throw for a 95-91 lead with 5.8 seconds to go.The Bulls three-game winning streak was halted. The last time the team won four in a row was Feb. 7-12. … The Bulls are 25-9 in the last 34 games against the Bucks, including 3-1 this season.The previous time Milwaukee won a home game against the Bulls was Feb. 26, 2011. … Carter-Williams totaled 12 points in his previous two games, including four in a loss at Atlanta on Monday.

NOTES—Gasol leads the NBA with 49 double-doubles this season, a career high. The last Bulls player to have at least 50 in a season was Charles Oakley with 53 in 1986-87…..Milwaukee will try to snap a season-high, 11-game road losing streak Friday. It is the Bucks’ first game in Boston this season….After a couple of weeks of speculation that Milwaukee would reveal a new logo and color scheme for next season, fans were told there would be a special announcement at halftime. But after a short video that hinted the new colors would be green, cream and blue, Bucks mascot Bango waved a giant flag that read ”April Fool’s Day.” However, the scoreboard then told fans they can ”See the Future” on April 13….The Bulls on Friday host Detroit.Bucks are at Boston, also Friday