It had to be an odd feeling for former Duke guard and associate head coach Jeff Capel to return to Cameron Indoor Stadium as an opponent but given the unusual situation it was clear that Pitt, in choosing Capel as their head coach, chose a fighter. Capel was fiery on the sidelines and had his team prepared to face the Blue Devils.

When the Blue Devils stretched an 11 point halftime lead to 18 that should have been a wrap for the Panthers but Pitt dug in and clamped down and the Blue Devils went cold from the floor. Pitt went on a 23-8 run to bring the 18 point lead down to a one possession game but the Blue Devils rallied and out on a run of their own to stretch the back to 12 which was the final margin. While the Blue Devils clamped down on the leading scorers for Pitt, only allowing 11 points combined for Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens, Duke had no answers for Au’Diese Toney who shot 11-19 from the floor including 3-4 from beyond the arc. Toney led all sores with 27 points, playing all 40 minutes. For the Blue Devils, Vernon Carey Jr. was the story offensively. The 6’10 big man scored 26 of Duke’s 79 points, shooting 11-17 and 1-2 from beyond the arc. Carey Jr. also added 13 rebounds, 4 assists and a blocked shot in 35 minutes. Sophomore point guard Tre Jones was 5-10 from the floor scoring 14 points and adding 8 assists and zero turnovers. Jordan Goldwire and Cassius Stanley also scored in double-figures for the Blue Devils with Stanley adding 11 points and Goldwire adding 13 on 4-9 shooting.

Before tipoff, players for Duke and Pitt honored Kobe Bryant, warming up in T-shirts with purple and gold numerals 8 on the front and 24 on the back — the numbers Bryant wore with the Los Angeles Lakers.

 

DUKE HEAD COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI

Opening Statement: “We won a heck of a game. I thought both teams really played hard. Their kid (Au’diese) Toney really had an unbelievable game. They are very athletic, strong, and in that like 11 to four minute mark in the second half we looked like we were tired and we weren’t as aggressive and there’s a lot of game pressure on our kids and then the last four minutes they were magnificent, which says a lot about the character of our guys. Vernon (Carey Jr.), we got him the ball and he responded, and he actually got 17 shots, which it’s been tough to get him shots but stuff that he’s been working on and we’ve been working on paid off in that week. The leadership of Tre (Jones), Jack (White) coming off and playing not only the second big but on the perimeter to give us, Cassius (Stanley) in foul trouble, their perimeter became more athletic, more physical. We haven’t had a lineup with Jack, Matt (Hurt), and Vernon in very much, but that lineup helped us in the first half. So just try to keep doing different things and using Tre as our leader and just really proud of my guys, I would hope that Jeff (Capel) is proud of his guys. It was a really good basketball game.”

On how the team changed when Pitt was three points away: “We just stopped being strong, like we were hoping shots would go in. Sometimes when you get tired, it’s that ebb and flow. It’s what makes human beings human beings. Sometimes the other guy’s just better, and then you hope that at a timeout, at a timeout we called a little punch action that we executed, got it to Vernon and then we executed, I think we had an 11-2 run, we really executed well, but that’s just going to happen. Other teams aren’t going to lie down and die, and thank goodness we did not in those last four minutes.”

On what the team did to take Pitt out of the 2-3 zone: “I don’t know if we did something special, their main defense is man, they had some success with the 2-3 zone, we had a little bit of success against it. I think at the end of the day Jeff knows that for his team to win, they play man, and they did, they played it well, and it’s not like anyone just beat the other team, we won, but they played well, they played very well.”

On Jeff Capel: “I love Jeff. Jeff is my son, man. We’re part of a brotherhood. Playing against him is very difficult. I don’t like it.”

On what Kobe Bryant and remembering him at this game meant: “The last couple days have been really emotional. Look, Kobe was one of my players. I coached him on three teams, he was my leader. We had special moments, private and public. He was amazing with my grandkids. The grandson on our team (Michael Savarino), his nickname is Mamba because he met him in Beijing, and he would go to my granddaughters and ‘Hi princess’ and kiss their hand. We have a picture of my grandson, Quin, with Kobe with

 

SOPHOMORE GUARD TRE JONES “It was a tough, hard-fought win for us, for sure. They played extremely hard. They were playing well in the second half. They didn’t give up when we got the lead that we had, and they kept fighting. They’re very well-coached by Coach [Jeff] Capel. Over there, they’re friends of a lot of ours. That was a big win for us. We know how tough ACC wins are, and we’ll take that one.”

On what Pittsburgh did in the second half to cut the Duke lead and fight back into the game: “There was some transition leak-outs that got them going, but they continued to just run their offense, continued to attack, whether it was off a ball screen, offensive rebound, or they get layups. They started getting their corner threes – there were a couple of their guys that are hot from there. Really, they were just playing good basketball in the second half. They’re really well-coached by Coach [Jeff] Capel, and he had them doing a lot of good stuff.”

On his relationship with Jeff Capel: ”Actually, he was the first coach I ever met from Duke. It was at the Peach Jam and it was before they were even recruiting my brother [Tyus]. I ran into him in an elevator. I told him how much I loved Duke and everything, and like a month later, they were in our home visiting. So we just built from there. We have an extremely good relationship. Obviously, we can’t talk a lot with the season and everything, but we’ve got a really good relationship.”

When asked how Duke protects against being upset, as several teams have been lately in ACC play: “We try not to worry about that. You can’t put that type of pressure on yourself, just knowing that every game is going to be a tough one. You’re going to get the other team’s best game every single night. Knowing that and a couple of weeks ago what happened [in losses against Clemson and Louisville] and learning from that, knowing that we can’t come out slow like that, we can’t just take every game for granted. You’ve got to bring it every single game because they mean a lot. I’m just trying to come out, bring it every single game, continue to build. We’re in the second half of the season now, so we’ve got to keep building to the team we want to be.”


FRESHMAN CENTER VERNON CAREY JR.

“That was our game plan, to look inside early and just kind of play through me. I feel like we did a pretty good job of that.”

“Since we had the week break, we kind of came out a little bit sluggish and then mid-second-half, they cut the lead to three. I feel like we need to be more poised, stop turning the ball over, and get stops. Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] just told us that we needed to get a stop, especially since they were about to cut it to one or tie it. He said if we got the stop, then we needed to execute on the offensive end, and I feel like we did that.”

“Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] just told us that if they started playing in on me or Matthew [Hurt], to find the open man. Or Matt could step out [and shoot a jumper] or I could step out. I feel like everyone on this team can shoot, so he just told everyone to be ready to knock down shots.”


JUNIOR GUARD JORDAN GOLDWIRE

When asked how he approaches his starting role as opposed to coming off the bench: “Nothing really changed. I still do the same routine I did coming off the bench. [There’s] just a little bit more responsibility starting the game off, trying to get off to good starts, faster starts. Nothing in my routine has changed. I’m still required to do the same things from the start of the game. It’s not added pressure. You’ve just got to go out there and play.”

On Pittsburgh packing in the defense early and forcing Duke to shoot from three-point territory: “In practice, we prepare all week for them to do that. Teams have been doing that, so I was just trying to be ready to shoot and take what the defense was giving me.”

On the offensive play of Vernon Carey Jr. and how that has opened up the perimeter for Duke:

“He’s a big physical presence, dominate, so teams are going to do whatever they can to try and take him away. We work on it. We know that teams are going to help off, so we work on being ready to shoot or make the extra pass. It’s definitely huge to have somebody like that who draws that much attention.”

 

PITT HEAD COACH JEFF CAPEL

Opening Statement: “Congrats to Duke, they’re a great team. They really killed us inside especially Vernon [Carey] – very difficult cover, very efficient, and they do a great job of getting him the basketball. I’m proud of my team, I thought we fought and we put ourselves in a position where we had a chance late. I thought we were able to handle their pressure. I thought we were able to get downhill and get to the basket and get some shots. Au’Diese [Toney] had a great game, it’s the best game he’s played here, so I’m proud of that, but it’s not good enough and I want our program to get to the point where we’re not satisfied with being close. We have to get to a point where we can minimize the mistakes and capitalize when we have opportunities. We’re not there yet but we’re getting close. Again, I’m proud of our effort and congrats to Duke.”

On his feelings upon returning to Cameron Indoor: “It was great being back, to be honest with you. We came in here last night and shot a little bit and it was a little weird walking in here, a completely different entrance, being dropped off at a different place, and just being in here not with Duke. But, once competition starts, man it’s competition. It was great seeing so many familiar faces, so many people that I care about and that care about me. That was really cool.”

On the challenges Vernon Carey brought and their game plan against him:

“Well we wanted to try to prevent him from catching it deep, we kept trying to gamble, like to get steals, and he’s too big, that’s not going to happen. So, we gave up position right there, and our plan was to try to make him catch it deep and to go double, not to let him get to the right shoulder. We didn’t do a good job of it. When we did it, and we executed it right, we made it a lower percentage shot, but we didn’t do a good job of that. It’s hard though, you can have a game plan, but when you get out there and you see the size, the footwork, the strength that he has, and then when you have the touch that he has, it’s a difficult cover. I thought the kid, Jordan Goldwire, in the first half, really made us play. We sluffed off of him and he made three threes in the first half, and that was a little bit of the difference in the game.”

On whether letting Goldwire shoot was the game plan:

“Yeah, we wanted to try to clog up the game, and we wanted to make some other guys make some shots that hadn’t done it on a consistent level all year. He stepped up and made some big time shots for them in the first half.”

On how they were able to cut the lead early in the second half:

“I thought the main thing is that we defended. When we started the second half, we were scoring, but we were playing no defense and we were just exchanging buckets, and it was two for three, because they were hitting some threes. I thought during that stretch, our defense picked up, our help-side defense picked up, we were able to rebound the basketball, we were able to get out in transition and were able to pitch it ahead and get some baskets.”

On whether the reality of the game met his expectations:

“I’m not sure I had expectations, I was honestly just trying to concentrate on my team. As my dad would say, we had enough to say, ‘Grace,’ over worrying about Duke and being prepared for them instead of me worrying about my feelings of how I’m going to feel about coaching or walking in here. I was really just trying to lock into our team and be present in our moment, so I don’t know if I had expectations. I wanted us to come in and play well and put ourselves in a position to win, and we did that to an extent, but it’s still not good enough.”

On using Duke as a model for building a great program:

“If we build off of it, it can help us. One of the things that happens with us in our area is, if we’re close, these guys get patted on the back, and we’ve got to get to the point where we don’t accept that, as guys, as a program, as young men. I don’t, but I’m not out there playing, so our guys have to get to the point where you’re kind of offended when people say that. It’s a compliment, but it’s still not good enough, because there are things we can do to change it. But, it’s not going to change if we just accept [that] close is good enough.”

On how he and his team dealt with the passing of Kobe Bryant:

“Well, I think we’ve been like everyone, shocked. It’s been emotional, especially for our guys, because he was a hero, an idol to those guys as a player, with what he meant to the game of basketball. When you’re in the conversation of one of the greatest ever, nothing else really has to be said, basketball wise. So it’s been an emotional few days, just like it has been for everyone.”

 

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