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One word for Duke men's basketball's 2020-21 season: Heartbreaking

Freshman center Mark Williams finished the season with double-digit scoring performances in five of his last six games.
Freshman center Mark Williams finished the season with double-digit scoring performances in five of his last six games.

After a year of recapping Duke's games in as concise a way as the Blue Zone can, we bring you our last "one word" of the season, this time for the Blue Devils' entire 2020-21 campaign.

One word: Heartbreaking

The silence this season in Cameron Indoor Stadium was deafening for the Blue Devils. From the start, it was clear that this season was going to be a very, very weird one for a team who plays up a player almost every home game because of the energy of the Cameron Crazies. 

Looking back on it now, the 10-point victory against Coppin State Nov. 28 should have been more of a heads up for what the rest of the season had in store. And the loss to Michigan State a few days later was a gut punch for the squad, but at the time, looked to be nothing more than start-of-season nerves. 

The three-week break forced upon the team after its opening-ACC victory wasn’t optimal, either. Every time the team seemed to pick up momentum, an obstacle jumped in its way, with each game being an emotional battle for the Duke faithful across the nation. 

The No. 2 recruiting class in the nation losing to both Miami and Notre Dame within a 10-day span? Heartbreaking. 

Watching Matthew Hurt lead the ACC in points per game while he and his team just couldn’t finish games strong enough? Heartbreaking. 

Finally, having to leave the ACC tournament because a member of Duke’s Tier 1 personnel tested positive for COVID-19? Heartbreaking.

The good thing about heartbreak is that time heals it, and Duke will have a chance to bounce back next season. 

One stat: 16.3 assists per game

Despite the various disappointments that came from the 2020-21 season, the Blue Devils showed incredible teamwork and camaraderie from start to finish, with their 16.3 assists per game being a clear indicator. They finished their season tied for 19th in the nation for average assists, an impressive ranking considering the shortcomings of this year. 

Senior Jordan Goldwire led the team with 4.0 assists per game, emphasizing his maturity and developed court vision. The guard has led the team defensively throughout his career, but this year he also stood out on the other end of the court by assisting younger players like freshman guards Jeremy Roach and DJ Steward. Roach and Steward, as well as sophomore Wendell Moore Jr., all averaged more than 2.0 assists per game.

One player: Mark Williams

Nineteen rebounds and 23 points. In what would be the final game of the year. No player represented Duke’s 20-21 season as well as Mark Williams. 

Williams came into the season a pretty underrated player, despite his 7-foot frame and No. 6 center ranking in his recruiting class. The Virginia native didn’t see much time until the halfway point of the season, and seemingly every time he was in, things seemed to go well for the Blue Devils. Once he got his positioning down, he appeared to be unstoppable at the rim, quickly adding to his totals in both points and rebounds. 

While his career highs came in Duke’s last game against Louisville, Williams started to shine in the second half of February. In the March 2 overtime battle with Georgia Tech, Williams scored a then-career high 20 points with 7 rebounds, both of which were key components of the Blue Devils’ fight against the Yellow Jackets, and solidifying that Williams was a key to Duke’s success at the end of the season. 

Just as Williams was starting to be a major problem for his opponents, Duke was shut down, so the Blue Devil faithful will have to wait another year to continue to watch the big man perfect his game. 

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