Zion Williamson took on 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall at the end and won. So did top-seeded Duke — barely — when two last-ditch shots by Central Florida rolled off the rim.
Williamson had 32 points and helped rally the Blue Devils from behind in the final minute for a 77-76 victory in Columbia, S.C., on Sunday to reach the Sweet 16.
Aubrey Dawkins finished with 32 points for the ninth-seeded Knights, but his tip-in try just missed in the final seconds.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski “talks a lot about the basketball gods,” a happy Williamson said. “They had our backs today.”
Williamson was key to the comeback. He made a layup over Fall with 14.4 seconds left to cut Duke’s deficit to a point as Fall fouled out on the play. Williamson missed the free-throw attempt, but RJ Barrett scored on a putback to put the Blue Devils (31-5) ahead.
Barrett said he had watched plenty of NCAA Tournament games in which players missed foul shots and an offensive rebound could have made the difference.
“I was going to do whatever I can to get this rebound,” he said.
Central Florida (24-9) had a final chance. Two of them, actually, from in close.
B.J. Taylor missed a short jumper, and Dawkins failed on his tip attempt with less than two seconds left, the ball spinning off the rim. Duke got the rebound, ran out the clock and advanced to the Sweet 16 for 27th time and fourth time in the past five years.
“It was up there forever. I felt like, in slow motion,” Dawkins said of his tip-in attempt. “Once I saw it go past the midpoint and roll out, it was, at that point, nothing left to do. Heartbreak. That’s the only way to sum it up.”
Duke will face Virginia Tech in the next round.
Virginia Tech 67, Liberty 58: At SAP Center in San Jose, Kerry Blackshear had 19 points and nine rebounds to help the fourth-seeded Hokies (25-8) beat the 12th-seeded Flames (29-7) and advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 52 years. Ahmed Hill added 14 points and Justin Robinson scored 13 for Virginia Tech. Caleb Homesley, who had 30 points in Liberty’s first-round win over Mississippi State, was held to eight points on 3-for-11 shooting.
Oregon 73, UC Irvine 54: Payton Pritchard scored 18 points and Louis King added 16 to lead the Ducks (25-12) past the Anteaters (31-6) in San Jose as Oregon became the lone double-digit seed and Pac-12 sqaud to advance to the Sweet 16. The 12th-seeded Ducks went more than seven minutes without scoring to start the second half as they squandered a 12-point lead, then used a 15-3 run to take control and end a 17-game winning streak for 13th-seeded UC Irvine. Oregon next will play Virginia.
Tennessee 83, Iowa 77: After the second-seeded Volunteers let a 25-point first-half lead evaporate, Grant Williams scored six points in overtime to lead Tennessee (31-5) past the 10th-seeded Hawkeyes (23-12) in Columbus, Ohio. Williams hit two free throws and two jumpers in the extra period to help the Vols — who next face Purdue — match their school record for wins in a season. He finished with 19 points and seven rebounds. Admiral Schofield scored 17 of his 19 in the Vols’ blistering first half. Jordan Bohannon scored 18 points for Iowa.
Virginia 63, Oklahoma 51: Mamadi Diakite scored 14 points and had nine rebounds as the top-seeded Cavaliers (31-3) beat the ninth-seeded Sooners (20-14) in Columbia. Virginia cranked up its defense late in the first half, prompting Oklahoma to miss 14 of its final 18 shots before intermission as the Cavaliers built a 31-22 lead at the break. After a Kihel Clark rebound and putback on the first possession of the second half, Virginia’s lead didn’t dip below 10 points.
North Carolina 81, Washington 59: Luke Maye and Nassir Little each scored 20 points and the top-seeded Tar Heels (29-6) beat the ninth-seeded Huskies (27-9) in Columbus. North Carolina, which was KO’d by Texas A&M in the second round last year, will face Auburn in the region semifinals. North Carolina committed 10 turnovers in the first half but led by eight points at the break. The Tar Heels then put together a 13-0 run in the second half to take control. Jaylen Nowell had 12 points to lead Washington.
Houston 74, Ohio State 59: In Tulsa, Okla., Corey Davis scored 21 points as the third-seeded Cougars (33-3) beat the 11th-seeded Buckeyes (20-15) to set a school record for wins in a season and earn their first Sweet 16 berth in 35 years. Galen Robinson added 13 points for Houston, which next will face Kentucky. C.J. Jackson scored 18 points for Ohio State.
Texas Tech 78, Buffalo 58: In Tulsa, Jarrett Culver had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Norense Odiase added 14 points and 15 rebounds for the third-seeded Red Raiders (28-6) against the sixth-seeded Bulls (32-4). Nick Perkins had 17 points and 10 rebounds and CJ Massinburg added 14 points for Buffalo, which had won its previous 13 games. Texas Tech, which next faces Michigan, had two big runs in the first half and dominated in the second. Buffalo didn’t score its first field goal in the second half until more than seven minutes had elapsed.
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