March Madness updates: How Jarace starred but Houston's run ends
Jarace Walker did about everything possible to keep his first and only March Madness going.
But it wasn't enough, not really even close, to rescuing his Houston Cougars in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 round Friday night. The No. 1 seed in the Midwest was dominated by the hot-shooting, do-everything-right Miami Hurricanes, 89-75.
The Cougars' scintillating 34-3 season ended abruptly and in crushing fashion. They seemed destined to qualify for the Final Four in their hometown and try to win their first national title ever.
York County's Walker kept improving in the tournament and produced a stunning stat line in defeat: a team-leading 16 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocked shots. He was perfect from the free throw line (6-for-6). If anything, he struggled shooting from the field, only 4-of-16 overall.
The New Freedom native is not only one of the top freshman players in the nation, he's expected to be a Top 10 pick in June's NBA Draft. He's considered a rare find: someone so large (6-foot-8, 240 pounds) who can do so many things well (defense, outside shooting, ball handling and passing).
This tournament certainly proved to be a national showcase for him. He led his team with 16 points in the opening-round victory over Northern Kentucky. He then blocked six shots − nearly tying a Houston NCAA Tournament record − as the Cougars pulled away from Auburn and sprinted into the Sweet 16. He added 10 rebounds and 7 points in the 81-64 victory.
Walker led his team with 16 points in their opening victory over Northern Kentucky.
It appears that only Hakeem Olajuwon, an NBA hall of famer, blocked more shots for Houston in an NCAA Tournament game. Both performances came in 1983 − 8 against Villanova, then 7 vs. N.C. State in the iconic national championship game.
Walker, who has proven to be one of the top defenders in the country, also grew offensively as the season progressed − eight of his 10 best scoring games coming after the midpoint of the season.
A fabulous freshman:How college life flies fast for Jarace Walker: Is the NBA calling in June?
He grew up playing basketball in New Freedom, like his older sister, Jaden, who just finished her senior season at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. But Jarace left the Southern York County School District after the eighth grade to play for the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
He helped IMG win a national scholastic title as a freshman.
He just didn't get enough help Friday vs. Miami. All-American guard Marcus Sasser scored only 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting and star point guard Jamal Shead was just 1-of-5 from 3-point range.
The Cougars, who trailed the entire game, were down by six at halftime and the cut the deficit to two points early in the second half. But the Hurricanes kept scorching the top-rated Cougars' defense from mid-range and beyond to put the game away.
Frank Bodani covers college sports for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.