PHILADELPHIA - When Syracuse scored the first five goals of Monday's NCAA championship game, Duke coach John Danowski didn't exactly have a textbook handy to consult. "Nobody scripts being down 5-0," he said. "We were all kind of freaking out.''
So the Blue Devils reverted to a scriptwriter's best friend: the delete key. They started over. And the finished product turned out quite nicely.
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Duke, with tournament Most Outstanding Player Brendan Fowler of Chaminade winning 20 of 28 faceoffs, went on a spectacular scoring run and won the Division I men's lacrosse title with a 16-10 victory over top-seeded Syracuse before a crowd of 28,224 at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I told John after the game he should buy that faceoff kid a big steak," Syracuse coach John Desko said.
Make it a filet mignon, prime cut.
With Fowler winning 13 straight faceoffs and 14 of 15 in the second quarter, Duke's high-powered offense took control during a 12-1 run that spanned the second, third and fourth quarters and produced a 13-7 lead.
Jordan Wolf scored four goals, Josh Offit and Josh Dionne added three each and Jake Tripucka had two goals and two assists as the Blue Devils won the second national title in school history, both under Danowski, the former Hofstra coach. Duke also won it all in 2010 and has reached seven consecutive Final Fours.
"Jake's goal relaxed everyone," Danowski said. "And having Brendan certainly helped."
Fowler, who led the nation in faceoff percentage (nearly 65 percent) and set the single-season record for faceoff wins with 339, gave Duke (16-5) so many extra possessions that Syracuse's vaunted defense eventually wore down.
The Blue Devils outscored the Orange 11-4 in the second half, playing most of it in the Syracuse end.
"We couldn't get the ball back to our offense," Desko said.
After Syracuse (16-4) took its last lead, 7-6, on a goal by Dylan Donahue (three goals, one assist) with 4:28 left in the third, Duke ran off seven straight -- two by Offit, two by Dionne and one each by Tripucka, David Lawson and Christian Walsh.
"We had balance. Some veterans, some young blood, some lefties, some righties. This year it worked,'' Danowski said.
"They're so good in so many different ways,'' Desko said of Duke's offense, which featured five players with more than 25 goals and eight with more than 15, including emerging redshirt freshman Myles Jones (Whitman), who scored with a pretty dodge- right, shoot-left move in the second quarter.
Duke sophomore goalie Kyle Turri (West Islip) made 10 saves and picked off three passes that spoiled close-in scoring chances.
The Orange did get to within 13-9 midway through the fourth on back-to-back goals by JoJo Marasco, but they couldn't overcome Fowler's dominance on faceoffs. "I just got into a groove,'' he said.
Fowler's faceoff mastery plus efficient second-half shooting ruined Syracuse's chances of winning a 12th national title. "Just smart shooting,'' Dionne said. "On my goals, I didn't even think. It just happened. The other guys dodged like men. I just had to catch, shoot and celebrate. My job was easy.''
Asked when he finally realized what his team had accomplished after starting the season 2-4 and falling behind 5-0 and 6-1 Monday, Dionne said, "Not until the final horn sounded. We play for 60 minutes.''
The rote answer delighted Danowski, who threw his arm around Dionne and beamed like a proud father. After all, the kid had just followed the script.