Zion Williamson, No. 1 Duke Avoid Upset to No. 9 UCF; Advance to Sweet 16

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 24, 2019

Duke forward Zion Williamson (1) dribbles the ball against Central Florida during the first half of a second-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
Sean Rayford/Associated Press

Zion Williamson scored 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting as No. 1 Duke survived a scare from No. 9 UCF, 77-76, in the second round of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament Sunday.

Williamson hit a layup as he was fouled with 14 seconds left to pull the Blue Devils within 76-75.

He missed the ensuing free throw, but RJ Barrett grabbed the offensive board and made his own layup to put Duke ahead 77-76.

The Knights had two final chances down the stretch. B.J. Taylor attempted a jumper with three seconds left, but his shot did not connect. Aubrey Dawkins then flew in for a tip, but his shot rimmed out right before time expired:

Dawkins scored 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting for the Knights.

The Knights-Blue Devils matchup stands alone as the tournament's best game and one of the greatest in recent March Madness history.

Not only was the quality of play exceptional and the game eventful from start to finish, but the matchup was also rich with storylines before the tip.

First, this was a classic David vs. Goliath contest. UCF entered the game as 13.5-point underdogs, per Vegas Insider, and the Blue Devils stood as the tournament-winning favorites.

The Knights, who joined Division I hoops in 1984, had also never advanced past the first round of the NCAA tournament until this season. Duke has won five national championships.

On the sidelines, UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins played under Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski from 1982-1986 and coached alongside him from 1998-2008. Aubrey Dawkins, the son of the Knights' leader, lived in Durham, North Carolina until he was 13, per Steve Wiseman of the News & Observer.

After the game, Krzyzewski got emotional when discussing Johnny and Aubrey Dawkins, praising the two for remarkable performances:

Elsewhere, the matchup between Williamson and 7'6" UCF center Tacko Fall received much press, with Fall telling Andy Katz of NCAA.com that he wasn't going to let the future top NBA draft pick dunk on him.

Williamson didn't dunk on Fall, but he basically did everything else he wanted on Sunday. He also carried his team offensively for much of the second half, as Jeff Borzello of ESPN noted:

ESPN Stats and Info reported that Williamson's 32-point outing placed him in pretty good NCAA tournament company:

The freshman also pulled down 11 rebounds and dished four assists.

But Dawkins went blow for blow with Williamson, scoring 18 first-half points to keep UCF in the game. The Knights were down 44-36 at the half, but Dawkins went back to work in the second half thanks to 14 more points. He notably hit a jumper and then assisted on a Fall dunk to put UCF up 74-70.

A five-point swing occurred, however, when Dayon Griffin and Dawkins couldn't connect on an alley-oop with UCF on a two-on-one break. Duke then went down the floor and knocked down a three courtesy of Cam Reddish.

Dawkins then missed a jumper, but after Duke came up empty, B.J. Taylor made two free throws to increase the Knights' lead to 76-73.

The next possession ended with Duke scoring the game's final four points, during which Fall fouled out. That occurred on the Williamson shot and before Barrett swooped in for the offensive rebound and putback.

Although the end of the game didn't go Dawkins' way, UCF wouldn't have been in position to take the lead as time ran out without his sensational efforts, which clearly impressed many people.

Sam Vecenie of The Athletic thought he may have produced the game of the tournament.

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports thinks Dawkins has a bright professional future:

Dawkins also had four assists and three steals. Taylor and Fall each scored 15 for the Knights.

Barrett scored 16 points for Duke, and Reddish contributed 13.

Duke will now play No. 4 Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16 on Friday. The Knights finish their season with a 24-9 record.

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