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Matthew Hurt The Latest Duke Player To Challenge For ACC Scoring Leader

Along with Justin Champagnie and Carlik Jones

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Pittsburgh
 Jan 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Matthew Hurt (21) shoots against Pittsburgh Panthers forward Justin Champagnie (11) during the first half at the Petersen Events Center. Mandatory 
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The race is on. A nearly unnoticed race, an admittedly incidental race, an increasingly crowded and variable race but a race nonetheless.

For much of the year the early leader was an unspectacular Duke player who was, appropriately enough, largely overlooked coming into the 2020-21 season. This low profile was reflected in the preseason voting for All-ACC. Making the six-member first team (there was a tie) was freshman teammate Jalen Johnson. Sophomore Wendell Moore was chosen for the second team.

And nowhere in the mix was the Blue Devils’ top returning scorer (9.7), a starter in twice as many games as any holdover (22 v. Moore’s 11).

Matthew Hurt took one fewer 3-pointers than team leader Tre Jones in 2020 (108 v. 107), converted .001 fewer threes than team leader Joey Baker (.394 vs. .393), shot better overall from the floor than any returning teammate except Jordan Goldwire (.487 by each), and gathered more rebounds than anyone except Moore (4.2 v. 3.8).

Hurt’s improvement this year, then, might have been predicted and was, at least in this space. With an additional 20 pounds on his 6-9 frame, the sophomore is averaging 19.4 points through Duke’s first 10 games.

That includes the Blue Devils’ defeat at Pitt the other night, a contest in which Hurt scored 13 points but lost his ACC leadership as the Panthers’ Justin Champagnie poured in 31. Champagnie could be the second Pitt player in five years to finish as the league’s scoring leader, after Michael Young (19.6) in 2017.

The early scoring race then became a three-man affair as Hurt and Carlik Jones each scored 24 points in a narrow Louisville victory over the Blue Devils. In a dozen games Jones, a 23-year-old grad transfer who was the Big South player of the year in 2020 at Radford, is now averaging 18.4 points for the Cardinals.

Champagnie then scored 17 in a one-point loss at Wake Forest. That dropped the guard’s average to 19.9, still nosing out Hurt for the ACC lead. (At 12.4 per game Champagnie also is the ACC’s top rebounder, with Hurt third.)

We’re not that deep into the season; much can and will change by the time the games finish. The difficulty of maintaining game condition and a shooting touch across intermittently timed contests should not be discounted, either. Struggling Duke, for instance, recently went 20 days between playing its first two ACC contests.

Right now, though, Hurt is well-positioned to become the third Duke player in the last four years to pace the ACC in scoring. (Syracuse’s Elijah Hughes led at 19.03 in 2020. Not that many will note that outcome; Hughes’ achievement last season already would be a good stumper in a basketball quiz.)

By the way, where upperclassmen once dominated among Duke scoring leaders, Hurt’s two most immediate predecessors as premier point producers were freshmen: Marvin Bagley III in 2018 and RJ Barrett in 2019.

ACC Scoring Leaders From Duke
Avg. Year Player Class FG% FT% 3%
26.8 2006 J.J. Redick senior .470 .863 .421
26.1 1967 Bob Verga senior .461 .777 NA
24.9 1963 Art Heyman senior .452 .691 NA
22.63 2019 RJ Barrett freshman .454 .665 .308
22.6 1989 Danny Ferry senior .522 .756 .425
21.85 2005 J.J. Redick junior .408 .938 .403
21.78 2016 Grayson Allen sophomore .466 .837 .417
21.6 2001 Jason Williams sophomore .473 .659 .427
21.3 2002 Jason Williams junior .457 .676 .383
21.0 2018 Marvin Bagley III freshman .614 .627 .397
20.6 2011 Nolan Smith senior .458 .813 .392
20.3 1982 Vince Taylor senior .518 .673 NA
19.1 1988 Danny Ferry junior .476 .828 .349
18.5 1981 Gene Banks senior .577 .709 NA