INDIANAPOLIS - This was the alternate ending to "Hoosiers'' that didn't play well with moviegoers. They wanted the happy ending, and they got it in the film. But that's not how real life works.
In real life, Gordon Hayward, the kid from Brownsburg, Ind., with a face Norman Rockwell would have loved, misses the winning shot. Not once. That wouldn't be dramatic enough. No, Hayward missed the potential history-making shot twice in excruciating fashion.
With seven seconds left, he went up for a jumper from the right baseline, arched it a little too high to get over 7-1 Duke center Brian Zoubek and saw it go off the far side of the rim and bound to Zoubek, who was fouled.
Zoubek made the first free throw for a 61-59 lead and intentionally missed the second, allowing Butler to get the ball to Hayward for a desperation attempt from the right side just over the midcourt line. It looked awfully good in the air but it hit slightly too high on the glass and caromed off the front of the rim, giving Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski their fourth national championship last night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
If nothing else, Duke (35-5) and Butler (33-5), wonderful programs from the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of basketball's privileged class and blue-collar schools, gave scriptwriters plenty of material to work with.
"I can't really put it into words,'' Duke's Kyle Singler said when asked to describe his emotions at the end, "because the last couple plays just were not normal. It could have gone either way, and I am just glad we came out with a victory.''
Krzyzewski felt the same way.
"It's hard for me to say it, to imagine that we're the national champions," he said. "I love this team . . . and what a way to celebrate our last day together."
The loss ended a 25-game winning streak for Butler, at 4,200 students the smallest school to play in the title game since Jacksonville in 1970.
Singler had 19 points and nine rebounds, Jon Scheyer added 15 points and five assists and Nolan Smith had 13 points for Duke. Hayward had 12 points for Butler but made only 2 of 11 shots. Shelvin Mack also had 12 for the Bulldogs, Matt Howard added 11 and Avery Jukes had 10, all in the first half. Butler shot only 34.5 percent from the field, which was its undoing.
A physical game got even tougher with 5:07 left when Duke's Lance Thomas chased down Hayward from behind, hooked an arm and sent him crashing into the basket support. The crowd begged for an intentional foul, but the refs disagreed after a replay review.
Hayward shook out the cobwebs and hit two foul shots to cut Duke's lead to 56-55. Instead of keeping the ball with a chance to go ahead after an intentional foul, the ball went over to the Blue Devils. Singler came off a screen and popped in a perfect 20-footer for a 58-55 lead at 4:46. That sequence could have drained the momentum Butler needed to pull off the upset.
But after going down 60-55, Howard brought the Bulldogs back with two layups, cutting Duke's lead to 60-59 with 54.8 seconds showing. On Duke's next possession, Singler's shot came up short and Zoubek grabbed the rebound, but the ball went out of bounds off his foot with 33.7 seconds left. Butler's ball with destiny at stake.
After inbounding the ball under his basket with 13.6 seconds left, Hayward got it back up high and drove to the right side near the baseline for his first shot at winning the game.
"It felt good; it looked good; it just wasn't there,'' he said. "He forced me into a tough shot, and I just missed it long. The last shot was just a last-second shot, and it missed.''
Maybe it missed the basket, but it hit everyone who watched this game square in the heart.