The shot bounced off the rim, and Shane Battier swooped in, grabbed the ball with two hands and slammed it through, hanging on the hoop for a satisfying second or two.
Just like that, the All-American became a champion.
In his final game as a collegian, Battier added the sweetest entry of all to his sterling resume, dominating the final five minutes of the national title game Monday night to lift Duke to an 82-72 victory over Arizona.
Battier and coach Mike Krzyzewski shared a long hug on the court after the game. The embrace spoke of a bond that began when Battier was a prep star and was capped by a victory on college basketball's biggest night.
"It's my going-away present to him," Battier said. "Coach is the best. He's a mentor. He's a friend. He's a coach. He's a brother."
Battier's dunk with less than four minutes to play was part of a 6-point performance down the stretch that helped the Blue Devils (35-4) hold off the last of several Arizona rallies. He finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, and played the entire 40 minutes.
Sophomore Mike Dunleavy led the Blue Devils with 21 points, including three 3-pointers in 46 seconds to give Duke a 10-point lead in the second half that Arizona couldn't overcome.
The victory moved Krzyzewski further up the list of the sport's elite coaches. He tied Bob Knight, who won three championships at Indiana, and now trails Kentucky's Adolph Rupp by one. Besides them, only UCLA's John Wooden has more, with 10.
"I tell our guys, always surround yourselves with good people,"> Krzyzewski said. "It may not be your time, but if you're with them, it happens to you. I feel that about this team, and with Shane in particular. It was like a storybook. I'm glad I was in the book. I wasn't the main character, but I'm glad I was in the book."
Duke's Shane Battier talks about coach Mike Krzyzewski and the satisfaction of winning the national championship.
Arizona wove an equally intriguing tale this season, but the Wildcats wound up one victory short of a happy ending.
Loren Woods had 22 points and 11 rebounds for Arizona, the team that rebounded from a poor start and dealt with the death of coach Lute Olson's wife, Bobbi, on Jan. 1 to reach the championship game.
"All of us seniors this year, we came to college as boys and we're leaving as men," Woods said. "It's not all about Coach Olson. It's about growing up."
The loss kept the Wildcats (28-8) from matching their own record of beating three No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, as they did when they won it all in 1997.
"The thing with Duke, you pick your poison," Olson said. "Sometimes it's going to be one guy, another time it's going to be someone else. The one consistent thing is that Shane Battier is going to have a great game because he just makes things happen."
Duke's two other titles came in consecutive years, and the second in 1992 was also won at the Metrodome after an identical trip through the tournament - Greensboro, N.C., Philadelphia and Minneapolis for the Final Four.
While Battier provided the finishing touches to this victory, it was Dunleavy who opened the game up with a 3-point barrage to help Duke warm up after a 4-for-15 performance on 3-pointers in the first half.
Dunleavy was part of that problem, going 1-for-6 in the first half as his father, Portland Trail Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy, watched from the stands.
"I was feeling it, and it was good timing, too," the younger Dunleavy said. "To do it in the championship game. Wow. I'm sure some of these guys were thinking it was about time."
After Dunleavy's streak, Arizona went on a 9-0 run, capped by a hook shot by Woods to make it 50-48.
Dunleavy answered with nine more points, pushing the lead back to 10 on his last 3-pointer with 10:08 to play.
But Arizona didn't give up.
Four times, the Wildcats pulled within three points. Three times, it was Battier who responded from close range.
"My jump shot wasn't falling from 3, so I had to look for other ways to score," Battier said. "Loren Woods is such a great shot blocker, he was guarding me. A cuple of them bounced my way. I was able to get my hand on them and stick them back in."
Duke's other All-American, Jason Williams, fought through foul trouble and finished with 16 points on 5-for-15 shooting.
Battier added the Final Four's most outstanding player award to his national player of the year trophy. He finished his career with 131 victories, tying Kentucky's Wayne Turner, who played from 1996-99, for the NCAA record.
Of course, none of the wins were as sweet as the last. As the final seconds ticked down, Battier crouched low to the floor and soaked it all in.
"The national championship is so big, so vast when you talk about it," he said. "It's such a different feeling to be on the verge of it. Looking up at the clock, seeing it tick down, we're up by 10 points. I just tried to enjoy the moment."
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