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Duke ‘s Rising Star Young Shines Bright in Sweet 16 Upset

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Duke's Dereck Lively II (1) and Kyle Filipowski (30) in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Saturday, March 11, 2023.

It felt like déjà vu for the Blue Devils. Just like last year when they got jumped on early by an aggressive team, this time it was Houston taking an 8-0 lead before Duke could even blink. Coach Jon Scheyer knew he had to find a solution, and he needed it too fast.

Meet Ryan Young, a sixth-year grad student known more for his hustle than his athleticism. But boy, did he step up when Duke needed him against the toughest team they’ve faced all season. Young calmed everyone down and helped Duke claw back into the game. By halftime, Duke was up by one, and Young’s impact was clear—he was a +12 in the stats. And by the end of the game? He led the team with a whopping +18.

In a nail-biter decided by just three points, Ryan Young’s contribution was not just impressive, it was priceless.

Duke’s bench took a hit when Caleb Foster got sidelined with an ankle injury, leaving them with slim pickings. In the games leading up to the Sweet 16, their bench performance was dismal, ranking almost dead last in Division-I teams for bench points.

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Duke 's players like Jeremy Roach, Kyle Filipowski, and Tyrese Proctor came through in the clutch against Houston.

Sure, stars shine in March, and players like Jeremy Roach, Kyle Filipowski, and Tyrese Proctor came through in the clutch against Houston. But relying solely on top players against a team like the Cougars isn’t smart. Duke needed someone from the bench to step up, and Young was that guy.

According to Filipowski, Duke wouldn’t have bagged the win without Young’s hustle. His defense and physicality were game-changers, as Scheyer pointed out.

Houston’s aggressive playstyle thrives on grabbing offensive rebounds, but Young disrupted that rhythm. He boxed out Houston’s big guys, sometimes even a bunch at once, and cleaned up under the basket. With Young holding it down in the paint, Filipowski could focus on snatching rebounds himself.

Once Young disrupted Houston’s offensive rebounding game, Duke’s defense tightened its grip. And when Jamal Shead got sidelined with an ankle injury, Houston lost its rhythm, shooting a poor 20-for-49 from the field. Young’s presence on the court fueled Duke’s defensive intensity.

Young’s dunk early in the second half, just his third of the season, was a game-changer. It was a surprise even to him, as he powered through contact for a thunderous finish.

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Duke player fell on to the floor while he was trying to make a goal against Houston.

But beyond the highlight reel, Young’s real impact was on his teammates. With him setting screens, Duke’s offense flowed better. Instead of relying solely on Filipowski, Young’s screens opened up opportunities for others. Even when he sat out due to foul trouble, Duke’s offense didn’t falter, showing the confidence they gained through his presence.

According to Filipowski, Young knew his role and executed it perfectly. His contribution was invaluable to the team’s success.

In the end, Duke’s win wasn’t just about individual moments like Roach’s clutch shots or Filipowski’s 3-pointers. It was about teamwork and everyone playing their part. With just three wins standing between them and a national championship, Duke is riding high on this collective effort.

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