COLUMBIA, S.C. — 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 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 just 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 R.J. 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 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.
Williamson, the game’s most explosive player, was clearly affected by Fall. Who would not be as the Knights senior stood 11 inches taller than Williamson and has a wingspan of 8 feet 4?
With Fall inside, Williamson went to the perimeter, hitting three 3-pointers after entering with just 18 on the season. When Fall was hit with foul trouble, Williamson charged to the hoop.
Fall finished with 15 points and six rebounds in his final college game.
Virginia 63, Oklahoma 51: COLUMBIA, S.C. — Surprise starter Mamadi Diakite scored 14 points and had nine rebounds as No. 1 seed Virginia beat Oklahoma, leading nearly the entire game. The Cavaliers (31-3) led for all but three minutes of the second-round contest and cranked up their 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.
Virginia Tech 67, Liberty 58: SAN JOSE, Calif. — Kerry Blackshear had 19 points and nine rebounds as fourth-seeded Virginia Tech topped 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.
Tennessee 83, Iowa 77: COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two-time SEC player of the year Grant Williams scored six points in overtime, and Tennessee held off Iowa to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014. Tenth-seeded Iowa (23-12) fell behind by 25 points and nearly pulled off a monumental upset, sending it to overtime tied at 71, the first overtime game in this year’s tournament.
Houston 74, Ohio St. 59: TULSA, Okla. — Corey Davis scored 21 points to help Houston defeat 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.
North Carolina 81, Washington 59: COLUMBUS, Ohio — Luke Maye and Nassir Little each scored 20 points, and top-seeded North Carolina breezed past Washington. The Tar Heels (29-6) never trailed. Maye added 14 rebounds for North Carolina. Pac-12 player of the year Jaylen Nowell paced Washington (28-8) with 12 points.
Texas Tech 78, Buffalo 58: TULSA, Okla. —Jarrett Culver had 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in third-seeded Texas Tech’s rout of Buffalo. 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. Nick Perkins had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Buffalo (32-4).