Duke versus the University of Central Florida was an interesting matchup on paper, the 7’6 Tacko Fall and the 6’7, 280lb Zion Williamson would go at it. Most of the pre-game hype centered around the physical gifts that both players possess but the show was stolen by the son of former Duke great Johnny Dawkins. Aubrey Dawkins had a game for the ages and nearly packed the bags for the Blue Devils with his stellar play. Dawkins scored 32 points on 12-18 shooting, hit 5-7 from beyond the arc and had 4 assists and 3 steals. Aubrey was on a mission. Duke countered with their own superman, Zion Williamson who added his own 32 points, going 3-7 from beyond the arc and shooting 12-24 from the field, pulling down 12 boards. In addition, for Duke, they got double figure efforts from Cam Reddish who hit 3-4 from beyond the arc for 13 points, R.J. Barrett who added 16 on 6-15 shooting – Barrett also grabbed 8 rebounds. Tre Jones added 11 points on 5-15 shooting while dishing 4 assists.
Senior center Tacko Fall was as impressive and imposing as expected, blocking 3 shots and shooting 7-10 from the field for 15 points. Defensively, the Knights did what they were supposed to do, they packed it in against the Blue Devils, daring them to beat them over the top. The Blue Devils, while not a great shooting team from beyond the arc, responded with 10-25 effort (40%) from 3.
With 14 second remaining Zion Williamson drove the basketball toward the towering Tacko Fall. Williamson scored the basket and got the foul call on Fall. The basket drew the Blue Devils to within 1 but Williamson missed the tying free throw. R.J. Barrett was able to grab the rebound and lay it up to give Duke the 1 point lead with 11 seconds left.
No one said it was supposed to be easy and it wasn’t. Whether you believe the story lines had anything to do with it or not – it was an instant classic. The Blue Devils and the Knights battled it out in a gritty, physical game and with both teams deserving of the win the Blue Devils got a little lucky. Just as last years Duke team’s fortunes hung on a Grayson Allen shot that teetered around the rim before falling off – this seasons fortunes similarly teetered but this time it was a put back attempt on a shot missed by guard B.J. Taylor from Aubrey Dawkins who narrowly missed a tip in that would have propelled Dawkins and company into the Sweet Sixteen. A razor-thin 77-76 margin for the overall number 1 seed.
Duke will face ACC foe Virginia Tech in the next round in Washington, D.C.