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X-Factor: Matthew Hurt is primed for a big performance against Wake Forest

Hurt will have to take advantage of favorable matchups in Winston-Salem.
Hurt will have to take advantage of favorable matchups in Winston-Salem.

In their second rematch against an ACC opponent in just over a week, the Blue Devils travel to nearby Winston-Salem to battle Wake Forest Wednesday night. The absence of Jalen Johnson means that Duke is going to need a solid outing from someone else in the front court. The Blue Zone gets you ready for tomorrow's contest with a key player from both sides:

Duke: Forward Matthew Hurt

Though making this year’s tourney appears doubtful, the Blue Devils hope to establish some continuity in a matchup against Wake Forest. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team is coming off of an impressive 16-point victory against N.C State, holding their opponent to a season-low 53 points. Matthew Hurt led all scorers in the contest, scoring an efficient 24 points in 26 minutes played, converting on a blistering six-of-seven 3-point attempts. The sophomore forward has remained the only consistent starter in Duke’s 16 games played—averaging 18.1 points per game in the process—and will need to maintain his productivity against Wake Forest.

Hurt was primarily able to punish the Wolfpack from the perimeter, shooting over smaller defenders with ease. The addition of freshman center Mark Williams, who had five blocks against NC State, into the starting lineup has allowed the Blue Devils’ leading scorer to roam more freely without the burden of being the primary rebounder and paint presence. The tallest player in the Demon Deacons’ starting lineup, Ody Oguama, is listed at 6-foot-9, meaning that Hurt will have the height advantage in every potential matchup. The Rochester, Minn., native must establish an early rhythm and avoid foul trouble to put Duke in the best position to win.

Wake Forest: Guard Ian Dubose

Wake Forest is coming off of a heart-breaking loss to then-No. 17 Florida State, a game in which it came back from a 13-point second half deficit to ultimately lose in overtime. Despite being the No. 11 offense in the ACC, the Demon Deacons scored 85 points, the highest total they’ve had in a conference game this season. The key player for Wake Forest will be someone that didn’t play in the 79-68 loss to the Blue Devils earlier this season, senior guard Ian Dubose. Along with second-leading scorer Daivien Willliamson, Dubose will need to bolster the offense if the Demon Deacons want to ascend in the ACC standings.

After missing nine consecutive games because of COVID-19, Dubose has been a key rotation piece and the team’s leading scorer over the past two games. The Durham native formerly played at Houston Baptist University, where he was named the 2020 Southland Conference Men’s Basketball Student-Athlete of the Year. With Wake Forest this season, Dubose is averaging 14.3 points per game and is shooting 42.9% from the 3-point line. He has a quick release, deep range and with his sturdy 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame, the senior is also able to drive and finish through contact in the paint. If Dubose continues his increasing production of late, the Blue Devils could face yet another challenge Wednesday.

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