When you watch the last 8.1 seconds of the Duke-UCF game closely you notice a few things.
First, it was a good thing that Zion Williamson fouled Tacko Fall out on Duke’s last possession other than the final rebound.
Second, UCF wanted to get the ball to point guard BJ Taylor and ran him through a screen set by #35 Colin Smith which was intended to pick off Tre Jones. Jones went around it though and forced Taylor out farther than expected, out into the March Madness logo (his foot was in the H).
We’ve talked before about how Jones has a knack for running in a way that would make most people lose their balance or at least run more carefully.
Aubrey Dawkins faked a screen and went left, while Jones ran next to Taylor with his hands in the air.
It seems like an odd skill but it’s incredibly valuable for a defender. He forced Taylor to shoot earlier than he wanted to and the shot rimmed out.
That part was down to great defense.
Dawkins meanwhile darted past RJ Barrett, who was guarding him, and headed straight for the basket where he was unguarded for the tip-in.
That he missed was just luck. No one boxed him out. We don’t think he was thinking at that point, just reacting, but he was surely aware that he was in position to be the hero, that his tip-in would topple the #1 seed in the tournament, the team his father once starred for and where he worked as an assistant for a decade while Aubrey grew up shooting in Cameron, playing pickup with the Duke players.
Jones’ defense was the result of his tenacity and his strength and uncanny balance. The miss by Dawkins was sheer luck.
The ball came off to Zion Williamson but Dawkins popped it loose and it went out to Barrett, who, no doubt relieved that his lapse didn’t cost Duke the game, threw the ball in the air.
Under the basket, as it popped out, a helpless Terrell Allen clutched his head in despair. So close to an upset, UCF’s fate came down to an unlucky roll (for them).
It reminded us a bit of the 2010 game against Butler where there were several plays in the last few seconds that could have individually determined the game. Brian Zoubek made most of the right decisions and made it impossible for Butler to win. About the only play at the end of the game he didn’t influence was Gordon Hayward’s final, incredible desperation shot which missed, ESPN later determined, by the width of a shoelace.
This game was just about as close. Dawkins could have easily hit that shot and then we’d be talking about the end of Duke’s remarkable season rather than UCF’s stout heart and effort.
Take a closer look. Luck isn’t how you want to win but, under the circumstances, we’ll take it.
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