Duke fans have to hold their breath _ twice _ before getting to celebrate 4th national titleBy Aaron Beard, AP
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Duke fans hold their breath in tight title game
DURHAM, N.C. — A massive gasp rose from the crowd in Cameron Indoor Stadium as Butler’s last shot hit backboard, then rim. When it bounced off, Duke’s “Cameron Crazies” stormed the court to celebrate the Blue Devils’ latest national championship — just as if they were actually at the game.
About 4,500 or so fans filed into Cameron to cheer on the Blue Devils from afar, only to get quite a scare in the final seconds with Butler missing two shots for the win before Duke’s 61-59 victory was secure in Indianapolis. Still, it ended the way they had envisioned, with favored Duke holding off the tournament’s feel-good story to hoist the trophy for a fourth time under Mike Krzyzewski.
“Disbelief and absolute elation,” said freshman Bailey Parks, her hands still trembling minutes after the game ended. “It’s completely indescribable.”
As soon as it was over, many of the fans — who jumped into each other’s arms for celebratory hugs or even sprinted around the edge of the court and screamed toward the rafters that will soon hold another banner — poured out of Cameron and headed up campus to celebrate around a bonfire into Tuesday’s early hours. Duke police estimated about 3,000 fans gathered around the bonfire on a quad near the Duke Chapel, though no incidents of injuries or arrests were immediately reported.
Instead, fans milled around the fire fueled primarily by wooden benches plucked from various spots around campus, posed for pictures or squealed into their cell phones with delight.
“I was just walking around congratulating random people,” said Yuval Toren, a junior philosophy major from Calgary, Alberta. “I didn’t know what was going on for the first hour. I was just yelling. I can’t even talk anymore.”
Duke’s students felt victory was close when Gordon Hayward missed the first shot for the lead with 3.6 seconds left. Many ran onto the court underneath the scoreboard screens to watch Duke’s Brian Zoubek make 1 of 2 free throws, then stopped their celebration and watched nervously as Hayward’s final halfcourt heave came oh-so-close.
Then came the ear-rattling roar.
“That whole last minute was just absolutely crazy,’ said Matt Wander, a junior civil engineering major from Syracuse, N.Y. “It was just so much. When the shots were up in the air, I was like, ‘There’s no way we can possibly lose this game. Please don’t let us lose this game. We played so well all year.’”
Duke had won consecutive championships under Krzyzewski in 1991 and 1992, then waited nine years before winning the Hall of Famer’s third title in 2001. But they hadn’t won since and had been to the Final Four just once, a drought by the program’s lofty standards that had some questioning whether Duke had slipped.
But after another nine-year wait, the Blue Devils are celebrating again.
“To all the alumni that never got to experience this, this one’s for them,” said David Piccirilli, a junior political science and history major from Tampa, Fla., who came running out of Cameron screaming and wearing a Duke jersey after the game. “This one’s for everybody in the Duke community everywhere. People said we couldn’t do it and it feels so good. It just feels so good.”
Making it even sweeter: they did it as rival North Carolina — which won last year’s championship — played in the NIT.
It didn’t even matter that most of the country was pulling for Butler, who got all the way to the final game in what many compared to a rewrite of the movie “Hoosiers.”
“It’s really cool to be in here tonight because you can tell those guys are having the greatest experience of their lives and they’re bringing the entire school and community into the experience,” said junior Sarah Bullard, a member of the school’s women’s lacrosse team who came to Cameron wearing paint and J.J. Redick’s No. 4 Duke jersey. “I think that makes it really fun and it’s such a big deal for everyone around here.
“You either love Duke or hate Duke, and if you love them, you really love them.”
In many ways, the night had all the hallmarks of the typical Cameron bedlam.
By the time Cameron opened its doors before the game, there was a line of several hundred Duke students waiting on the sidewalk that lines “Krzyzewskiville,” the grassy plot where they camp out to get into regular-season games. Some were still wearing sunglasses even though the sun had long since set. Others were trying to down the cases of beer they had tucked under their arms before getting to the security checkpoint just outside Cameron.
The only thing that was missing was Krzyzewski and his players, though they’ll return home Tuesday afternoon for a campus celebration.
Tags: College Sports, Duke, Durham, Lacrosse, Men's Basketball, North America, North Carolina, United States, Women's Lacrosse, Women's Sports