UCF Came This Close to Beating Duke

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA - MARCH 24: Terrell Allen #2 of the UCF Knights reacts after being defeated by Duke Blue Devils in the second round game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on March 24, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Knights did everything to win (except win). Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

We were lucky,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the Blue Devils’ 77-76 win over UCF in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. Watch the final possession of their second-round victory, and you’ll probably agree with the coach’s assessment.

The Knights were but a few centimeters away from taking down the overall No. 1 seed, but Aubrey Dawkins’ desperate put-back at the death danced off the cylinder. Last year’s Duke team had a chance to go to the Final Four, but their attempt at a game-winner rimmed out in similar fashion. The squad has undergone wholesale changes since that exit, and it was a combination of two new faces that gave the Blue Devils their late lead.

The most anticipated storyline heading into the game was Tacko Fall vs. Zion Williamson, and the two met at center stage for the most important play of the evening. Duke’s Herculean forward spun in lane, collided with UCF’s 7-foot-6 center, and somehow managed to squeak the ball into the hoop to cut the Knights’ lead to 1.

The foul was Fall’s fifth, and he had to watch from the bench as Williamson took the ensuing free throw attempt. He missed, but fellow freshman R.J. Barrett nabbed the rebound and gave the Blue Devils the lead.

UCF’s miss at the end was particularly cruel for Dawkins, as the guard (and son of Knights head coach Johnny Dawkins) went toe-to-toe with Williamson all night. Both Dawkins and the presumptive top pick in this year’s NBA Draft scored 32 points, but it was the 2 points that Dawkins couldn’t convert that made all the difference. Lucky or not, Duke is heading to the Sweet Sixteen.