We witnessed a basketball classic Sunday afternoon as the Duke Blue Devils overcame a four point deficit to defeat the University of Central Florida 77-76 in a thriller. This was a back and forth affair with UCF matching point for point throughout most of the game with the lead changing hands . No one was in total command right up to the final buzzard. But it was a game for the ages. There are so many highlights to cover in this game but the most thrilling moments were in the final 90 seconds.
With time running down on the clock UCF held a three point lead 76-73 and in possession of the ball . Two UCF players sprung loose and broke down the court with only one Duke defender. The ball carrier spots his UCF partner and passes off to him for what appears to be an easy layup shot for two points that would have given UCF a commanding lead of 5 points. Inexplicably , the UCF player misses the shot and Duke quickly recovers and races down the court, 22.3 seconds and counting. It looked like Duke was setting up for a three pointer with time running out but the looks were not there . They were getting desperate. Tacko Fall , with four fouls and in jeopardy of fouling out with a 5th foul was parked under the basket using his giant 7 foot 6 inch frame to bat down any ball within reach of the rim. With no choice but to go for two points star forward Zion Williamson punched his way through a crowd and lunged forward at the basket . With Tacko Fall trying to block Zion Williamson’s shot he inadvertently foul him just as Williamson was releasing the ball . Result- two points for Duke, Foul for Fall- which immediately takes him out of the game; and gives Duke a free throw on the foul and a chance to tie the game with 11 seconds on the clock! The score now is 76-75 UCF still leading.
Here we go! Williamson standing at the free throw line- takes the shot and MISSES- OH NO! And UCF is thinking – OH YES!. But wait. The ball hits the rim and goes directly to R. J. Barrett who dunks it in the basket. Duke takes the lead 77-76. Now with 8.1 seconds on the clock UCF calls a time out . Suspense is building to a feverish pitch. A basket for UCF and we have a HUGE upset in the making folks.
UCF in bounds the ball to B.J. Taylor who dribbles the ball for a few more seconds to get into a good position to make a shot and basket. He sees an opening and charges to the net…he goes up to deliver a layup shot….hearts in the stadium are racing at break neck speed in anticipation…Duke side line coaches, players and fans agonizingly watch….UCF Coaches , players and fans smell victory. The ball hits the back board and what do you know, it immediately comes to a UCF player and with less than two seconds on the clock he instinctively slams it toward the basket … start the victory march UCF…but wait! The ball instead circles three quarters around the rim- time seemed to stop right there. AND SO WE WILL STOP TIME RIGHT HERE , RIGHT NOW.
Think of it, the #1 NCAA team in the tournament. Favored by Millions in their basketball bracket pools. Darlings of the media. Having the best four starting freshman in many decades. Now on the verge of elimination. Central Florida was about to send the Basketball world into a state of shock!
Back to the game. The ball hung on that rim for what seemed like eternity. But it refused to drop and Duke secured the win…just barely. Hats off to the University of Central Florida. They played their hearts out. Duke lives and moves on to the Round of 16.
The biggest winner? You the fans. Let’s all applause for we got to see one hell of a basketball game.