SAN ANTONIO - Oklahoma State junior point guard John Lucas had made so many clutch plays for the Cowboys throughout this magical season, and the son of the legendary Maryland Terrapins point guard was at it again last night.
But after overcoming a mostly ineffective evening by making three huge second-half shots, including the three-pointer that tied the score at 65 with 26.3 seconds left, Lucas lamented his failure at the defensive end of the floor as time was running out in regulation.
Lucas failed to break free of the pick set by 7-foot-1 Georgia Tech center Luke Schenscher in time to prevent Yellow Jackets guard Will Bynum from beginning his game-winning drive through the lane, resulting in the layup that lifted Tech to a 67-65 victory, which sent the Yellow Jackets to their first NCAA title game.
"I'm just hurt right now. I just put all the blame on me," Lucas said. "I was supposed to lock up [defensively on Bynum], and I didn't. That's basically all you can say. Doesn't matter if I hit the shot.
"Coach [Eddie Sutton] was just saying, `We need this possession. Lock up. If we go into overtime, we go into overtime.' We just needed to stop it. It just didn't happen like that."
Sutton spread the blame around on the breakdown.
"What we tell our players is to just keep the guy in front of you," Sutton said. "I mean, John didn't do very good, but he didn't get any help, either."
Okafor's foul trouble
Connecticut center Emeka Okafor was grinding his teeth and stewing over being forced to watch his first Final Four from the bench because of two fouls in the first half.
And yet, coach Jim Calhoun tempted him.
"I lied to him," Calhoun said. "I told him I would put him back in."
Okafor didn't laugh. He saved his smile for after the game.
When Calhoun put the All-American center back in the game for good with three fouls and 14 minutes left, the 6-10 junior took over.
Eventually, the whistles caught up with Duke, too. The Blue Devils' three centers - Shelden Williams, Shavlik Randolph and Nick Horvath - fouled out, clearing the way for Okafor to take over inside.
Okafor scored all of his 18 points in the second half.
Connecticut's Calhoun said the Huskies and Duke Blue Devils might have scored in the 90s if not for the 44 fouls that were called.
"Both Mike [Krzyzewski] and I like to get up and down," he said.
Their teams might have been able to if not for what Calhoun called "stoppage of play."
"That's a hockey term from a guy from Boston," Calhoun said.
There were 55 free throws shot ... but no cross-checking penalties.
Tech reserves come up big
Throughout their NCAA tournament run, the Yellow Jackets have gotten big games out of starters, such as point guard Jarrett Jack, shooting guard Marvin Lewis (Germantown) and Schenscher.
But through five tournament games, the reserves have outscored their counterparts 107-49, and have out-rebounded them 72-26.
Wire services contributed to this article.
NCAA tournament records of conferences that had two or more teams in the field (through both of last night's games):
Conference (teams) W-L Pct.
Atlantic Coast (6) 14-5 .737
Big 12 (4) 10-4 .714
Big East (6) 11-5 .688
Atlantic 10 (4) 6-4 .600
Southeastern (6) 7-6 .538
Big Ten (3) 3-3 .500
Western Athletic (2) 2-2 .500
Conference USA (6) 5-6 .455
Pac 10 (3) 1-3 .250
Missouri Valley (2) 0-2 .000
Mountain West (3) 0-3 .000