INDIANAPOLIS -- No longer will Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski be asked about not winning the big one. No longer will the Blue Devils be the team with the most Final Four appearances without a national championship.
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 at the Hoosier Dome.
"We came here to win two," said Krzyzewski, who had been on the losing sideline in an NCAA final twice, in 1986 and last year. "I thought we were a lot more mature than the previous teams that had come. These kids have had a great month of March. We finally won a game in April."
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 for the Blue Devils down the stretch. Leading by 14 points with a little more than seven minutes remaining, Duke (32-7) struggled to put the Jayhawks away. Kansas (27-8) got to within 70-65 with 34.6 seconds left but got no closer.
A breakaway dunk by junior forward Brian Davis with 22 seconds left sealed the victory for Duke, which had lost in its first four tries in an NCAA final.
Krzyzewski hugged his assistants as the buzzer sounded and then was bear-hugged off the ground by center Christian Laettner, the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, at midcourt.
"He didn't look tired when he did that," said Krzyzewski. "He looked pretty strong."
While Laettner helped the Blue Devils with his free-throw shooting -- hitting a championship-game-record 12 of 12 from the line for a team-high 18 points, it was point guard Bobby Hurley and reserve guard Billy McCaffrey who gave Duke its big lead. Hurley finished with 12 points, nine assists and two steals, and fellow sophomore McCaffrey scored 16 on six-of-eight shooting.
"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 on-the-ball defense we played this year."
The Blue Devils were on target with their offense, too. Duke shot 13 of 22 from the field in the first half, including five of seven on three-point tries, and finished 23 of 41 for the game. Kansas was jTC 27 of 65. But there was a big difference on the foul line, where the Blue Devils were 20 of 28 and the Jayhawks were four of eight.
"It goes back to not attacking the basket," said Kansas point guard Adonis Jordan, who was taken out of his game by Hurley's nose-to-nose defense. "We took a lot of jump shots and did not get the ball inside to Mark [Randall]."
The Jayhawks, who hurt themselves midway through the second half with poor shooting, could not take advantage when Duke had trouble icing the game. Kansas went eight possessions in one stretch without scoring.
"We didn't do what we had been doing throughout the tournament," said Randall, who led the Jayhawks with 18 points and 10 rebounds. "We weren't taking good shots. We were passive, but a lot of it had to do with Duke's defense."
It wasn't until Terry Brown hit a three-pointer with 2 minutes, 8 seconds remaining that the Jayhawks gave their fans some hope. But it turned out to be false hope. The chance to win a second national championship in four years had slipped away.
"It's just difficult right now," said Kansas coach Roy Williams, choking on his words a bit. "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."
Krzyzewski 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 top-ranked, unbeaten and defending champion UNLV in Saturday's semifinals. Duke showed no ill effects of that victory.
"We worked so hard as a team to get to this point," said senior forward Greg Koubek, who was on the winning team for the first time in his unprecedented fourth straight Final Four appearance. "In the back of our minds, some of us thought Saturday's game was the big game, so Coach K had to talk to us and bring us in focus. We were on tonight."