Duke basketball puts hurt on Boston College, hushes ex-Blue Devil

Duke basketball (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Final. 49. 431. 88. 434

The Duke basketball team closed out the decade in style on Tuesday night while spoiling a transfer’s return and seeing one of its heralded freshmen send a statement.

Former Duke basketball player Derryck Thornton, who transferred to Southern Cal after his 2015-16 freshman campaign and then to Boston College for this season as a graduate, gave his Eagles a 2-0 advantage on a layup 11 seconds into his highly anticipated return to Durham on New Year’s Eve.

The Eagles (8-6, 2-1 ACC) never led again. Thornton finished with six points — on 3-for-12 shooting — and only one assist.

No. 2 Duke (12-1, 2-0 ACC) benefitted early and often from the hot hand of its freshman power forward. Matthew Hurt fueled a 45-19 halftime lead by tying his career-high 20 points — while outscoring Boston College on his own at the time — with a 3-pointer heading into the locker room for the break.

As a result, the second half was a mere formality. The program ended the 2010s with a 300-70 record via this latest 88-49 win — Duke is now 11-0 against Boston College in Durham and 22-3 overall in the series — which represented the current squad’s second-largest margin of victory to date (Duke beat Central Arkansas by 51 on Nov. 12) and first time holding an opponent to less than 50 points.

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Putbacks. Post-up buckets. Swishes from deep. Hurt, a former five-star recruit who ranked No. 12 on the 247Sports 2019 Composite but has been inconsistent so far this season and entered the contest averaging a so-so 10.4 points per game, finally looked just as deadly in a Duke basketball jersey as he so often did on his way to amassing almost 4,000 points for John Marshall Senior (Minn.) as a prep.

The 6-foot-9, 215-pound should-be scoring machine totaled 25 points for the night on a 10-for-16 clip from the field, including a 5-for-10 mark from beyond the arc. Hurt also tallied four rebounds and a steal during his 26 minutes on the court.

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Fellow freshman forward Wendell Moore Jr. was the only other Blue Devil in double figures with 11 points, but each of the 11 guys Mike Krzyzewski called on contributed at least three points.

Outside of Hurt’s shooting show, the most notable individual stat was the 10 assists from sophomore point guard Tre Jones. The co-captain also added five points and five boards while committing only one turnover in his first game back from a two-game absence due to a mild left foot sprain (as a result of long breaks for exams and the holidays, he had not seen game action in more than three weeks).

As a team, the Blue Devils shot 51.3 percent from the field (35-for-68), including 42.9 percent from downtown (12-for-28), with 20 of their baskets coming off assists. Meanwhile, the Eagles, who dished out only eight assists, made only 33.9 percent of their 62 field goal attempts and went 3-for-18 from deep. Duke outrebounded Boston College, 44-34.

Thornton will have a second chance to beat his former school on Feb. 4 in Chestnut Hill. Duke basketball’s first 2020 test — also Hurt’s opportunity to keep his season 3-point percentage above 40 percent (20-for-49) — will come at Miami (9-3, 1-1 ACC) on Saturday at 8 p.m. (ESPN).

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