On This Date in Sports March 31, 1986: Pervis Never Nervous

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Louisville, led by freshman Pervis Ellison stuns Duke 72-69 in the NCAA Tournament Championship Game in Dallas. Ellison scores a game-high 25 points and wins the tournament's Most Outstanding Player for his efforts in the title game. It is the second National Championship for Louisville and their coach Denny Crum. The first time a freshman was named Most Outstanding Player since Adam Ferrin for Utah in 1944.

The 1985/86 season was one of change for college basketball. It was the season where the NCAA added the shot clock. The shot clock was 45 seconds that first season. It was the final year that there was no three-point line. It was also the year that Duke became a national power for coach Mike Krzyzewski. In his sixth season in Durham, the Blue Devils were ranked #1 when the regular season came to an end. A few years earlier, Coach K was nearly fired before taking Duke to the NCAA Tournament in 1984. That class came of age in 1986, posting a record of 32-2 and winning the ACC Tournament. 

Louisville had a good season, as they relied heavily on freshman Pervis Ellison who earned the nickname "Never Nervous Pervis." The Cardinals posted a record of 26-7 and earned the #2 seed in the West Region. Louisville started their tournament run with a 93-73 win over Drexel. To reach the Sweet 16, the Cardinals beat Bradley 82-68. In the West Regional Semifinals in Houston, Louisville defeated North Carolina 94-79, while they ended #8 seed Auburn's run with an 84-76 win to reach the Final Four for the seventh time in school history. 

Duke's path to the Final Four by surviving a scare against #16 seed Mississipi Valley State, winning 85-78. Their second-round game went more to plan, as the Blue Devils crushed Old Dominion 89-61. In the East Regional Semifinal at the Meadowlands, Duke slugged it out with DePaul, winning 74-67. While in the Elite Eight, Duke sunk Navy and David Robinson 71-50 to reach the Final Four. 

Rounding out the Final Four were Kansas and LSU. Kansas, the #1 seed, was no surprise as they played the regionals in Kansas City after beating North Carolina A&T and Temple. After an overtime win over Michigan State in the Sweet 16, the Jayhawks edged NC State 75-67 to reach the Final Four. LSU was a stunner, as they were the highest seed ever, at #11 to reach the Semifinals. The Tigers began their Cinderella run with a 94-78 double-overtime win over Purdue. They reached the Sweet 16 with an 83-81 win over Memphis State. In the South Regional semifinal in Atlanta, LSU shocked #2 seed Georgia Tech, while they upended #1 Kentucky 59-57. LSU had lost to their rivals three times during the season, including the SEC Tournament.

To get the championship game at Reunion Arena in Dallas, Duke edged Kansas 71-67, while Louisville defeated LSU 88-77. Duke went into the NCAA Final as the favorite, with an NCAA record 37 wins as they sought their first National Championship, having played in the title game in 1964 and 1978. Duke was controlling the pace of the championship game most of the night. They held a 37-34 lead at the half and were still leading midway through the second half. With just over seven minutes left, Duke led 71-66 when the game turned. Louisville went on an 11-4 run over the next four minutes, as Duke went into a drought from the field. Johnny Dawkins, who led the Blue Devils with 24 points, missed open shots, while Pervis Ellison took over in the paint for Louisville. The Cardinals outscored Duke 17-8 over the final 7:13, as Ellison, playing four days after his 19th birthday, sealed the win at the free-throw line.