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One word for Duke men's basketball versus No. 20 Virginia Tech: Disappointment

Matthew Hurt and DJ Steward were the two bright spots for their shining efforts in this past game.
Matthew Hurt and DJ Steward were the two bright spots for their shining efforts in this past game.

After every Duke men's basketball game, the Blue Zone provides you with a single word that encompasses and summarizes the game. That word is accompanied by a single stat and a single player. Read our feelings on their recent loss to Virginia Tech:

One word: Disappointment

This week started great for Duke basketball fans, with the team creeping up two spots in this week’s AP poll and the news that Jalen Johnson would suit up for yesterday's game. 

Unfortunately, that good start did not manifest into a win against No. 20 Virginia Tech. Duke didn’t make a single shot in the first three minutes, while Virginia Tech eagerly scored five points during that time. The Hokies were simply on fire early on, reaching a field goal percentage of nearly 75 by the end of the first half. 

Coming off of two wins after not playing for three weeks, this team just did not show the energy they needed  to win in the first half. There was little hustle on the defensive end and far too many sloppy passes and low-percentage shots taken offensively. 

The Blue Devils kept turning the ball over on silly mistakes. The bright moment of the first half was when Johnson clocked in and got to play in short spurts for the remainder of the game. Despite the fact that his performance was a little, well, disappointing, it was great to see him back on the court. 

At the start of the second half, Duke returned with a whole new spirit. Whatever head coach Mike Krzyzewski said to the Blue Devils in the locker room at halftime did a wonderful job of inspiring them. At one point, they even reduced the Hokies’ lead to just one point and ended up putting up a real fight for the last twenty minutes of the game. 

Their strong defense forced Virginia Tech’s field goal percentage to fall down to 50 percent, a 25 percent drop from the end of the first half. Hopes were high as the end of the game neared, especially considering the most recent wins Duke added to their record were close finishes. Sadly, this game was unlike those last-minute victories, and after too many sloppy shots in the last three minutes, Duke couldn’t finish, leaving fans feeling our one word: disappointment. 

One stat: 8-for-29 on three-point shots

Sports Illustrated says that historically, college basketball teams have collectively shot three-pointers between 34 and 35.9 percent. Last night, Duke made 27.6 percent of its 3-point shots. Many of the 29 deep balls the Blue Devils attempted came at times when 2-point shots would have been more appropriate and, more often than not, the team ended up gaining none on that possession. 

If there is something this team should know by now, it’s that they, as a collective, are not strong from the beyond the arc. While a select few players sometimes get hot and make a bunch of threes in a row, the team as a whole is not consistent enough to justify taking 3-point shots when they could be driving the ball to the post. 

Yes, Duke made eight 3-pointers while Virginia Tech only made six, but Duke attempted an incomprehensible 29 long-rang shots. Some of those were airballs, others hit the backboard and bounced right off without touching the hoop, and very few of them were high-quality looks.

One player: Matthew Hurt

Matthew Hurt is currently leading the ACC with 19.6 average points per game, and he proved once again last night against Virginia Tech that he is a force to be reckoned with. He played for almost the entire game and remained energetic and alert on the court, even at the end when he was running on fumes. Hurt picked up his second double-double of the season with 20 points and 11 rebounds. He made four of eight attempted 3-point shots and shot 50 percent from the field overall. He did very well in the post, flexing his versatility all over the court. 

Hurt isn’t the one player this game because of his stats. He consistently leads the team in points and rebounds. He’s the one player for this game because he contributed immensely to the energy shift that the Blue Devils experienced at the start of the second half. His ability to fearlessly take shots without overthinking allowed Duke to tighten the gap between them and Virginia Tech. The intensity that he brought to the court clearly reminded the rest of his team who they are and what team they play for. His energy will be a key factor during these next few weeks if Duke wants to change course and become competitive once again. 

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