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Duke men's basketball 2020-21 player review: Matthew Hurt

Matthew Hurt averaged 18.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, both categories he led the Blue Devils in.
Matthew Hurt averaged 18.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, both categories he led the Blue Devils in.

As Duke men's basketball wraps up its season, the Blue Zone gives  individual breakdowns of each player's season with comparisons to their  preseason projections. Read the previous player breakdowns here: Mike Buckmire, Patrick Tapé, Jaemyn Brakefield, Henry Coleman III, Joey Baker, Jeremy Roach, Wendell Moore Jr., Jordan Goldwire, DJ Steward, Mark Williams and Jalen Johnson.

Matthew Hurt

Season breakdown: From showing flashes of a Dirk Nowitzki fadeaway to pulling up from the 3-point line with confidence, Matthew Hurt was the engine behind Duke’s offense this season. The stretch big displayed his limitless offensive arsenal, finessing hook shots over traditional centers in the low post and shooting over defensive mismatches for an efficient 55.6% field goal percentage. It is not a surprise that the Rochester, Minn., native was able to lead the conference in points per game while taking home the honors of being named the ACC’s Most Improved Player and All-ACC First-Team. If anything, Hurt’s display against Louisville in February and Wake Forest in January and not only justifies such accolades, but also serves as a microcosm of his impressive season.

In the overtime loss to Louisville, the versatile forward recorded his career-high 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting, of which 2-of-6 came from beyond the arc. In addition, Hurt was able to grab seven rebounds—a stat category he led the Blue Devils in for the year. In a similar vein against Wake Forest, Hurt put up 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting with a 4-of-7 clip from 3-point range. If these stats tell a story, it’s one demonstrating Hurt’s consistency throughout the season. Of his 24 games played, he only had two games where he scored in the single digits and against the four ranked teams Duke played against, he averaged 20.5 points per game—highlighting his ability to overcome pressure and score even against the toughest matchups. Against Virginia, the only ranked opponent the Blue Devils were able to beat, Hurt’s ability to knock down jumpers from anywhere on the court was the major key to Duke’s one-point win. 

However, even though Hurt put on a clinic on running the offense, the stretch big couldn’t stop hurting his opponents with foul trouble. In 11 games, Hurt committed four or more personal fouls, and some of these fouls led to him sitting out during key moments in marginal losses. 

For instance, in the overtime loss to Georgia Tech in March, Hurt fouled out with 6:14 left to play in regulation, ending only with 12 points in the four-point overtime loss. While it is unfair to blame the loss on Hurt alone, him fouling out had a major part in ending the 14-game win streak against the Yellow Jackets.

Another key concern is his defense and athleticism. Despite bulking up over the summer, Hurt became a target for opposing offenses, struggling to go through ball screens and switch onto opposing guards.

Nevertheless, Hurt deserves his credit, proving to be the best player on the Blue Devils roster this season. Whenever the team needed quick buckets, the stretch forward delivered by utilizing his consistent jumper and crafty hook shots to set the rhythm of the Duke offense. 

Results relative to expectations: Hurt surpassed expectations and even exceeded Blue Zone’s stat predictions. As a veteran, the lethal forward did his part in leading the young Blue Devil team on the offensive end, stretching the defense with his off-ball presence and building momentum with his electrifying threes. 

In a way, Hurt’s rise from being a reliable rotation player as a freshman to the ACC's leading scorer as a sophomore is a Cinderella story. However, rather than coming to where he is by luck, the forward showed great resilience and dedication in becoming a better basketball player by improving upon his flaws during the offseason. The fact that he gained 20 pounds in a span of roughly half a year is already enough to prove his commitment to the sport, but by being able to translate his offseason improvements into success onto the court serves as a testament to the type of player he is. 

In short, while we do not know for certain whether Hurt will be on Duke’s roster next year or on an NBA team, we know that if he does come back, his leadership and experience will help propel Duke to its normal dominant reputation for next season. 

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