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MARCH SADNESS: UCF Misses Its One Shining Moment by Millimeters

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Duke escapes UCF’s valiant effort after Taylor’s and Dawkins’ last-second shots somehow roll out

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Duke vs UCF
No words.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

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:

Highlights

The NCAA put up the final seven minutes of this game, and really that’s all you needed to see.

Reaction

The tears are real. And they hurt.

Three Takeaways

So. Close.

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.

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.

HOW:

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.