COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA – Zion Williamson took on 7-foot-6 (229-cm) Tacko Fall at the end and won. So did top-seeded Duke — barely — when two last-ditch shots by UCF 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 Sunday to reach the Sweet 16.
Aubrey Dawkins finished with 32 points for the Knights, but his tip-in try missed in the final seconds.
Duke 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 draw Duke within a point as Fall fouled out on the play. Williamson missed the free throw, 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 where 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.
Ninth-seeded UCF (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-in attempt with less than two seconds left, the ball spinning off the rim. Duke got the rebound, ran out the clock and moved on 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.
Dawkins cringed at the miss. His father, Johnny, is the UCF coach and was a former Duke star and longtime assistant under Krzyzewski. The two coaches shared a long embrace at midcourt after it was over.
“It’s tough,” the elder Dawkins said. “I love that man. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Barrett finished with 16 points.
It looked as if Dawkins might take down his dad’s alma mater in the NCAAs.
His last basket broke a 70-70 tie, and when Fall dunked Taylor’s miss — the play was reviewed for a possible shot-clock violation — the Knights were ahead 74-70.
UCF missed a huge chance to go up six when it couldn’t connect on an alley-oop dunk attempt with 1:49 left — Dayon Griffin’s lob went off Dawkins’ hands as he soared toward the rim — and Cam Reddish came back with a 3-pointer for Duke. Taylor it made 76-73 with two foul shots with 45 seconds to go.
Williamson then missed a 3, but Duke grabbed the rebound and got the ball back to their high-flying freshman. Williams caught a pass left of the key and dribbled straight into Fall’s 7-6 (229-cm), 310-pound (141-kg) frame.
Fall had stuffed Williamson three previous times, and Duke’s young star was less effective underneath than he’d been his past four games. But Williamson got this shot to drop, shouting as he fell hard to the ground.
“I just tried to stay big and make a play,” Fall said. “Obviously, I was in foul trouble, so I was being careful. But I just tried to make a play and make him miss and it didn’t go my way.”
When Duke dribbled away with the final rebound, Williamson and his teammates jumped in celebration and relief. They were moving on.
Duke will face fourth-seeded Virginia Tech in Washington, D.C., on Friday night for a spot in the Elite Eight.
Virginia Tech 67, Liberty 58
In San Jose, California, Kerry Blackshear had 19 points and nine rebounds as fourth-seeded Virginia Tech topped No. 12 seed Liberty to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 52 years.
Ahmed Hill added 14 points and Justin Robinson scored 13 to help the Hokies (25-8) beat their in-state rivals.
Virginia 63, Oklahoma 51
In Columbia, South Carolina, surprise starter Mamadi Diakite scored 14 points and had nine rebounds as No. 1 seed Virginia led for nearly the entire game against ninth-seeded Oklahoma.
The Cavaliers (31-3) where ahead for all but three minutes of the second-round contest and cranked up its trademark, stifling defense. The Sooners (20-14) hit just four of their last 18 shots in the first half and trailed 31-22 at the break.
Tennessee 83, Iowa 77 (OT)
In Columbus, Ohio, two-time SEC player of the year Grant Williams scored six points in overtime and the second-seeded Volunteers held off No. 10 seed Iowa to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in three years.
Williams had a pair of free throws, two jumpers, and a strip in overtime that helped the Vols (31-5) pull it out and match their school record for wins in a season.
Oregon 73, UC Irvine 54
In San Jose, California, Ehab Amin snapped Oregon out of a long drought to start the second half and the 12th-seeded Ducks became the only double-digit seed to advance to the Sweet 16.
Payton Pritchard led Oregon (25-12) with 18 points, Louis King added 16 and Amin had 12 points and three steals. The Ducks have won 10 straight after a lackluster start to the season and will play top-seeded Virginia in the South Regional semifinal on Thursday.
North Carolina 81, Washington 59
In Columbus, Ohio, Luke Maye and Nassir Little each scored 20 points and top-seeded North Carolina breezed past No. 9 seed Washington.
Maye added 14 rebounds for North Carolina.
Houston 74, Ohio St. 59
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, Corey Davis scored 21 points to help third-seeded Houston defeat No. 11 seed Ohio State.
It marked the Cougars’ 33rd win of the season — breaking the record set by the 1983-84 team for the most wins in a season. That squad was the last to reach the Sweet 16 and advanced to the national final.
Texas Tech 78, Buffalo 58
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jarrett Culver had 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in third-seeded Texas Tech’s rout of Buffalo in the West Region.
Norense Odiase contributed a season-high 14 points and 15 rebounds for Texas Tech (28-6), which has won 11 of its last 12 contests and reached the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.