PONTIAC, Mich. -- Less than a month ago, Duke point guard Bobby Hurley played one of his worst games this season and the Blue Devils were blown out by North Carolina in the final of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
"I'm just looking forward to the NCAA tournament," Hurley said that day in Charlotte, N.C.
Last night, Hurley was looking forward to his second straight trip to the Final Four. The 6-foot-1 sophomore was one of the major reasons Duke (30-7) is going to its fourth straight National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament semifinal.
Hurley played one of the best all-around games of his college career yesterday, scoring 20 points, taking down seven rebounds, making four steals and passing off for four assists as the Blue Devils beat St. John's, 78-61, in the NCAA Midwest Regional final at the Silverdome.
"Bobby seemed to be the freshest guy on the floor," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "He got more rebounds than he did in January."
But it was Hurley's outside shooting that helped the Blue Devils build an early lead. He hit three of his first four shots -- the only one he missed was inside the three-point line -- and four of five three-pointers in the first half.
"It's like trying to blow up a bubble and somebody keeps sticking a pin in it," St. John's forward Malik Sealy said of what Hurley's shooting did to his team's defensive strategy, geared to stopping Duke's inside game. "It kind of takes the air out of you."
Said Redmen coach Lou Carnesecca: "I see a killer. He makes the other guys look better. He hits the threes. He's smart. He did a good job."
Yesterday's performance might make some forget the problems Hurley had in last year's NCAA final against Nevada-Las Vegas. He was overmatched and undernourished, having spent most of the time leading to the game in the bathroom.
Hurley had nightmares after that game, involving sharks. "They never ate me, and I kind of worried about that," Hurley said with a laugh. "Sometimes I jumped out of the water, and sometimes I didn't. But they went away."
Hurley had often been overlooked for his contributions to Duke's season and was often overshadowed by other point guards in the ACC. Winning the regional's MVP seemed nearly as important to Hurley as winning the regional itself.
"I'm happy to win the thing," said Hurley. "Winning is the most important thing and individual honors come from that."
And as good as Duke was collectively yesterday, Hurley was even better.