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Basketball

Butler dream dies as Duke win national title

By Steve Ginsburg

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Duke ended Butler's miracle run through the NCAA basketball tournament by defeating the gritty underdogs 61-59 to win the national championship on Monday.

"I've been fortunate enough to be in eight national championship games, and this was a classic," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "This was the toughest and the best one.

"It was a game that we won, but they didn't lose."

Brian Zoubek's foul shot with 3.6 seconds left gave Duke a 61-59 lead and when he missed the second attempt, Butler's Gordon Hayward launched a 50-footer at the final horn that glanced off the backboard and hit the rim before falling away.

"I just thought, 'Please don't'" Duke guard Nolan Smith said of Hayward's potential game-winner. "It looked good. I was just praying it didn't go in."

Duke junior forward Kyle Singler scored 19 points and was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player.

"It was the toughest game we played all year," said Blue Devils guard Jon Scheyer. "I can't imagine what those guys are feeling like. They gave everything they had, just like we did.

"It's hard that one of these teams had to feel that way."

'LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE'

Butler is a private school located just six miles from Lucas Oil Stadium, site of the Final Four. The crowd of 71,000 roared on each Butler basket and groaned when Hayward's final shot misfired.

"All you can ask for as a team and as a program is to have a shot to win it," said Butler guard Zach Hahn. "That's what every team asks for and we were right there, against a great Duke team.

"They've got NBA talent and a great coach. A couple of more stops and it was ours."

Butler (33-5), whose 25-game winning streak was snapped with the loss, defeated West Region top seed Syracuse and then knocked off number two Kansas State to reach the Final Four.

The Bulldogs, champions of the little-known Horizon League, defeated 2009 runner-up Michigan State to secure a date in the championship, the fifth successive tournament game they had held their opponents under 60 points.

Butler had a chance to win it when, trailing 60-59, Hayward missed a fadeaway 15-footer from the baseline with four seconds left.

Zoubek was fouled after grabbing the rebound, his foul shots setting the stage for Hayward's desperation attempt.

"We caught lightning in a bottle and ran with it the last 25 games," said Stevens. "We just came up one possession short in a game with about 145 possessions.

"It's hard to stomach when you're on the wrong end of that."

Jon Scheyer had 15 points and Smith added 13 for the Blue Devils (35-5), who held Butler to 34 percent shooting.

"It was a battle," said Smith. "Butler is a very special team and I won't be surprised if I see them back here next year."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)