Duke's Brian Davis raised a banner that said it all: "UNLV DYNASTY" crossed out by a red slash, with "DUKE DESTINY" underneath in royal blue.
Duke, the team that couldn't win the big one, won the national championship UNLV couldn't lose. No one, including the seemingly invincible Runnin' Rebels and upstart Kansas, could deny Duke its destiny after 28 years of Final Four frustration.In their ninth trip to the Final Four and fifth to the title game, the Blue Devils (32-7) beat the Jayhawks 72-65 Monday night and ended forever this fixation with failure.
"It's never been a monkey on my back," said coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has led Duke to the Final Four in five of the last six seasons. "I'm just happy for my team. Did you see their faces?"
Two of the biggest smiles belonged to Duke's dynamic duo, center Christian Laettner and guard Bobby Hurley.
Laettner scored 18 points, including a championship game-record 12-for-12 from the foul line, and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Blue Devils' inside attack. Hurley ran the slickest floor show this side of Las Vegas, getting nine assists and 12 points while committing only three turnovers against Kansas' pressure defense.
"Our two keys guys throughout the year - Christian and Bobby - came through again tonight," Krzyzewski said.
Laettner was the tournament's most outstanding player and joined Hurley on the all-tournament team.
"I'm happy about it, but I'm happier about other things," Laettner said. "I'm happy about winning the national championship and about giving a really big trophy to Coach K that he can carry home to Duke. I'm also happy for our other coaches and our fans . . . because we're in it for the team, not just personal honors."
The loss ended a remarkable run by Kansas (27-8), which knocked off Indiana, Arkansas and North Carolina during a 10-day span to reach the championship game.
"I'm sure Duke is very proud at this moment, but so are we," said Kansas coach Roy Williams. "I hope they always remember this season, and how they came together at the end."
The Jayhawks were hoping to repeat the miracle of 1988, when Danny Manning led another underdog Kansas squad to the national title. But the Jayhawks couldn't overcome a determined Duke team, which managed to avoid a letdown following its emotional upset of UNLV in the semifinals.
"In the back of our minds, I think some of us thought Saturday's game was the big game. So Coach K had to talk to us and bring us in focus," said senior forward Greg Koubek, who scored five points.
While most of the postgame focus was on Krzyzewski, Laettner and Hurley, they shared the spotlight with Bill McCaffrey. The sophomore guard scored 16 points off the bench, hitting 6-of-8 from the field, including 2-for-3 from 3-point range.
After Kansas cut Duke's eight-point halftime lead to 44-40 early in the second half, McCaffrey hit a 15-foot jumper, a 3-pointer and a layup during a 17-7 run that gave the Blue Devils a 61-47 lead, their biggest margin of the game.
"This is something you dream about," McCaffrey said. "It's a great feeling."
Hurley pumped up the Blue Devils with sensational alley-oop passes that led to rim-rattling dunks by Grant Hill and Brian Davis.
In the Kansas locker room, the feeling wasn't so great. The Jayhawks missed nine layups, shot only 42 percent from the field and were outscored 20-4 from the foul line primarily because Duke was more aggressive on offense.
"We weren't attacking the basket," said center Mark Randall, who led Kansas with 18 points and 10 rebounds. "We were too casual with the ball, but you have to give Duke credit. They played tough defense."
Williams felt it just wasn't the Jayhawks' night.
"I thought we got some very good shots, but we couldn't put them down," he said. "That's why Duke is celebrating and we're not."