April 17, 2024

La Ronge Northerner

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Houston falls to Duke after losing to Jamal Shedd in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament

Houston falls to Duke after losing to Jamal Shedd in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament

DALLAS — Kelvin Sampson said there is no player in the country more valuable to his team than Jamal Shedd to Houston. Shead is a Big 12 player of the year, a first-team All-American and Houston's best defender.

“He's the heart and soul of this team,” Sampson said. “We don't have another beauty. He was the best player on the floor tonight. He's been the best player on the floor in every game we've played this year except for a few.”

“We got a one-seed because of his leadership, his toughness, and his ability to make everyone better.”

The Cougars, the top seed in the South Region, played without Shead for most of their Sweet 16 loss to fourth-seeded Duke. Shedd played 13 minutes in the first half and scored two points before suffering an ankle injury.

He did not return to the game, watching the second half from the bench as Houston lost 54-51. Duke moves on to Sunday's Elite Eight matchup against NC State.

Sampson said Shedd would have missed the rest of the tournament even if Houston had advanced.

“I couldn't really push it or walk,” Shedd said. “I couldn't go back there. I hate that it ended this way. I wish I could go back there and at least participate in the fight.”

“I knew that if I had played, the result might have been different, or I wish it had been.”

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The Cougars kept the game close, but Emmanuel Sharp missed a three-point attempt in the final seconds that would have sent the game into overtime.

“We were in a position to win the game without Jamal,” Sampson said. “With Jamal, it's a completely different story, but that's neither here nor there, is it?

“It doesn't seem like a fair fight. You probably have to take two of them to equal one from Jamaal. That's how good he is. He's a first-team All-American. You don't have another one of those. “You don't have the best defensive player in the Big 12. You don't have a guy who made all the big hits at the end.”

“Shead is the ultimate competitor and winner. There's no substitute for him,” Duke coach John Shear said, almost echoing Sampson.

Sampson said he believes the Cougars are good enough to reach the Final Four but because of injuries. The Cougars lost guards Terrance Arsenault and Joseph Togler to injuries earlier in the season.

Instead, Houston failed to reach the Final Four for the second straight season as the top seed.

“Sometimes it's just an act of God. This was not our time,” Sampson said.