And one: McCain's historic night leads Duke men's basketball past James Madison to Sweet 16

Freshman guard Jared McCain shrugs to the bench after nailing a triple in Duke's second-round victory against James Madison.
Freshman guard Jared McCain shrugs to the bench after nailing a triple in Duke's second-round victory against James Madison.

The Blue Devils were dancing in Brooklyn, N.Y., Sunday, as they took down No. 12-seed James Madison 93-55. The Blue Zone recaps the win with the Player of the Game and more:

One Player: Jared McCain

Many called out the Duke offense for a lackluster performance Friday night, one where it struggled for the majority of the game to consistently score. While four starters did end the game with double-digit points, the team shot a measly 19-for-45 from the field, and the scoring total for the Blue Devils was boosted significantly from 20 made free throws. 

Two days and three lectures later, freshman guard Jared McCain led a rejuvenation for Duke, showing once again how he can take over a game from behind the arc. The Sacramento, Calif., native was electric on the offensive end, ending the game with 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including going 8-for-11 from 3-point range. The 30-piece was McCain’s second highest total on the season, coming in just behind a historic 35 points against Florida State Feb. 17.  In particular, it was his first-half statline that stood out. He had 22 points, a major factor in the 47-25 advantage the Blue Devils took into the second period. He opened up the next half quickly with yet another triple, setting the tone for an even more dominant 20 minutes from the team.

Throughout the season, Duke’s offense has stalled when it becomes over reliant on star sophomore center Kyle Filipowski, throwing him the ball in the post possession after possession and just waiting for him to score. When head coach John Scheyer’s offense works best, the guards are running the offense, driving and shooting the deep ball well and allowing Filipowski to work without all of the opposition’s attention on him. McCain showed that he can be the motor for this offense Sunday, something that will be critical heading into the NCAA tournament’s second weekend. 

One Word: Balance

While McCain was phenomenal, the rest of his teammates’ performances cannot be overlooked.  Sophomore point guard Tyrese Proctor scored 18, senior guard Jeremy Roach contributed 15 and Filipowski notched 14, as the team shot 52.4% from the field on 50% from 3-point land. Even when McCain garnered all sorts of attention from the James Madison defense, the high pick and roll consistently led to easy layups or open threes for the other guards. 

The Blue Devils lack a player that can single-handedly lead a championship level offense, so it will continually take these types of outings from all five starters for Duke to continue its tournament run. The Blue Devils will face Houston, the No. 2-ranked defense in the nation Friday, according to KenPom. Points will not be easy to come across. Ensuring that scoring can come from multiple outlets, like it did Sunday night, will be crucial to a victory for Duke. 

One Stat: 14 3-pointers

Scheyer’s team has been one that shoots the three often and well throughout the season, but Sunday was an anomaly. The Blue Devils shot 50% from behind the arc against the Dukes, compared to a still-impressive 38.1% rate for the season. Making half of its attempted threes is not sustainable, but if Duke can continue to huck it at a higher percentage than usual, it will alleviate some of the concerns posed by a lack of a true second threat on the inside. 

Still, sophomore forward Mark Mitchell must play better in the Sweet 16 for the Blue Devils to come out on top. The Kansas City, Kan., native finished the game with just two points on six shots, after a relatively dominant 15-point outing Friday, one where he had five dunks. 

The 3-pointer can often be the proverbial sword which teams live and die on, and there is certainly a possibility of Duke’s offense going cold from deep at some point this tournament. For the Blue Devils to come out victorious against the Cougars and continue their run to the Final Four, they will need a combination of the deep threat and dominant inside presence which have shone separately over the past two games. 


Share and discuss “And one: McCain's historic night leads Duke men's basketball past James Madison to Sweet 16” on social media.