great for us: Young turns into the unlikely but invaluable hero for Duke in their Sweet 16 triumph against Houston.

Great for us: Young turns into the unlikely but invaluable hero for Duke in their Sweet 16 triumph against Houston.

It could not have started worse for Duke in the opening three minutes of their Sweet 16 matchup with Houston.
The Blue Devils were reminded uncannily of their second-round defeat to Tennessee last year as a very aggressive squad pounced on them and opened an 8-0 lead before they could recover their breath. Jon Scheyer, the head coach, had to have a response quickly.

Let me introduce you to Ryan Young, a sixth-year graduate student who is well-known for his work ethic rather than his athleticism. Young, the unlikeliest of heroes against the Blue Devils’ most physically intimidating opponent this season, calmed the team’s fears and allowed Duke to get back into the game. The Blue Devils held a one-point advantage at the half, and Young’s box score indicated that he was +12. He finished the game with a team-high +18.
That is not only amazing, but priceless in a game that was decided by only three points.
Since rookie guard Caleb Foster sustained an ankle injury against Wake Forest and was forced to miss the remainder of the season, Scheyer’s bench has substantially shrunk. That would be an understatement given that, according to CBBAnalytics, Duke scored 361st out of 362 Division-I teams in their last five games before moving on to the Sweet 16.
Stars win games in March. Tyrese Proctor, a sophomore, Kyle Filipowski, and senior Jeremy Roach of the Blue Devils produced some important contributions in the closing moments of their match versus Houston. However, a club cannot depend just on its best players, particularly when facing a team that wears you out like the Cougars. Young responded to the demand for leadership from one of Duke’s key players, who was much-needed.
After the game, Filipowski said, “Without Ryan, we wouldn’t have won that game.”
“His physicality to match what they do, his defense. That seemed to make a significant impact in the game, in Scheyer’s opinion.
Houston’s play style is known for its relentlessness on the offensive boards. The Cougars are 11th in the country in terms of offensive rebounds per game, and they were poised to dominate the Blue Devils on the glass until Young arrived.
The seasoned big man was able to clean things up down by boxing out Houston’s forwards, often more than one at once. In addition to relieving some of Filipowski’s load, his presence in the paint allowed the 7-footer to jump for his own rebounds. Duke was able to shut down the Cougars defensively as soon as they could no longer depend on multiple shots per possession. Particularly when Houston’s senior guard Jamal Shead had to exit the game due to an ankle injury, the team was unable to establish any offensive rhythm, going only 20 for 49 from the field. Though it was undoubtedly a team effort, Young’s playing time on the court ignited the Blue Devils’ defensive embers.
Young’s dunk early in the second half—just his third of the season—was an explosion if his rebounding served as a spark. After receiving a feed from Filipowski and finishing through contact for a decisive finish, the 24-year-old showed that he could still dominate the rim.
It caught me off guard a little. It’s usually a pump fake when I see a player attempting to block [me] going down the lane like that, but I felt comfortable about the play, Young said.
Even though his dunk will probably make it into some highlight reels, the former transfer from Northwestern had an even greater influence on Duke’s offense via his teammates. The Blue Devils almost exclusively used Filipowski to set ball screens while Young was out of the game, and the Cougars did a good job of covering them. Ball handlers found it difficult to discover simple targets to escape from when they were double-teamed.
But Proctor and Roach could see Filipowski waiting for an outlet pass as Young set the screen. Duke began to get much better looks after things got going and Filipowski was able to create plays to either score or pass. Despite Young’s forced substitution due to foul problems in the second half, the Blue Devils’ attack had gained enough confidence to keep working through Filipowski without giving up the ball to doubles and traps.
As a team, we all have roles to play, and we play them so effectively. However, Ryan was prepared when he entered. He is aware of what to do. He is an expert at his work,” Filipowski said. And it’s quite beneficial to us.
Just like Young’s efforts, which helped the Blue Devils seize control, the pivotal moments of Friday’s victory—Roach’s clutch baskets down the stretch, Filipowski’s inventive 3-pointers, or Proctor’s significant defensive stops—are individual accomplishments. They are a team, however, with five players who buy into their positions and put in the necessary effort to win. That’s what it takes to be the national champion, something Duke is now three victories away from doing.

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