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Not a lot of people gave Duke a chance battling the number 1 seeded Houston Cougars, in Texas for a trip to the Elite Eight. But as Quin Cook so eloquently stated during Duke’s last championship season – Duke is never the underdog. But for the first few minutes of the game the prognosticators looked to be right. The Cougars defense was smothering and the Blue Devils were out of sorts. An early timeout from Coach Jon Scheyer seemed to settle the Blue Devils down and they were able to withstand the initial punch from Houston and throw a few haymakers of their own.

Neither team was efficient in the first half. Duke despite, turning the ball over 9 times and spotting the Cougars 10 points off of those turnovers, still were able to eke out a 1 point lead at the half. Even with a buzzer beating mid-range floater to end the half, Duke still seemed to have the momentum heading into the second half.

The game remained tight with both teams hitting tough shots throughout – tough shots had to be made as both teams played stifling defense. The second half shooting percentages dwarfed the output of the first half even as the defenses tightened up. The teams battled to 4 ties during the second half but Houston never led after the intermission. Both teams finished the game 20-49 from the field but Duke was able to gain and advantage from beyond the arc, hitting 6 three pointers to just 2 for Houston.  The  Cougars didn’t help their own cause, shooting just 52.9% from the free throw line. The Cougars were without their leading assist man Jamal Shead who turned his ankle in the first half, only playing 13 minutes. Kyle Flipowski paced the Blue Devils with 16 points on 6-14 shooting and 9 rebounds. The sophomore center went 3-5 from beyond the arc. Jeremy Roach was the only other player for the Blue Devils to crack double figures going 5-14 for 14 points.

Huge off the bench for the Blue Devils, Ryan Young played 23 minutes, scoring 4 points, but most importantly he was a physical presence against a tough Houston team when the Blue Devils needed it. Tyrese Proctor scored 9 points on 3-8 shooting but his perimeter defense was spectacular against the Cougars – his 3 steals were crucial down the stretch when Duke was desperate for stops in the waning moments of the game. Also huge for Jon Scheyer’s team were the 3 offensive rebounds collected from freshman Jared McCain.

Duke out rebounded the Cougars 34-30 and drew even in paint points (26) exorcising any residual demons from last years tournament exit. Whatever happens going forward, the Blue Devils shows toughness against arguably the toughest team in college basketball winning a gritty game on the biggest stage. Duke Advances to the Elite Eight to face a familiar for in the NC State Wolfpack.