The UCF Knights had the Duke Blue Devils - the best team in the nation - on the ropes all day, but in the final seconds, a putback of a missed free throw and two in-and-out layups ended the Knights’ season, 77-76, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
It was valiant. Heartbreaking. Exhilarating. Gut-wrenching. Insane.
It was March.
We’re going to try to analyze this from an objective standpoint and save the emotional stuff for later processing because it’s all just too raw and hurts so bad.
So here we go:
The NCAA put up the final seven minutes of this game, and really that’s all you needed to see.
The tears are real. And they hurt.
It defies belief how a round ball can roll out of a round hoop twice in this fashion:
Each time I watch it, I keep thinking it’s going in.
BJ on his last shot: "It kills me" that it didn't fall. #UCF— Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy) March 25, 2019
Aubrey Dawkins: "Heartbreak. That's the only way you can describe it."— Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy) March 25, 2019
Said it felt like the ball hanged on the rim for an "eternity." #UCF
Johnny on the last shot: "I thought it was going to go ... and it just rolled out. That's part of our game." #UCF— Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy) March 25, 2019
So did everyone else.
Aubrey Dawkins is a superstar.
Aubrey Dawkins fought tooth and nail through a transfer and multiple injuries to get to this stage, and wow, did he steal that show tonight:
12/18, 32 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. 5/7 from three-point range. And he went the full 40 minutes, matching Zion Williamson point for critical point.
Due respect to what Gary Johnson did against UConn in 2005, but this was the greatest individual performance in UCF’s NCAA Tournament history.
There’s been speculation throughout the season that Aubrey might leave early for the NBA Draft. He does have one year of eligibility remaining, but he’ll also be 24 years old in May.
Tacko Fall giveth, and Tacko Fall taketh away.
All the media hype aside, this was Tacko’s big moment, and he did not disappoint. He finished 7/10 for 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks, but as it is with him, his presence on the floor radically disrupted Duke, forcing them to shoot from outside - and denying Zion Williamson at the rim three times.
To their credit, Duke made their shots - 10/25 from three-point range, well above their season average of 32% - but in the second half, when Tacko was on the floor, the jump-shooting left them, and the Knights got back into it.
But when Fall left the game due to foul trouble in the first half, Duke was +8, and his absence sparked the Blue Devils’ 12-2 run heading into halftime.
Somehow Tacko stayed out of foul trouble until the very last moments, when Williamson bully-balled his way into scoring and fouling Tacko out with :14 left:
Then came the missed free-throw and the go-ahead putback by RJ Barrett that provided the final margin:
This would have meant so much more to UCF than it did to Duke.
I’m glad I found the all-time NCAA Tournament records for both teams:
- UCF: 1-5
- Duke: 112-36
This hurts. It hurts so bad. SO BAD. If one of those two shots go in, it’s UCF’s Valparaiso moment. It’s forever.
UCF was this close to winning. Duke was this close to losing.— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 24, 2019
Only in March. pic.twitter.com/Zqh8isZQSP
We’re going to talk about this for years and it’s not going to feel any better.
I need to take a break from this. I’ll be back tomorrow.
I just can’t do this right now.