clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Thoughts On Duke-UCF

What a tremendous game that was.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

UCF v Duke
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA - MARCH 24: Zion Williamson #1 2 and RJ Barrett #5 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrate after defeating the UCF Knights in the second round game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on March 24, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Duke-UCF game was so overwhelming that it didn’t even occur to us to look at the box score until this morning and when we finally did, a few things jumped out.

First of all: Javin DeLaurier is playing his best basketball at the right time. Not only has he done yeoman’s work while Marques Bolden has been out or limited, he’s been smart and very effective.

Against UCF, DeLaurier had eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Critically, while he had four fouls, after he got in foul trouble he played intelligently. And we don't know how many people managed to block a shot by 7-6 Tacko Fall this season but it can’t be too many. How many guys block a shot by a player who is eight inches taller?

He wasn’t the only guy who was in deep trouble. Cam Reddish had four and still managed 32 minutes. He also shot better than we thought, hitting 5-8 and 3-4 from deep.

Zion Williamson, who typically takes about 16-17 shots and hits around 11-12 of them, was far less efficient, taking 24 and hitting half. That’s largely because Fall was in the lane and made a lot of his normal points impossible. He took seven three pointers which we’re guessing is a career high before actually looking. Yep - his previous high was five against Syracuse in the loss in Cameron as Duke struggled with Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone.

Another consequence of an effective 7-6 player in the lane: Duke only took 12 foul shots and hit just seven. Williamson had seven attempts and hit five; Barrett hit 2-3 and DeLaurier, who has improved to 56.3 percent from the line, whiffed on a pair.

Johnny D’s starters shot 24-49. Of that, Fall and Aubrey Dawkins took 28 shots and hit 19 for 67.8 percent.

Fall is understandable. Most of his shots are dunks and he doesn’t really have to jump to do it. The bigger surprise is that he missed three shots. And Dawkins was just off the charts.

The hidden stat though is this: senior PG BJ Taylor shot just 20 percent from the floor but 90 percent from the line, hitting 9-10.

And while Duke hit a respectable - and for this team outstanding - 40 percent from three point range (10-25), UCF hit 50 percent (9-18). Of those Duke threes, one was from Jordan Goldwire, whose confidence is almost growing visually. He again had a significant influence defensively.

Small nugget: DeLaurier, Barrett and Williamson all out rebounded Fall. DeLaurier and Barrett had eight each while Williams had 11. Fall had six.

Duke nearly doubled UCF on offensive boards with 13 to seven for the Knights.

Duke had to go without Jack White. White has had an up and down season in some respects, particularly on offense, but has been a solid rebounder and defender throughout. He did practice this week but is recovering from a hamstring injury.

As we said before the tournament field was selected, UCF was a nightmare matchup for Duke. We said that based on the idea that Fall would make life inside very difficult, which he indeed did. We didn't know that young Dawkins would go off in the way he did, obviously.

As we learned after the game, on Duke’s final possession, Williamson was prepared to take a three before Tre Jones urged him to drive.

That bit of on-court coaching was really smart because Williamson went right at Fall. Fall has become a much better player under the tutelage of Johnny Dawkins, but he’s still a bit awkward and he's not quick. He fouled Williamson which basically set up the rest of the game: Williamson scored but missed the free throw which Barrett rebounded and put back in, putting Duke up 77-76.

But before that, DeLaurier rebounded Williamson’s missed three pointer and that shouldn’t be overlooked. He was an unsung hero of this game.

His rebound allowed Duke to score four points in three seconds and to take the lead.

On UCF’s final play, as we noted after the game, Barrett made what was for him a rare mistake that nearly cost Duke the game: he lost track of Dawkins. They were near the foul line but Dawkins reacted while Barrett - who is still a very young player despite his poise and remarkable accomplishments - watched the play.

That’s a split second thing. In the championship game between UNC and Villanova in 2016, there was a key play at the end where Isaiah Hicks hesitated just for a fraction of a second and guessed wrong. When he recovered, he missed the block by a bare wisp.

That can be the margin of victory.

For UCF, it was just as close but in their case, the ball rolled off. Had Barrett followed Dawkins in - or reacted first - he might have pressured the shot more or blocked it.

Or fouled.

Who knows?

UCF lost obviously and in the most painful way possible. Anyone who listened to Johnny Dawkins speak to his team as they sobbed loudly will understand.

Understand this too though: with this game, UCF announced its arrival on the national stage. Dawkins is a gifted coach and communicator and this loss will lead to other wins later, both on the court and the recruiting trail.

Johnny is just in his third season at UCF. His record so far is 67-34 which is a great start. This game underscores the promise his program has and a lot of young players are going to be able to see a future there.

It’s a painful loss today but in the long term?

This game is a huge win for Dawkins and the UCF brand.

If you're going to shop Amazon please start here and help DBR
DBR Auctions|Blue Healer Auctions| Drop us a line