UCF coach gave a stirring, tearful speech to his team after they came within inches of knocking off Duke

johnny dawkins@UCF_MBB / TwitterUCF coach Johnny Dawkins was proud of his players after they fell just short of the biggest upset of March Madness.@UCF_MBB / Twitter

  • On Sunday UCF came within inches of knocking out Duke in what would have been the biggest upset of March Madness yet.
  • Instead, Duke held on, eliminating the UCF Knights in heartbreaking fashion.
  • After the game, UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins offered his team an emotional speech in the locker room.

The unfortunate truth of March Madness is that for all but one team, the tournament means a disappointing end to the season.

For some teams, just making the tournament was a success in itself, but when you come close to advancing only to watch as the game-winning shot rattles out of the basket, the trip home can be an emotional one.

It's likely that no team had a more challenging time cleaning out their lockers after the first weekend of March Madness than the No. 9 UCF Knights, who came within inches of taking down top-ranked Duke on Sunday in the round of 32.

Read more: 'It can't get any closer than that:' Duke barely survives against UCF to avoid the biggest upset of March Madness

The Blue Devils barely escaped against UCF, with the win coming thanks in large part to a heroic effort from superstar Zion Williamson, who finished the game with 32 points and 11 rebounds.

Even with that stat line, it wouldn't have mattered had the Knights final put-back attempt hit the backboard a bit softer. Instead, Aubrey Dawkins' tip-in refused to fall, eliminating UCF and sending Duke through to the Sweet 16.

After the game, UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins - Aubrey's father - gave a stirring speech in the Knights' locker room while emotions were still running high.

"We end in tears. That's because we invested so much in each other," Dawkins said, as tears were shed in the locker room. "I love you guys. It's been amazing coaching this group, and for us, we got a lot of good memories, we accomplished a lot of amazing things this year."

You can watch Dawkins' speech below:

It was a devastating way to lose a basketball game and for a season to end. Even Coach K admitted after the game that UCF was "deserving of winning" the contest.

Read more: Coach K gave an emotional interview after Duke's narrow victory saying UCF was 'deserving of winning'

Regardless of the result though, Coach Hawkins was proud of his players and their effort on Sunday.

While it was a disappointing ending, UCF did have quite a run through March Madness this year, winning their first NCAA tournament game in the opening round, and coming inches shy of knocking out the best team in the country.

With the loss, the Knights will head home, while Duke will fight on to the Sweet 16 to face No. 4 Virginia Tech.

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