Duke 2K Empire Classic Champion 81-73; Vernon Carey Jr. Named MVP

In Game Results by Brian HoraceLeave a Comment

In what was one of the most awfully officiated games as I've ever seen the Duke Blue Devils defeated the Georgetown Hoyas 81-73 to win the 2K Empire Classic. The Hoyas, who began this season unrated were written off as an afterthought after losing handily to Penn State 81-66, came out swinging in the Empire Classic. First the Hoyas, after being down by 5 at the half, shut down the Texas Longhorns winning by 16, then the Hoyas took it to the Duke Blue Devils in the first half of the finals. The Hoyas clamped down defensively against the Blue Devils building an 11 point lead with 6 minutes left in the first half. The Blue Devils battled back to take a 2 point lead with 1:31 left in the half but the Hoyas tied the game at 33 to end the half.

The Blue Devils began the second half on a quick 6-0 run, the Blue Devils never really looked back. The Hoyas would get within 4 with 42 seconds left but were unable to covert at a high enough clip to get any closer.

The Hoyas were led in scoring by senior Omer Yurtseven, a transfer from NC State. Saddled with foul trouble most of the fist half, only playing . Yurtseven, when he was the floor was incredible, scoring all of his 21 points in the second half. Duke countered with their own big in Vernon Carey Jr. who scored 20 on 8-14 shooting. Carey added 10 rebounds for his 3rd straight double-double.

It was Cassius Stanley who would lead the Blue Devils in scoring with 21 points and pulling down 8 rebounds. Duke also got double figure efforts from Wendell Moore Jr., who scored 17 points on 7-10 shooting and 3 assists and 6 rebounds. Tre Jones also scored 13 points and dished 7 assists for the second straight game.

The Blue Devils once against started slowly from the field only shooting 39.4% from the field but raised it to 43.8% in the second. Similarly from 3 point range the Blue Devils shot poorly in the first half to the tune of 28.6% only to turn it around in the second shooting 66.7%. Duke is slowly creeping up slowing in free throw percentage shooting 72.4%, over 70% for the third straight game.

Vernon Carey jr. was named the MVP of the tournament and becomes just the 2nd freshman under Coack K to record 3 consecutive games with 20 points and 10 rebounds, joining Marvin Bagley III.


“I think we both got better here. They were not playing well (earlier in the season). Patrick [Ewing] and I are not good friends -- we're great friends. He wasn't happy with his team, and then they had one of the best halves that he's had at Georgetown. Texas is a heck of a team and when I watched them (Georgetown) I said, 'they've found themselves'. They have depth, they have really good guards. [Omer] Yurtseven is really good. And if you double him, he can find somebody. He hit every shot down the stretch. For us though, we were okay that they were twos and not threes When you have that combination and depth, they could be really good."

On the team’s performance:

For the most part, they were great. And then we made a couple turnovers that they forced with their intensity. We can say it's supposed to be easy, but you're in this heavyweight fight and you're tired. I thought we made a couple tired turnovers when they put the press on, but we also scored quickly. Wendell (Moore Jr.) was a star during that. He made a turnover or two, but his move from half court a couple times to take it to the basket -- they were huge. They were huge for us. So, we had our pressure free throws, we weren't a really tough game. Nothing is perfect, they played well too. We did just a little bit more than they did."

On who his team is:

"We felt starting practice that we could be good defensively with Tre (Jones) there and depth. We've really devoted most of our practice time to defense. As a result, I think we've gotten tougher. We've also spent a lot of time in rebounding. The differential in rebounding tonight was significant to the win. We're finding ourselves offensively. I'm still learning about Vernon (Carey Jr.). I knew he'd be good, but he's really good. And so, our perimeter has not scored. Tonight, Wendell (Moore Jr.) and Cassius (Stanley) had 38 points. So here, concentrating on defense and giving Wendell and Cassius a little more confidence, that leads to better offense. We're going to continue to try to find out about ourselves, and you find out when you play games like this."


On playing for Coach Krzyzewski: "There's really no words. You can't put that feeling into words. No one knows that feeling unless you do play for him. Nothing like playing for the G.O.A.T [greatest of all time].

On defensive plan coming into each game: "I think just trying to take other teams out of their offense. We start off with our coaches who prepare us for every single game really well. We know coming in what their tendencies are, what their strengths are and weaknesses are as well. So we just try to take them out of their strengths, and force them into doing something different."


On dominating the glass: "Just preparation really. We practice with our rebounding drills and attacking the glass a lot more . Just focusing on that aspect."

On Cassius Stanley in the second half: "His confidence– just in going from the first half to the second half, it just went up really. I feel like he played strong and he just boosted our team."


On the second half efficiency:

“We felt that we didn’t play that well in the first half. Coach got on us and said it’s not about X’s and O’s and it’s not even about playing hard, it’s about fight. We took the fight mentality. They came out throwing blows and we came out throwing blows. It was very physical and tough out there but we played together and got the win.”

On the opening play in the second half starting the momentum:

“That started it all. It carried over from making the run in the first half and getting it right there in the first few seconds of the game was what we needed.”


On the second half efficiency:

“The last few minutes of the first half, we were down probably eight or 10 and from there, we knew it was a fight. We kept the same fight going into the second half.”

On the opening play in the second half starting the momentum:

“That was the start. We knew the energy was there. The arena was into it, the bench was into it, we were into it. When he [Tre Jones] gets going, we’re a very hard team to beat.”


On the game:

"I thought [we] responded great. We struggled coming up here to New York, but I thought that [we] played with energy, effort, with purpose. For the most part we shared the ball. Tonight was a tough go. Duke, they’re a great team, very well coached. Coach K is one of the best in the business. It’s hard to win when you turn it over 24 times, when you give them 19 offensive rebounds. It’s hard to win.”

On sophomore guard James Akinjo:

“He has a long way to go. The growth is ongoing. He still makes mistakes that I would like for him to stop making, but he should have a bright career here at Georgetown.”

On the events leading up to his technical foul in the second half:

“I was just disappointed in the way that it was going. You know, they took 29 free throws. I know we took 18 but I think it got caught up at the end. I was disappointed in that and I thought that a couple of calls didn’t go our way that should have went our way.”

On the officiating:

“I’m not going to cry about the whistle. It is what it is. But we were up 12 in the first half and then everything, you know-- Omer Yurtseven got his second foul, we had to take him and out. We were still up but everything just went bottoms up. The momentum swung. They started getting most of the calls and it just changed. We were fortunate enough to tie it at halftime and the mistakes that we made coming back into the second half hurt us.”

On whether he can consistently count on efforts from Omer Yurtseven like he had tonight:

“That’s what I’m hoping for. I’m counting on it. I mean he’s a load in there. There’s not too many people in this country that can guard him one-on-one. He just has to do a much better job of staying out of foul trouble.”

On what the team can build on from these two games at MSG:

“The whole trip is something that we can build on. Everyone that we have on our team is capable of playing and playing well. We went toe-to-toe with the number one team in the country and had our opportunities to win the ball game. And we beat the number 22 ranked team yesterday. There are a whole lot of things to build on and I think that our future is bright.”

Team Notes

• Mike Krzyzewski is in his 40th season as Duke’s head coach, and his record is now 1,065-285 at Duke, and 1,138-344 overall in this, his 45th season overall.

• This season marks Duke’s fourth appearance in the 2K Empire Classic Benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project, and the Blue Devils have won 12 straight in the event, and are now 12-2 in the event.

• Duke has won the Empire Classic title in each of its last three appearances, also beating Georgetown in the 2015 title game.

• Under Coach K, Duke improved to 100-18 when playing in-season tournaments, now with 20 titles.

• With the win, Coach K surpassed John Wooden for most wins when coaching a No. 1-ranked team – Duke improved to 218-34 as a No. 1 team under Coach K. Wooden’s record was 217-11.

• Tonight’s game was the 16th all-time meeting between Duke and Georgetown, and the series now stands at 9-7 in Duke’s favor.

• Duke improved to 38-18 all-time when playing at Madison Square Garden, and 87-30 in 11 current NBA venues.

• Duke is now 72-27 all-time when playing the Greater NYC area.

• Duke has started the season 6-0 or better in two of the last three seasons, and 14 times since 2000-01.

Player Notes

• Freshman Vernon Carey Jr., recorded his fourth consecutive double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds on 8-of-14 shooting from the field.

• Carey was named the Empire Classic Most Valuable Player, with Wendell Moore Jr. and Cassius Stanley on the All-Tournament Team.

• Freshman Cassius Stanley scored a career high 21 points, including 20 in the second half on 6-of-9 shooting after halftime. He was 3-of-3 from three-point range and 6-of-7 at the free throw line for the game.

• Freshman Wendell Moore Jr., set a career high with 17 points.

• Sophomore Tre Jones is now 4-0 in his career when playing in Madison Square Garden, and 9-1 in his career in NBA arenas.

Next Game

• Duke faces Stephen F. Auston on Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 9 p.m. ET at Cameron Indoor Stadium on RSN.

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