Jared McCain, Duke aim to derail top-seeded Houston

Author:
Sportsnaut

Duke’s Jared McCain is hotter than lava, and Houston boasts the nation’s top defensive unit.

Something has to give when McCain and the fourth-seeded Blue Devils (26-8) face top-seeded Houston (32-4) in the Sweet 16 on Friday night in the South Region in Dallas.

McCain set a Duke NCAA Tournament record with eight 3-pointers in Sunday’s 93-55 trouncing of 12th-seeded James Madison in the second round. Quinn Cook held the old mark of seven, set when Duke famously was upset by Mercer in the first round of the 2014 tournament.

“I feel like every game, I’m always ready to see if I’m going to go off,” said McCain, who has a team-leading 81 treys this season. “I worked so hard, so I’m just prepared every game.”

It might be a bit harder for McCain to get open looks against the Cougars, who lead the nation in scoring defense (57.7 points per game) and field-goal- percentage defense (37.8). Houston is tied for 14th in 3-point-shooting defense at 30 percent.

McCain is tied for second with Jeremy Roach at an average of 14 points per game for the Blue Devils. Star big man Kyle Filipowski leads the team in scoring (16.6) and rebounding (8.2).

McCain scored 30 points against James Madison to become just the second Blue Devils freshman to reach the mark in an NCAA Tournament game. Zion Williamson holds the record of 32 against UCF in the 2019 tourney.

Duke coach Jon Scheyer was impressed with the performance of McCain, who also made eight 3-pointers when he scored a career-best 35 points in a victory over Florida State on Feb. 17.

“We’ve had some pretty good shooters here,” Scheyer said.

Filipowski is just pleased that Duke is playing in the second week of the tournament.

“Obviously, Jared wasn’t here last year to experience what we went through, but none of us forgot about what happened with Tennessee in the second round,” Filipowski said of a 65-52 loss. “I think that just added a little bit more fire to us, to the returning guys.”

Houston has reached the Sweet 16 for the fifth straight NCAA Tournament but also feels it didn’t advance as far as it should have last season. The Cougars were dispatched 89-75 by Miami in last year’s Sweet 16.

Houston almost was ousted Sunday before surviving 100-95 in overtime against ninth-seeded Texas A&M.

The Cougars had a 13-point lead with under four minutes left in regulation before the Aggies roared back, eventually tying the game on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Andersson Garcia. Houston managed to win the contest despite four starters fouling out.

“We just found a way,” Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson said. “All these years I’ve been doing this stuff, I don’t know if there’s a more satisfying win. Just can’t tell you how proud I am of this group. Just really, really proud of this team.”

Star point guard Jamal Shead had 21 points and 10 assists in his latest strong outing.

Shead points to the methods of Sampson as to why the Cougars are one of the elite programs in the country.

“He only gives credit when it’s earned,” Shead said. “He makes you work for it. And he always tells us, trust your work. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned here: If you put the work in, he’ll give you the opportunity to show that you put that work in.

“He has the ultimate trust in us, and we have the ultimate trust in him. He’s the best motivator I’ve ever been around in my life. Best coach I know in America. And when a guy like that trusts you, your confidence level is through the roof.”

Roach dislocated his left pinkie finger against James Madison. X-rays displayed no broken bones, and Roach plans to play on Friday.

–Field Level Media

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