INDIANAPOLIS -- No longer will Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski be asked about not winning the big one. No longer will the Blue Devils top the list of all-time losers at the Final Four.
As they say, the ninth time is a charm.
Duke was efficient for the first 35 minutes last night, and shaky for the last five, but it was enough to defeat Kansas, 72-65, in the National Collegiate Athletic Association men's championship game before 47,185 at the Hoosier Dome.
"I don't think a team has played any harder for 80 minutes to win a national championship," said Krzyzewski, alluding to Saturday's upset of top-ranked Nevada-Las Vegas.
The victory, coming in Duke's fourth straight trip to the Final Four and a year after its 30-point loss to Nevada-Las Vegas, gave the Blue Devils their first national championship and Krzyzewski his place among the game's top coaches.
Asked what it felt like to finally win the big one, Krzyzewski said: "I feel good. It's never been a monkey on my back. I always tried to keep it in perspective. I feel happy for my players. I looked at my kids, my three daughters, and they were crying. I hope we do it again. When are we going to do it again?"
It was neither pretty nor easy down the stretch. Leading by 14 points with a little more than six minutes remaining, Duke (32-7) struggled and saw Kansas (27-8) get to within 70-65 with 34.6 seconds left. But the Jayhawks got no closer.
A breakaway dunk by junior forward Brian Davis with 22 seconds left sealed the victory for Duke, which had lost its first four times in an NCAA final, twice with Krzyzewski as its coach.
Krzyzewski hugged his assistants as the final buzzer sounded and then was bear-hugged off the ground by center Christian Laettner, the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, at midcourt.
Laettner scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half, and though he made only two baskets in the second half, he finished with a championship-game record of 12-for-12 from the foul line. But he had plenty of help, especially from Bobby Hurley.
The sophomore point guard, whose nightmarish performance in last year's final contributed to the largest margin of defeat in an NCAA championship game, played masterfully last night, finishing with 12 points, nine assists and two steals in 40 minutes. Billy McCaffrey came off the bench with 16 points on six of eight from the field.
"Our two big guys all year, Christian and Bobby, were the keys for us tonight," said Krzyzewski. "And Billy McCaffrey was magnificent. I think these two games were the best defense we played. What Bobby did . . ."
The Blue Devils weren't shabby on offense, either. Duke shot 13 of 22 in the first half, including five of seven on three-point tries, and finished 23 of 41 for the game. Kansas was 27 of 65. But there was a big difference on the foul line, where the Blue Devils went 20 of 28, and the Jayhawks were four of eight.
"I think that showed we weren't attacking the basket," said Kansas point guard Adonis Jordan.
The Jayhawks, who buried themselves midway through the second half with poor shooting from the field and the free-throw line, could not take advantage when Duke had trouble putting the game away. Kansas went eight possessions in one stretch without scoring.
"A lot of it had to do with us not attacking the basket," said center Mark Randall, who led the Jayhawks with 18 points and 10 rebounds. "We were passive, but a lot of it had to do with Duke's defense."
It wasn't until Terry Brown hit a three-point shot with 2 minutes, 8 seconds remaining that the Jayhawks gave their fans among the 47,185 here some hope. But it turned out to be only faint hope.
After a pair of missed free throws by Duke freshman Grant Hill and a turnover by the Blue Devils, the Jayhawks got no closer than five.
The defeat kept Kansas from finishing its marvelous run in the NCAA tournament and winning its second championship in the past four years.
"It's just difficult right now," said Kansas coach Roy Williams. "But I believe there are 297 teams in the country right now who'd like to be in our shoes. I feel very lucky to be a college basketball coach. I think the only person in America luckier than Roy Williams is Mike Krzyzewski."
Kryzewski did a terrific job not only preparing his team for Kansas, but also getting the Blue Devils back to earth after their 79-77 victory over unbeaten and defending champion UNLV in Saturday's semifinals.
Duke came out quickly last night, storming to leads of 7-1, 18-11, 36-27 and, on a three-point shot by Thomas Hill with a second left in the first half, 42-34. The shot by Hill followed a turnover by Kansas.
"I thought it was big," said Williams. "We had a chance to make it three, but they made a three. It wasn't the key point in the game. Laettner was very tough in the first half. We had a lot of trouble containing him."
Said Hurley, "I thought establishing ourselves early was very important."
Asked if Duke ran out of gas, Jordan said: "I guess they weren't that tired. They won."