INDIANAPOLIS - 'Dead in the water" is how Mike Krzyzewski described Duke's predicament. His freshman NBA lottery candidates Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow were on the bench with three fouls, and Wisconsin's veterans had just taken a nine-point lead and had one hand on the NCAA championship trophy Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Then, a whole college basketball season that had focused on Kentucky's quest for perfection and later celebrated Wisconsin's historic upset of the Wildcats to reach the title game, a season that had given us the oversized talents of big men such as Okafor and Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns and the Badgers' Frank Kaminsky, the whole thing came down to a 69-second blaze of energy from an unexpected source who decided everything.
It came down to a freshman coming off the bench and seizing the moment, a kid with the highfalutin name of Grayson Allen. But this was no preppy snob. His credentials included the McDonald's All-American designation, but he didn't arrive in Durham with a sense of entitlement because he had grown up dreaming of playing for the Blue Devils.
All season, Allen accepted a secondary role, averaging nine minutes and 4.4 points. His teammates said he was tough in practice. They knew he had won the McDonald's dunk contest a year ago, and Coach K said Allen was his best player at driving to the rim.
The day before the title game, someone asked Krzyzewski about a possible "X factor," and he dismissed the silly media gimmick. Could be any number of things. As it turned out, Allen was the "X, Y and Z factor," putting an end to Wisconsin's title designs.
In the span of 69 seconds, Allen hit a three-pointer, stole the ball from Kaminsky, rebounded a miss by teammate Amile Jefferson, scored on a putback and hit a foul shot to complete the three-point play and then drove to the basket, drew a foul and hit two free throws. Eight points in 69 seconds, and while Duke still trailed at 51-47, with 11:43 left, the Blue Devils were alive and kicking.
"We weren't playing as tough as we needed to, and Grayson made a point to bring that toughness and to bring the energy," Duke sophomore Matt Jones said.
In the end, freshman Tyus Jones capped a 23-point performance with two big three-pointers down the stretch and Okafor added a couple of big baskets, but it was Allen's 16-point surprise that enabled Duke to pull out a 68-63 victory to give Krzyzewski his fifth national title.
Senior guard Quinn Cook said Duke's four freshmen were "amazing. All top 20 recruits, the No. 1 class, but they came in so humble. It was all about team. They didn't think they knew it all. They worked hard. It's great, and it paid off in the biggest game of everybody's lives."
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan expressed his preference for developing players like Kaminsky, who outplayed both Okafor and Kentucky's Towns head-to-head in the Final Four. "We don't do rent-a-player," Ryan groused. "I like trying to build from within. It's just the way I am."
Krzyzewski shared that belief in the past, but after his newbies scored a freshman-record 60 points in the title game to beat Ryan's vets, the Duke coach celebrated as "One Shining Moment" played, nudging Allen when one of his big moments was shown on the video board.
Allen recalled watching Duke defeat Butler for the 2010 title on the same stage. "I've dreamed about being in this moment since then," Allen said. "Never thought it would actually come true. But for it to happen, it's amazing."