No. 4 Duke 65, Georgia Tech 61

Miss after miss, open look after open look, yet Jon Scheyer

ignored them all.

He wasn’t going to stop shooting, not with an Atlantic Coast

Conference tournament championship on the line and fourth-ranked

Duke clinging to a one-point lead in the final seconds. He curled

around a screen, took a pass and launched a 3-pointer that dropped

perfectly through the net.

“It just wasn’t falling,” Scheyer said, “but at the end of

the games, I felt confident.”

Scheyer finished with 16 points along with that critical 3 with

18 seconds left to help Duke hold off Georgia Tech 65-61 in

Sunday’s final, giving the Blue Devils a record 18th ACC

championship and setting them up to receive the No. 1 seed in the

South Regional of the NCAA tournament.

Kyle Singler scored 20 points and earned MVP honors for the

top-seeded Blue Devils (29-5), who blew most of an 11-point lead

with 6 minutes left before Scheyer’s big shot. Nolan Smith also had

16 points to help Duke break a tie with rival North Carolina for

the most ACC tournament titles, while giving Hall of Fame coach

Mike Krzyzewski his 12th title to move within one of Dean Smith for

the most in league history.

In a tournament filled with upsets, it took a gritty effort from

Duke’s high-scoring “Big Three” to hold off a determined comeback

from the seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets (22-12), who were trying to

become the first team in tournament history to win four games in

four days. Duke ran out to an 8-0 lead in the opening minutes and

led the entire day, but in the end, Scheyer’s composure took over

when the game hung in the balance.

“There’s something about Scheyer that produces wins,”

Krzyzewski said. “I’ve loved coaching him because he has this

spirit. He’s never afraid and I admire that because as a player I’m

not sure I had that all the time. I’m not sure many players have it

all the time, but Jon has it and it’s a beautiful thing.”

He missed his first six 3-pointers before finally knocking one

down to give the Blue Devils a 52-41 lead with about 6 minutes

left, and stood at 1-for-8 when the Yellow Jackets ran off nine

straight points to get within 60-59 on Derrick Favors’ dunk with

47.9 seconds left.

But as the Blue Devils ran the clock down, Scheyer lost Glen

Rice Jr. around a screen from Brian Zoubek, took a pass from Smith

and confidently launched the 3 from the right side. He even held

his extended right arm in the air throughout the ball’s flight

before it dropped through the net to send the crowd into a

roar.

“I knew it was nothing but the bottom,” fellow senior Lance

Thomas said. “I didn’t even go for the rebound.”

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt could only tip his hat to

Scheyer.

“If you’re a basketball fan, enjoy it for what it is,” Hewitt

said. “I told him after the game – I said, ‘That’s a hell of a

shot you just made.’ If he misses that, we’re winning the

basketball game, because we’re getting the rebound – it’s going to

come out long – and we’re going to score.”

Instead, after a driving basket from Iman Shumpert, Singler

knocked down two free throws with 9 seconds left to make it a

two-possession game and essentially seal the victory.

It was fitting that Duke punctuated the game at the free throw

line. The Blue Devils made 24 of 28 free throws, including 21 of 23

in the second half to offset a 6-of-22 (27 percent) shooting

performance after the break and keep the Yellow Jackets in catch-up

mode almost all game.

Singler shot just 3 of 15 from the field, though he did make 14

of 16 free throws – the 14 were a championship-game record – and

finished with six rebounds. He had a nasty red scratch about 4

inches long on the back of his right shoulder, the result of diving

over a courtside table for a loose ball, almost landing on Dick

Vitale and ending up on the floor between press-row tables late in

the first half.

When the horn sounded, Singler leapt into the arms of Smith for

a hug near the sideline, than ran to hug Zoubek as the Blue Devils

began their oncourt celebration.

“We just need to get refreshed and wherever we’re going to go,

we’ll go,” Krzyzewski said of the NCAA tournament, “but I think

we’ll go there better than we were a week ago.”

In many ways, it had to be a relief considering everything that

had gone on in Greensboro this week.

The Blue Devils were the only one of the top six seeds to make

it to the semifinals in a tournament that had seen a bevy of ugly,

low-scoring games in a Greensboro Coliseum that had numerous rows

of empty green seats in the upper level from tipoff of Thursday’s

games.

By Sunday’s final, Duke fans had gobbled up plenty of tickets

from fans whose schools had lost, putting plenty of royal blue in

the seats and creating a homecourt advantage for a team playing

about an hour’s drive west of its Durham campus to make Georgia

Tech’s job even tougher.

Favors had 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Yellow Jackets,

who did enough to take care of their once-shaky NCAA tournament

prospects after losing five of seven to close the regular season.

They received the No. 10 seed in the Midwest Regional.

Georgia Tech was trying to become the lowest-seeded team to win

the tournament and they hadn’t won it since capping a similar run

as a No. 6 seed under Bobby Cremins by upending top-seeded and

eventual national champion North Carolina in the 1993 final.

Cremins, now the coach at College of Charleston, sat behind the

Georgia Tech bench for this one only to see the Yellow Jackets fall

short of matching their ’93 run.

“We’re proud of what we did this tournament,” Georgia Tech

junior Gani Lawal said, “but we’re just sad that we couldn’t pull

it out.”