Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum had his own NCAA March Madness moment. Back in 2012, he led his small program Lehigh to a famous win over Duke.
As a 20-point a game scorer in the NBA, it should be no surprise that Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum was a beast in college. In four years at Lehigh McCollum averaged 21 points a game. But there was one performance that stood out, on the biggest college stage of all: March Madness.
In a virtuoso performance against the might of the Duke Blue Devils, McCollum dropped 30 points with six rebounds and six assists to lead Lehigh to one of the biggest wins in their history.
The number two seed coming into the tournament, Duke had big expectations on their shoulders with a squad stacked full of future NBA players. That night in Greensboro, Duke had four future NBA players in their starting five, with two more on the bench.
Future NBA players for Lehigh? Just one, CJ McCollum
An aggressive performance by CJ in every way, he was cooking inside and out. His patented crossover was working well, he was able to create separation against the big Duke lineup, getting to his jumper on several occasions.
Some nice passing and lots of early defensive attention meant that he hit two teammates for passes that led to three-point makes in the first. McCollum’s speed though, and his shifty dribble and hesitation meant he was getting to the rim for fouls or buckets at will. Though the game was close, the Duke defense had no answer for his speed and great handle.
CJ was able to get to the line continually as the game got deeper. Up by two with a touch over two minutes to play, CJ had a screen on his left from a Lehigh teammate, he uses it perfectly to hit a three. Still only a four-point game with a minute to play Duke now try and deny him the ball and they commit a foul. CJ nails both shots.
Up three with 28 seconds left, Lehigh is inbounding on their baseline. Almost having it stolen, McCollum manages to get possession and leak out in the open court where he finds a teammate for an easy lay in and a five point lead. With Duke fouling to stop the clock on multiple occasions, CJ ices the game with 0.4 seconds on the clock by making two shots.
One of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history is complete. Lehigh 75 – Duke 70. McCollum, though he would still play one more year at Lehigh, showed his big game mentality and the ability to put a team on his back. Not a classical game in terms of efficiency, his 7 of 17 from the field combined with 10 of 16 from the line was a sign of things to come in terms of his scoring ability.
Though Lehigh would exit the tournament in the next round, McCollum put forward his case for the NBA Draft the following year, where he eventually was drafted in the lottery at number ten.
Amazingly, both him and Damian Lillard came from small programs. Shows that you don’t need to play for massive college programs to become great players in the NBA.