Louisville’s 17th consecutive victory of 1985-86 was by far its most consequential.
The Cardinals captured the school’s second national title in six years in front of more than 16,000 at Reunion Arena in Dallas with a 72-69 victory over Duke and star guard Johnny Dawkins.
The Cardinals and Blue Devils were joined in Dallas by LSU and Kansas.
Duke, its coach Mike Krzyzewski said, played as well as it could in losing the title game, its first defeat in 22 games.
The first 25 minutes was Dawkins’ own showcase. He had 22 points with 15:28 remaining in the game and the Blue Devils, who would finish 37-3, held a six-point lead.
Duke’s standout senior would go the rest of the way scoring only two more points.
Louisville continually threw fresh bodies at him, including Milt Wagner, Kevin Walls, Tony Kimbro and Jeff Hall, who drew most of the assignment down the stretch.
“What you’ve got to do to guard him is keep him from getting the ball,” Hall said after the game. “I’m a pretty good player when it comes to face-guarding a player.”
Louisville’s fabulous freshman center, “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison, was the tournament’s MVP, scoring 25 points and collecting 11 rebounds in the final.
Ellison hit two free throws late to seal the victory.
“I’m pretty sure I get nervous at times,” Ellison said. “We had a shoot-around earlier today. All I shot was free throws. It helped when I made the first one. I relaxed on the second one.
National semifinal: Game 1
Duke 71, Kansas 67: Duke freshman forward Danny Ferry played the role of hero twice. With 23 seconds left, Mark Alarie missed an 18-footer, but Ferry swooped in to gain control of the loose ball and scored uncontested for what turned out to be the game-winning points. The Jayhawks had a chance to tie, but Ferry again was in the right place, stepping in and taking a charge as Kansas’ Ron Kellogg drove from the left wing with 11 seconds left.
By the numbers
24Points for Duke’s Johnny Dawkins, which led all scorers. Ron Kellogg had 22 for KU.
8Rebounds for Duke’s Mark Alarie and Kansas’ Cedric Hunter, game highs.
15Points combined for Kansas starters Cedric Hunter, Danny Manning and Greg Dreiling, matching their combined fouls for the game.
He said it
“I caught them napping.” — Duke freshman Danny Ferry
National semifinal: Game 2
Louisville 88, Louisiana State 77: The Cardinals spent the first half sleepwalking, but awoke to outscore the Tigers by 19 in the last 20 minutes and erase an eight-point halftime deficit. Louisville shot almost 64 percent in the second half and with a harassing defense held LSU to 35 percent.
By the numbers
22Points, game-high-tying, by Louisville’s Milt Wagner and Billy Thompson and LSU’s Don Redden.
22-11Double-double in points and assists for Wagner, the Cardinals’ senior guard who played in three Final Fours for Louisville (1982, 83, ’86).
13Rebounds for Louisville’s Pervis Ellison, who led all players.
He said it
“We had a good little run there in the second half. Even though we were behind at the half, the tempo was to our liking.” — Louisville coach Denny Crum
Louisville 72, Duke 69: The Cardinals made up for 24 turnovers by shooting 58 percent from the field and outrebounding the Blue Devils by 12, including the biggest by Pervis Ellison, who gathered up Jeff Hall’s miss and scored from 3 feet to put Louisville up three with 39 seconds left. “I saw it would be short,” Ellison said afterward. “It felt like I was the only one who jumped.”
By the numbers
27-13Rebounding margin Louisville’s starting front line of Herbert Crook, Billy Thompson and Pervis Ellison held over Duke’s David Henderson, Mark Alarie and Jay Bilas, who all fought through foul trouble.
17-8Louisville’s scoring margin over Duke in the last 7:19 of the game to help the Cardinals overcome a 61-55 deficit.
2Made shot attempts by the Blue Devils in the last 7:19 on 12 attempts.
He said it
“We wanted to pressure them and force a bad shot. We did. We just didn’t block them out. They’re a difficult team to keep off the boards.” — Duke senior Mark Alarie
How’d they get there?
No. 1 Duke (Coach: Mike Krzyzewski) The Blue Devils advanced with victories over No. 16 Mississippi Valley State, Old Dominion, DePaul and a 21-point victory over seventh-seed Navy and David Robinson in the East Region final.
No. 1 Kansas (Coach: Larry Brown) The Jayhawks earned a trip by defeating No. 16 North Carolina AT&T, Temple, No. 5 Michigan State and No. 6 North Carolina State.
No. 11 Louisiana State (Coach: Dale Brown) The unlikely journey to Dallas included victories over Nos. 6, 4 and 2, Memphis, Illinois and Georgia Tech, and finally No. 1 Kentucky in the Southeast Region final.
No. 2 Louisville (Coach: Denny Crum) The West Region’s second seed opened with an expected victory over Drexel, followed by three more over Bradley, North Carolina and Auburn in the regional final.
Texans in the tournament
• Southwest Conference tournament champion Texas Tech, a No. 13 seed led by current North Texas coach Tony Benford, lost to No. 4 Georgetown 70-64 in the opening round.
• UT El Paso, a 10 seed, fell in the first round to No. 7 Bradley, 83-65.
First team All-America
|F||Walter Berry||St. John’s|
Second team All-America
|C||Brad Daugherty||N. Carolina|
|G/F||Ron Harper||Miami (Oh.)|
|G||Scott Skiles||Michigan St.|
|G||Dell Curry||Va. Tech|
Naismith National Player of the Year: Johnny Dawkins, Duke