Busting Brackets

With Jamal Shead hurt, Houston fell to Duke but all is fair in love and basketball

Mar 29, 2024; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Cougars guard Jamal Shead (1) lies on the floor after an
Mar 29, 2024; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Cougars guard Jamal Shead (1) lies on the floor after an / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The heart and soul of the Houston Cougars Jamal Shead went down early in the Sweet Sixteen matchup against the Duke Blue Devils. But at the end of the day, there are five players on the court and anyone on any team is vulnerable to going down.

Throughout the season, Shead led the team in assists and steals, a problem for opponents on both ends of the court. He has also averaged 12.9 points per game throughout the year, one of three Cougars to average double-digits in scoring.

It was devastating to see Shead limp off the court. At the end of the day, he’s a kid chasing his dream to win the national title.

During the second half, the team released that it was an ankle sprain and Shead wouldn’t be returning to the lineup.

The Big 12 Player of the Year, a First-Team All-American, and the Cougars’ greatest defender was out in the must-win game against one of the most perennial basketball programs in the nation.

Head coach Kelvin Sampson gave major props to Shead after the game.

“We got a 1-seed because of his leadership, his toughness, his ability to make everybody better," Sampson said.

Houston was able to keep the game incredibly close despite missing one of their stars and the game truly came down to the last few seconds.

Heartbreakingly, Emmanuel Sharp, who averages 12.6 points per game, missed the three-point attempt to send the game into overtime.

Duke would once again find itself victorious and on its way to the Elite Eight.

Houston would once again be heading home without a national title.

"I knew that if I played it probably would have been a different outcome,” Shead said. “Or I hope it would have."

The Blue Devils, led by star center Kyle Filipowski, defeated the Cougars 54-51 to punch their ticket to the next round and send Houston packing.

It could have been Fillipowski who went down with an injury and that could have been the key reason Duke lost. As I said, anyone is vulnerable to getting hurt.

"Sometimes that's just God's work,'' Sampson said after the game. "It just wasn't our time.''

Duke head coach Jon Scheyer gave the Cougs credit after the game for making the matchup an incredible competition despite losing their leader.

"Shead is the ultimate competitor and winner,” Scheyer said. “There's no replacement for him."

Shead, a senior, has played all four of his collegiate seasons with the Houston Cougars and this was his final chance at the national championship game.

Duke will face the NC State Wolfpack in the Elite Eight on March 31.

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