Duke has survived the most intense game of the NCAA tournament. The Blue Devils beat UCF, 77-76, to advance to the Sweet 16 despite a frantic final minute where it looked like the Knights were primed to pull the upset.
Duke trailed by three on its final offensive possession when Zion Williamson missed a three-pointer. Duke grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked it back out to Williamson, who finished over UCF giant Tacko Fall for an and-one bucket to cut the deficit to one. Williamson missed the ensuring free throw, but teammate R.J. Barrett collected the offensive rebound and put in the go-ahead bucket to give Duke the lead.
UCF had one final chance, but missed a shot at the rim for the win.
The Blue Devils’ national championship dreams are alive. UCF goes out with heartbreak after an incredible performance that had the No. 1 overall seed on the ropes. These are the three things we learned in Duke’s last second victory.
Zion Williamson saved Duke when it mattered most
Duke never would have lived down losing in the first weekend of the tournament with Zion Williamson. They survived thanks to another incredible performance from their star freshman, who finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and the most clutch bucket of the game in the final possession.
Williamson hit three three-pointers, finished in the paint over Tacko Fall, and provided enough defense to keep the Blue Devils alive.
Zion owes Barrett a thank you, as well. Without his rebound, Williamson’s college career would have ended on a missed free throw.
UCF was so impressive in defeat
The Knights were so close to pulling off the upset.
Audrey Dawkins was incredible, finishing with 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 shooting from three-point range. Tacko Fall had 15 points, six rebounds, and three blocks before fouling out. As a team, UCF hit 50 percent of its 18 attempts from three-point range.
UCF did everything it could to win except for convert on the final possession. March can be the cruelest month.
This was the best game of the tournament by far
The first two rounds of the NCAA tournament haven’t been as exciting as they usually are. No buzzer-beaters, lots of blowouts, and few big upsets will make that happen. Finally, March Madness gave us a thriller: there hasn’t been a more intense game in this tournament than Duke’s comeback victory.
Williamson’s college career lives to see another day. UCF gave Duke everything it could handle, but it’s the Blue Devils who advance to the Sweet 16.