KU coach Bill Self, Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey talk in the postgame press conference following the Jayhawks' 68-61 loss to Duke on Nov. 23, 2011.
Lahaina, Hawaii Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had a good look at guard Tyler Thornton’s back-breaking three-pointer with 20 seconds left.
“It’s a dream shot,” Krzyzewski said following Duke’s 68-61 victory over Kansas University on Wednesday night. “We’re lucky. People will say it’s a lucky shot, and I will tell you, I’m lucky to have him on my team to shoot the shot.
“Sometimes, you’re just on a bus with a guy that deserves to win. For that moment, we were on his bus, and thank goodness he knew how to drive it.”
Thornton, whose shot extended Duke’s lead to 66-61, was defended closely on the play by KU guard Elijah Johnson.
“When Seth (Curry) kicked me the ball, I looked at the shot clock, and there were three seconds,” Thornton said. “I just tried to get up a good shot. Once it left my hand, I kind of felt like it was going to be good, and I’m lucky it was.”
The high-arching attempt beat the shot-clock buzzer and ended any KU hopes of a comeback.
KU coach Bill Self said after the game that Thornton might not have even seen the basket because he was covered so closely.
“I saw the rim, but it was a tough shot,” Thornton said. “I think Johnson was on me and contested really well.”
Krzyzewski said that when the play clock runs under five seconds, the Duke coaches call out a color, which indicates the player with the ball should shoot it.
That same scenario played out five times during the tournament, and Thornton had the ball each time. Krzyzewski said Thornton scored on four of those five possessions.
“I couldn’t believe he got the shot off,” Krzyzewski said of Thornton’s final three. “Getting the shot off, that was the main thing, because then you keep the clock running, and you’ve got a chance for an offensive rebound. It going in was obviously amazing.”
Krzyzewski also lauded forward Mason Plumlee, who posted 17 points and 12 rebounds against KU.
“I’ve done this a long time. That was the key to the game,” Krzyzewski said. “I know he didn’t make the all-tournament team or whatever, but he made my team. We don’t win this championship without him.”
Asked why he was so fired up on the sideline during most the game, Krzyzewski said he did it for his players.
“I want to win,” Krzyzewski said. “I wanted them to see I haven’t retired yet.”